Posted on August 15th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Justin Goodman

Why would I think of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and Georgia-based rapper 2 Chainz together? I swear it’s not as weird as you’d think. I would describe 2 Chainz music as Nathaniel Rich describes Murakami’s writing. “His sentences can be awful, his plots are formulaic – yet his novels mesmerize.” When he was picked up by Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace, he was a character actor. Tity Boi (a Southern alternative for momma’s boy) was half of Playaz Circle, and a drug hustlin’, thuggin’, sex fiend caught up in the trap of gang culture. Since taking up the moniker 2 Chainz in 2011 (despite its symbolism for second chances), Based on a T.R.U. Story and everything after was enjoyable but by-the-books, and riddled with tropes. With the newest addition to the Trap-A-Velli mixtapes, Trap-A-Velli Tre, it’s clear he’s growing into that second chain.

“Nothing in this world can refresh your soul like being home,” DJ Bigga Rankin begins the tape. Bitter love for one’s hometown is a familiar theme in hip-hop – from Dr. Dre’s recent Compton, to Kendrick’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, to Nas’ Illmatic – one which 2 Chainz drawls out slightly incoherent. For every remembered rags-to-riches track like “Neighborhood,” “Everything I Know,” or “BFF” reminding me of his political ambitions, for every slanted memoir of his drug dealing youth as with “Big Meech Era” and “El Chapo Jr,” a regression occurs. Even this attempt at unoriginal sincerity fails to escape the inanity of a “Lapdance in the Trap House.” Listening to it, and the equally listenable but more originally felt and embattled “Halo Letter from My Unborn Son” back to back reveals how little 2 Chainz has really shown until recently. It’s almost enough to rant like Hopsin.

Cultural critiques aside, the real problem of Trap-A-Velli Tre lies in its production. With the exception of the otherwise unremarkable “Blue Dolphin,” I couldn't differentiate between the backbeats. The staggered bass drum, the constant muted hi-hat, some keyboard for good measure, modifying the BPM and pitch between tracks, and you have the substance of 2 Chainz production. It wouldn’t surprise me if the various production credits were actually one person’s nom de plume, several chains worn, leaving me to wonder how much forgiveness I have in me. It’s particularly upsetting since the other Trap-A-Velli mixtapes were carried by the Atlas strength of their production. Here, we’re forced to listen closely; listening too closely becomes only harmful.

It was only January of this year that 2 Chainz interview on "Nancy Grace" made its way to my Facebook feed, and the only time I’d ever voluntarily watch that show. Yet I was mesmerized by the chasm between his persona and his person, as if his music were the shadow of his self. That's the kind of "play pretend" that Tity Boi might take up. Now we’re experiencing 2 Chainz growing pains with the hope that divide might shrink into the smallest of slivers, into a sincere rapper of unique indistinctness - Murakami-esque. Whether this happens or not, it would be cool to have a rapper for a mayor.

Track List:

  1. DJ Bigga Rankin Intro
  2. Neighborhood (Prod. By B Wheezy iBeatz Mike Dean X)
  3. A Milli Billi Trilli Feat. Wiz Khalifa (Prod. By FKi Murda Beatz)
  4. Everything I Know (Prod. By Nard B)
  5. Watch Out (Prod. By FKi)
  6. BFF (Prod. By Zaytoven)
  7. I Feel Like Feat. Kevin Gates (Prod. By Hitmakah Arch tha Boss)
  8. GOAT Feat. The Dream (Prod. By Bwheezy Mike Dean)
  9. Halo Letter From My Unborn Son Feat. Heaven Harmony (Prod. By Street Symphony 808xElite)
  10. Big Meech Era (Prod. By TM88)
  11. Starter Kit Feat. Young Dolph (Prod. By Zaytoven)
  12. If I Didn t Rap (Prod. By Fresh Jones)
  13. El Chapo Jr (Prod. By Two7teen)
  14. Lapdance In The Trap House (Prod. By Honorable C Note)
  15. Each Erry One Of Em Feat. Cap 1 Skooly (Prod. By Honorable C Note)
  16. Blue Dolphin Feat. Betty Idol (Prod. By Nard B)
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Our Rating

66 / 100
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