Tauheed Epps is a fascinating case. The Georgia-raised, 42-year-old Alabama State graduate—where he played basketball and studied psychology—finished number-two in his high school. Not exactly the pedigree you expect from a ‘hood-ass rapper scoring big on hits and collaborations with hip-hop’s biggest stars. Seriously, there is nary a major hip-hop player Epps, a.k.a. 2 Chainz, hasn’t worked with: Nicki Minaj, Kanye, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, The-Dream, John Legend, Ludacris, et al. He may have become a household name through “Beez In The Trap,” but his Def Jam debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, isn’t really household hip-hop. It’s ‘round-the-way rap that talks a lot about “the trap”—a place, space or area in which drugs are sold, as laid out in album openers “Crack” and “Dope Peddler.” His rhymes are also laced with references to Similac and Benihana, as if eating iron-fried Japanese food proves he’s rich now after years of poverty. Kind of like B.I.G.’s “Juicy” lyrics: “Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner” and “Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay.”
Even funnier, 2 Chainz—his solo emcee name after years as Tity Boi, one half of a twosome with Dolla Boy called Playaz Circle—is an only child who spent his formative years in the church, singing in choirs. In fact, early interest in PC came, in part, due to Epps’ inclusion of a gospel choir on many of the mixtapes that introduced hordes to the special thing about 2 Chainz: His flow. Street-raised youngbloods like Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Wale and Kid Cudi may have production support, but it’s much more about delivery. 2 Chainz’s is wild. It’s slow. Real slow.
His is a heady mix, an apparent mastery of what’s happening now (G.O.O.D. Music/Maybach Music) and earnest, long-term dedication to the game. The man’s been at it for 15 years, but now 2 Chainz is making major moves. This show’s worth attending just to see that he’s for real. Plus, T.R.U. Story’s sold over 300k copies. The crowd’ll no doubt be into it. So what if you’re skeptical—it should be a spectacle.
Mon., Dec. 10, 7:30pm. $30-$42. Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com
PW's Music Issue 2014