As hard as 2 Chainz worked to get to this moment, his hustle is only just beginning.
This feature is a part of Complex Music's 2 Chainz Week.
Good luck getting a hold of 2 Chainz this week. As he prepares to release his highly anticipated solo debut album, Based on a T.R.U. Story, he’s looking forward to what he anticipates will be, "One of the best weeks of my life." That may be true—or "truuuu” as the man who once went by Tity Boi would say—but he can also expect it to be one of his busiest.
2 Chainz is in full album launch mode, and with that comes a host of responsibilities and obligations. When we caught up with him late last week he was holed up in a Baltimore hotel with less than an hour to answer questions before rolling to a radio interview, followed by a signing at the urban apparel store DTLR. That night, he made an appearance about the city's Club Dubai, and it may have been under the guise of leisure, but it was also another cog in the 2 Chainz promo machine.
Chainz won the rap world over with hilarious punchlines and street anthems, and Complex has been riding with him every step of the way. When he appeared on our G.O.O.D. Music cover he was grinding hard as hell and he has only stepped it up since then. The results are self-evident. 2 Chainz has entered the consciousness of the mainstream and he welcomes it. Now he’s about to be tested at the highest level. "I I don't feel like I peaked out,” he explains. “I still got room to grow.”
This time around, 2 Chainz is not going to let anything stand in his way. "It took me my whole life to put this together,” he says. “So with the anticipation, I don’t think I’m letting anybody down."
All the hard work that comes with the current amount of pressure doesn't phase Chainz one bit. He’s always been about that work. That’s how he got back to a place of promise after his frustrated efforts as part of the duo Playaz Circle. This time around, he's not going to let anything stand in his way. "It took me my whole life to put this together,” he says. “So with the anticipation, I don’t think I’m letting anybody down." We spoke with Tauheed Epps himself about how he maintained focus when his rap career seemed to be on the skids (he bought a Porsche), what he’s learned from Lil Wayne and Drake, and why he’s not worried about falling off.
You were really secretive about this project. Most artists love to share reasons you need to hear their album. It seems like you were just like, “Trust me, I got this.” What was the reasoning or strategy behind that? Some people operate on the idea of, “If I don’t tell people why it’s going to be great, they might not be interested.” Why did you go the opposite way?
I have a different theory on that, period. I just feel like, society is so microwaveable that everybody wants to see everything so bad. So that kinda spoiled music. I just try to bring it along and I also keep in mind what made me fall in love with hip-hop. And what made me fall in love with hip-hop was unpredictable features and surprises.
I remember when The Firm was put together. I just remember certain things that were dope about hip-hop. Today, everybody wanna know the songs, everybody wanna know who did it, and it just—you don’t get that feeling anymore. So I just try to claim that all back.
Everything I used to get geeked about when I was young, growing up, I'll try to get that feeling back again when I put my project out.
Everybody don’t get a second chance. I feel like I sort of rewrote my own story in the history books as somebody coming harder the next time. I hope I’m an inspiration to some. Not just in music, but in life. Never give up.
You knew it was coming, but to have the album leak after all that secrecy... How does it feel to see everyone online discussing it and analyzing every detail before you get to put it out in the manner that you wanted to?
Leaking could be a good and a bad thing. I’m definitely hurt by it. I know I grind a lot. I can’t let that get a hold of me. I was upset at first, naturally, but you know, it happens. I’ve been on another ship when people didn’t want to bootleg early albums. So I’ve been on both sides and I have to learn to appreciate both sides without getting emotionally tied to it. The main release is August 14th, so respect the grind. Support that.
Are you paying attention to what people are saying? Do you search song titles on Twitter and see how people are receiving them?
I won’t do that until the 14th, because to me, it’s still not out.
When it is out, do you really hit the Internet and check the response—whether it’s from journalists or random 16-year-olds? Are you really tuned in with the public response to your music?
Yes, I use social media a lot to help me create my fan base. Of course. I’ll retweet, I’ll thank people, put out some positive energy. I don’t mind negative stuff. I think you need people who are gonna tell you the truth. I just feel like when people do negative things out of spite, it seems like hating. But I’m my own individual. I’m confident in the things that I do. I can’t wait to read the comments.
If someone has a criticism of your music—like, some people think your rhyming style isn’t up to their standards—do you think that sometimes it isn’t hate, but that there’s something you could learn from that person’s perspective?
