2 Chainz is having the kind of run I wanted to see in 2014 following the mid-year release of his milestone FreeBase EP. Atlanta’s golden child of hip-hop was popping up in TV shows and on YouTube serials as well as being featured in Noisey’s notable documentary series about the ATL trap scene. Propelled by club-ready jams like “Crib In My Closet,” “Trap Back,” and the title track, it seemed Chainz was poised to release the album which would set straight the record after BOATS II failed to vindicate the rapper’s awful songs like “Yuck” and “Birthday Song.” I was thirsty for the Tity Boi of Trap-a-Velli, the 2 Chainz of “Mercy,” the epitome of what makes Tauheed Epps a star in his late thirties.
Instead, eight-and-a-half months passed before 2 Chainz followed up with TRU Jack City, a posse project featuring his The Real University crew: Skooly, Cap 1, and Fresh (AKA Short Dawg). While I suspect the passage of more time might make that mixtape relevant in a different light, it did not elevate any of the featured performers and served merely as filler until, almost another eight months later, Trap-A-Velli Tre came out. “Watch Out” became a runaway hit, setting the stage for 2016 to be a big year for Mr. Chainz.
And it has been. January’s Felt Like Cappin’ mixtape was a delight for tired ears, and friends of mine that don’t even like 2 Chainz got on board. Then in March, Collegrove came out, a highly anticipated collaboration with Lil Wayne which birthed such notable songs as “Bounce” and “Gotta Lotta.” Summer came and went, and on August 5th, 2 Chainz released the Daniel Son: Necklace Don mixtape, featuring the song “Big Amount” which contains, to date, the best Drake verse of 2016.
While DS:ND had enjoyable moments, it felt rushed, a publicity grab more than an artistic statement. Serving as a refreshing counterpoint, 2 Chainz has now provided us with Hibachi for Lunch, a seven-track mixtape that benefits from strong production, well-placed guest spots and thoughtfully written lyrics. Continuing his recent preference for Curren$yesque mixtape lengths of between six and ten songs, this jaunt is just twenty-two minutes long, a complete circuit that feels cohesive and organic.
Lead single and anchor track “Good Drank” is demonstrative of 2 Chainz’s ability to be where the action is, a tendency he’s exhibited from “Duffel Bag Boy” to “Beez in the Trap” and beyond, as it features 1017 Brick Squad founder Gucci Mane and former 1017 protege Quavo. Gucci, on an impressive winning streak since being released from prison, is still sitting pretty on his strong 2nd album of the year, Woptober. Quavo is also enjoying unmitigated success on the strength of Migos singles like “Cocoon” (though I prefer the remix) and features on “Champions,” “Oh Me Oh My” and “Pick up the Phone.” Both guest artists complement the beat and 2 Chainz’s own style, making this a noteworthy song from an important time in Atlanta hip-hop.
“Lil Baby” features Ty$ doing his best Fetty Wap impression, while “Doors Open” gets a hot hook from Future and some wonderful lines from 2 Chainz, like his description of a foursome where “We started up around 4 or somethin’ / We did not stop til like 4 or somethin.'” I also got a kick out of the line “Woke up this morning / Dick look like a flag pole” from one of the mixtape’s best tracks, “Here We Go Again.” Mainstream hip-hop is struggling to accept diversity, and rappers like Boosie continue to make comments that are the antithesis of inclusivity. However, street masculinity and “hero narratives” in hip-hop are complex and not easily deconstructed; the role of the “rap star,” with accompanying braggadocious misogyny, is undeniably antiquated, but persists through reinforcement from media and fans. While I can still appreciate the music despite disagreeing with some of the notions advanced by it, I would like to see 2 Chainz use his station and visibility to promote more progressive ideals.
It’s comforting to remind myself that for every Lil Yachty, there’s a 2 Chainz. Hibachi For Lunch is a brave reassertion of all the great things that were going on in rap music in 2014, suggesting that the melting pot experiments coming out of Atlanta, from Peewee Longway to Rich Homie Quan to even Young Thug and Migos, had left some solid matter from which new forms of artistic expression would be molded. 2 Chainz suggests that these were conversations worth having, and this mixtape urges for new trials be conducted. Download it here.