Before he was 2 Chainz, one of hip-hop's most sought-after feature artists and one of the leaders of the hip-hop offshoot genre trap music, Georgia native Tauheed Epps was known as Tity Boi, a nondescript member of Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace posse.
That experience has served him well for putting together the 2 Chainz debut "Based on a T.R.U. Story" (Def Jam), a lyrically compelling, sonically interesting collection that should immediately catapult him into the hip-hop A-list. Of course, most of them are already on this record.
Kanye West joins Chainz for "Birthday Song." Nicki Minaj is on board for "I Luv Dem Strippers." Lil Wayne is on "Yuck," while Chris Brown is on "Countdown." Chainz tapped Drake to help on the first single, "No Lie," which, like much of the album, updates the big-bass, Dirty South style with lighter synth sounds. Also, like much of the album, it glorifies the "thug life" -- drugs, cash and, as Chainz says, "one wife, a mistress and a girlfriend," though that may actually show too much commitment.
There is plenty of craftiness here. "Before Benihana's, it was canned goods," Chainz raps in "Yuck." "Before canned goods, it was Similac. I'm from where they send sharks and we send 'em back."
Chainz certainly knows how to tell a story well. The only real problem with "Based on a T.R.U. Story" -- musically speaking, since there's plenty of issues with the behavior he boasts about -- is that he tells the same one over and over again.
2 CHAINZ "Based on a T.R.U. Story"
BOTTOM LINE Hip-hop's newest phenomenon builds an old story.