Everybody has their own opinion. Hating is a word I hate to use; it’s so over-saturated. I don’t feel like everybody is a hater. A person does have an opinion of their own. It’s just always cool to have a reason why. I think that’s what people look for: OK, if you don’t like it then why? You gon’ have to have a reason at the end of the day.
Are you fully satisfied with this album? Do you feel you had time to make the perfect project that you wanted to make? Or do you have those “Damn, I could’ve done this,” type of moments?
I have a studio everywhere I go. I wasn’t rushed. It wasn’t a time issue. It’s almost perfect because we have the No. 1 song with “No Lie,” another song up and running—”Birthday Song” featuring Kanye—and I couldn’t ask for a better set up. I mean, people actually want my album before it comes out. I remember when we did that with a couple of albums in the past. I remember the new Hov when he was retired. That Black Album. I wanted that. So I just feel that it’s cool to have that anticipation. People want to hear my music. It makes it more about the music, too.
Are you the type of dude who’s focused on being the most respected rapper, or are you like, “Yo, I want to set records. I want to have ten No. 1s in a row, the plaques, and the accolades.”
It’s always cool to have respect as an artist, but I definitely want people to respect my hustle, my grind, my work ethic. I try to be an inspiration to some who feel like it’s over. Everybody don’t get a second chance. I feel like I sort of rewrote my own story in the history books as somebody coming harder the next time. I hope I’m an inspiration to some. Not just in music, but in life. Never give up.
Is it a competition when you get on a record like “No Lie,” where people debate who had the better verse? Do you want to kill Drake if he’s on a song with you? That’s your mans obviously, and you made a great song together—but on that or a song like “Mercy,” do you want to make a statement about where you stand skill-wise?
Well, my goal is to have fun, but to be competitive at the same time. You never want to over-think anything. At the same time, with “Mercy"—I just remember the process with all these songs. So it’s different. When I do a verse, it’s done.
I remember me and Drake sent each other songs. I think what happened was I did a verse to “No Lie,” I sent it to him. Then he gave me a beat, I did the verse to that, and I sent it to him. So it was like, “What you gonna do?” I felt like I was winning and he’s like, “Oh shit.” He was working.
After having all that fun and going back and forth, do you feel like you got him on “No Lie,” or do you feel like Drake might’ve showed you up with that one verse?
I’m not into that. They'll make it look like I said, "He killed this! He killed Drake!" I don’t have time for that. I think dude’s a genius.
Definitely. I’m not even trying to bait you into that.
Somebody just said I want to be a running mate with Mitt Romney and I know fucking well I ain't said that.
That’s crazy. I saw that, too.
It messes it up for the good guys like you, man. For real.
When you’re doing an interview, do you feel like, “Oh shit, I’m gonna do a cover story,” or is it more, “What are these fuckers gonna try to turn me into after we talk for an hour?”
[Laughs]. I mean, I’m still into doing interviews, answering questions, and enlightening people. I think that’s how you become a superstar, a megastar. I feel like we know everyone in Eminem’s family. I feel like we know what happened in 50 Cent’s life. I feel like we know about Tunechi. I feel like this part of the process is connecting the dots with the fans.
At your listening party in NYC, you said “Birthday Song” with Kanye is one of your favorite songs right now, and you’re putting all this energy behind it. Does the fact that it’s gotten somewhat of a mixed reaction bother you or affect you at all?
I don’t know what kind of reaction it’s getting. I know it’s getting 42 stations added this week, so I guess it’s doing pretty good. The video is pretty dope. It just talks about being comfortable in your own skin—I’m happy with it. I can’t get too caught up with how people feel. A big booty girl is one of the things I really want for my birthday. A cute girl with a nice shape would not hurt for the night.
What are you thinking about for the next single?
I really like this record “In Town” with Mike Posner. That’s my friend. Cool-ass dude. I got the “Extremely Blessed” record with Dream. I got the video to “I Luv Dem Strippers” with Nicki Minaj. It was fun doing that.
The fact that people make jokes about my lyrics makes me that much more aware of what I actually say because I know that they’re listening to every line. So it gives me that room to be witty.
“Yuck!” is getting a great reaction. It starts the album off strong. Were you in the studio with Wayne or were you just emailing for that record?
