2 Chainz’s rapid ascent to fame over the past year, which included verses on hits such as Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” and Kanye West’s opus “Mercy”, is bewildering. The artist formerly known as Tity Boi had dwelled in the world of obscure mixtapes since the late nineties — what made his rocky flow suddenly attractive to some of pop music’s biggest names? The Georgia rapper’s Def Jam debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, leaves that question unanswered, as the album is at its best when guests take the microphone and falls short nearly everywhere else.
Nine of the 13 tracks here have featured verses, and the result is that 2 Chainz ends up a guest on his own album. Drake’s extended chorus and verse on single “No Lie” carry the song, just as Nicki Minaj’s characteristically bipolar delivery on “I Luv Dem Strippers” makes the uninspired beat and chorus tolerable. “Birthday Song”, the club-ready collaboration with Kanye West, strikes a better balance, with 2 Chainz “in the kitchen, yams everywhere” and Kanye manning an understated verse over trap and bass-heavy production.
For better and for worse, not all of T.R.U. Story is about “criz-nack” with harsh trap beats. “Ghetto Dreams”, with crooner John Legend, ends up being the album’s strongest offering. But the majority of the experiments outside of 2 Chainz’s comfort zone, like slower, R&B jams “Extremely Blessed” and “Stop Me Now”, expose his flow as incompatible with tempo change. The lengthy chorus by The-Dream on “Extremely Blessed” spares the song from complete ruin, but the slowed flow on the rap verses affords too much time to think about the mundane lyrics. Redundant punch lines and unsurprising material (obscene wealth, women, and cars) plague what are otherwise solid beats. The extent of 2 Chainz’s cleverness tops out with vulgar quips like, “You are what you eat/ but I’m not a pussy.”
The overall lackluster quality notwithstanding, Based on a T.R.U. Story is at least entertaining. That is, if you accept 2 Chainz as a caricature of old Southern rap and enjoy drunkenly shouting things like “yaaaah”, “truuu”, and “All I want for my birthday is a big booty ho.” (Don’t we all?)