29. 2 Chainz, BOATS II: Me Time
Label: Def Jam
2 Chainz had a rough 2013. His latest album suffered a steep dropoff in sales from his debut. And while he kept busy with the guest spots, his own single "Feds Watchin" was a slow burner that didn't make much of an impact. It's especially unfortunate because, relative to his debut, BOATS II: Me Time is a much more consistent release. Of course, 2 Chainz is still a one-dimensional presence on the mic, for the most part, better suited to craft memorable club jams than narratives of nuance or introspection. But a few songs—like the second half of "So We Can Live," for example—flesh out his story with a little more nuance and reflection than is typical.
Overall, the album is surprisingly creative, jumping from cabana bounce like "Feds Watchin" to the widescreen blockbuster "I Do It" to the New Orleans throwback "Used 2" to ratchet noir like "Livin'" with Iamsu. It's tough to imagine 2 Chainz making a particularly ambitious record. His entire style is, after all, firmly middlebrow: never pretentious, but nor is it especially interested in the populist vanguard. While the ideal 2 Chainz album would probably be a hits compilation, BOATS II: Me Time is probably the next best thing: a consistent, front-to-back listen that celebrates a very particular aspect of hip-hop as a craft. —David Drake