He came to the studio I be working at in Atlanta. I did stuff for his album. I did a hook and a verse. I just heard something I did for Khaled but it wasn’t supposed to be for Khaled, it was for Baby. When you do so much music and it’s just your lifestyle, things get moving and you don’t know when the hell you did it.
Do you notice any difference between working with Wayne in 2007 for “Duffle Bag Boy” and where he’s at presently? With everything he’s been through—from selling a million in one week to going to prison—what’s your relationship like five years later? And what’s it like working with him as an artist?
I love Wayne. He’s a great friend of mine. I talked to him before prison, during prison, after prison. He has a strong mind and he’s an inspirational dude. Him believing in me early in my career gave me some form of ambition to keep going.
You’ve experienced all sorts of fanfare—from No. 1 records to the whole $100K per feature thing. You’re that dude in rap right now, sorta like Wayne was in 2007. He’s obviously still a big star, but some people started to turn on him. The same kids who were like “You’re my favorite rapper,” are on YouTube now saying “you suck.” Is that something that you think about: Are people going to turn on me at some point?
No, I definitely don’t think about that. When Jordan was in the game—let’s say Jordan was like a Jay-Z—people played, but they ain’t really try to block. It wasn’t a competition. Then you remember when A.I. came into the league and he crossed M.J. over? New people start coming into the league with that energy and that confidence.
When that new shit came, it made the game more competitive. It made people believe we could compete with the best of them. I attribute that to him, and being the fact that he’s a millionaire, he can skateboard on top of his house. He doesn’t give a fuck about what someone else is saying. It’s just me being a friend right now. I can’t see people people classifying him as anything but great..
He signed Drake. This is what hip-hop is these days. People are crazy, shit. If you turned on the radio right now, you’d have to go through four or five different YMCMB songs before you hear another song.
People are so quick to forget. It’s a disturbing trend with music listeners nowadays. You even mentioned it when you talked about how people want everything so quick...
And then they get tired. I hear somebody tell me they had looked on their playlist on iTunes and they played my song 5 or 600 times. That’s more times than I've played it. So, of course you’d probably get tired of it.
Are you consciously humorous? Some of your lines are hilarious and then #What2ChainzWouldSay becomes a trending topic on Twitter. There’s .gifs on the Internet of you dancing at the end of Nicki’s "Beez In The Trap" video. Do you feed into that? Is the character of 2 Chainz different from Tauheed Epps?
One, I understand entertainment. Two, I have an outgoing personality, period. I enjoy having a good time. Who wants to be sad? Do I get caught up in 2 Chainz tweets? No, I don’t. The fact that people make jokes about my lyrics makes me that much more aware of what I actually say because I know that they’re listening to every line. So it gives me that room to be witty.
When you say that people are paying attention to every single line, there’s so many, they’re always different, and they’re usually very entertaining. Like all the “Your Girl” lines: “I could fuck your bitch and act like I never knew her” or “Eat your girl up for breakfast, won’t save you extra.” Where does that come from? Is that how it is for you these days?
No, I just feel that we live in a society where people aren't serious and they bounce around, and they’re fooling around maybe. The things I say about about “Mess with you girl act like I never knew her,” there may be a situation in real life that you might actually have to do that.
You work at Complex. With somebody at the workplace you can’t just act like y’all did it. You have to just wait until later to see each other and do it like that. It can’t be no long-ass hug where somebody could catch it. Some of these things are real-life issues. It’s not just a rhyme. It’s real life. It’s portrayed on TV, so don't just put it on the artist
Do you feel like it’s in people’s nature to do what they want as opposed to being tied down to one person?
I feel like there’s monogamy out there. But I think in society, in the world, in entertainment, as a rapper, whatever—it’s very rare. I’m an entertainer, dude. I talk about things that people want to hear, and it has a reality to it. Sometimes the truth just hurts, man.
Does that concern you if you were to try to deal with a woman or date some other person in entertainment?
No, no, no. People know I’m my own individual. Like I said, you’re dealing with a society where the actual fans know how many lovers you have, which is deep to me. We just in that kind of society right now where people try to see who you slept with and all of those things. I’m just dealing with my society.
It’s your world, not some big statement on how everything is?
I was thinking about that coming off you saying, people hang on every word of yours because there’s a lot to hang on to. Right now you’re on what feels like every single song. Do you think about over-saturation or potentially burning out?
To each his own. I think we just have to pick and choose after a while. For me, I definitely don’t think I’m gonna get played out. I’ll start to get different looks because I feel I really, really understand rap and got that down. So I really try to find the same space to do something that I’m not used to. Some pop records for an artist. Maybe even R&B. Or just a whole different genre of music, period.
Earlier, one of the first things you said was, “I’m happy with the album, but I have room to grow after this.” What topics haven’t you touched on yet that you wanna get into the next time around? Where do you see yourself going from here?
We still gotta get more personal. A lot of people know 2 Chainz. You got to introduce them to Tauheed Epps. We’re still growing. That’s what makes music fun. Can’t get to all of them at one time. Although I won’t release it, I already have titles and concepts for my next album. My first one not out yet, so I’m gonna take it one project at time.
When my last album didn’t do well, I bought a Porsche to make me feel better. I did different things for my therapy, but music is my therapy. I feel like releasing a lot of things. I don’t have a best friend, I don’t have a brother or sister. So when I record, it’s kind of like my diary.
There’s a lot of personal things that have been reported about you that you don’t really touch on. As you said earlier, people know Lil Wayne’s life story, they know Jay’s story. But people think about 2 Chainz and they think about whatever song is on the radio. They don’t think about something from your life story. Do you consciously keep those details murky to try to maintain some level of mystery?
Lil Wayne was rapping since he was 11 years old. There was no way you couldn't know his story. You didn’t know Toya until she got her reality show, and I’ve been known Toya. People do different things at different times. 50 Cent got shot a whole bunch of times, and it created that curiosity. Certain things put you at a certain space where you you have to do certain things.
For me, my whole story is just about me having a second chance. It’s not that I got out of prison, I just walked out of a hospital, I just beat a case. My line is my persistence, my hard work—that’s my story. My work ethic got me right here. People want to hear that shit. They’re gonna hear about my daughter and all that real soon, but they wanna hear how you never give up. How you can be an inspiration to others. And this is coming from O.G. rappers who been in the game. This is my story, like, “Damn dog, you did it. I’m proud of you."
You played college basketball, apparently you were shot at some point. Don’t you feel like that’s important to your story too?
We’ll see, bruh. I just can’t tell you right now. Right now I’m doing what’s definitely interesting to people right now. That’s what we’re doing. What’s interesting to people right now is that “This is the same dude from ‘Duffle Bag Boy’? I didn’t know that.” They don’t ask me, "Can you hoop?"
That’s what they’re interested in. How the hell did “Mercy” come up? How did he do “Beez in the Trap?” “No Lie” is the No. 1 record. It kind of had nothing to do with nothing but hard work. That’s the story behind it. That’s what’s happening. It’s the work ethic. My lack of sleep.
That’s why we’re having this conversation in the first place. People want to know how you took over the game. It seems like you came out of nowhere almost.
Yeah, but I didn’t, dude. Trust me.
What was it like during those years in limbo? Playaz Circle kind of fell apart, you were having issues with DTP. Did you ever feel like “it’s over.” What was it like weathering that storm?
You just see the results, man. It makes me continue to work hard. A lot of the naysayers, a lot of the doubters, a lot of the non-believers make it a great feeling. It makes me stay persistent and never give up—no matter what I’m trying to do.
What was the most frustrating moment? Did you ever doubt yourself when it seemed like the odds were stacked against you?
I never doubted myself. I’ve always thought I had a pretty cool flow. I would compare anything I hear and I would be like, "I could go get that. I’m iller than that." I used to hear that kind of stuff. When i put out my Playaz Circle albums and the numbers didn’t do well, I just felt like I was ahead of my time. I didn’t feel bad.
I made myself feel good about it. Maybe the rest of the world was slow. When my last album didn’t do well, I bought a Porsche to make me feel better. I did different things for my therapy, but music is my therapy. I feel like releasing a lot of things. I don’t have a best friend, I don’t have a brother or sister. So when I record, it’s kind of like my diary.
In our G.O.O.D Music cover story, you also say that you were an only child, you don’t have best friends, and that you have trust issues. Is that a part of your personality that you’ve accepted at this point, or do you feel like, “Damn, I would like to get over this shit?”
Yeah, it’s just one of those things that it is what it is. I would definitely love to get more trust and find somebody that I could trust in. But that’s a weird characteristic to have. We’ll see. So far, so good—I got a great team around me. I got a great crew around me who I've seemed to build more trust with than anybody else. I’m working on it. I'm definitely working on it.