ARTIST: 2 Chainz
Despite being one of the biggest names in rap right now, Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz has yet to shine in the album format. While his stream-of-consciousness non-sequitors and ridiculous punchlines have proven to be a great fit for the guest verse, he's struggled with expanding his skill set to meet the expectations of the Event Album he desires to have. Debut effort Based On A T.R.U. Story (2012) didn't care much for substance and sequel B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (2013)—although a step in the right direction—was largely unfocused.
Freebase, meant to serve as a stopgap between albums, is effectively as a test to see if Tauheed Epps can succeed with a different set of expectations, namely, keeping it short. Clocking in under twenty-five minutes and boasting a list of blockbuster producers and features (A$AP Rocky, Mike WiLL Made It, Young Chop, Lil Boosie, and Metro Booming), Freebase maintains the appearance of a major event, all the while dialing down the pressure. 2 Chainz is free to make use of his limited skills in a small window of time and he takes to the task with vigor.
Yet despite the strength Freebase draws from its conciseness, there are signs 2 Chainz might be treading water. Countless guest verses and two albums helped perfect his persona, but by now you know what you’re bound to get from a 2 Chainz verse. From topical observations such as "This flow come from Drizzy/He got it from Migos/They got it from Three 6" in "Trap Back" to "She tryna tell me her life story and all I want is a lap dance!" in "Flexin on My Baby Mama", the tried and true 2 Chainz formula is working at full power here. He can pull out a line or two so ridiculous you'll catch yourself laughing, but they don't hit you with the same rush as they might have an album or two ago. "Crib in My Closet" is undoubtedly the summer smash waiting in the wings, thanks to a ferocious main vocal—less than satisfactory guest verses from A$AP Rocky and a surprisingly distant Rick Ross notwithstanding. At the same time, however, there's nothing about it that sticks out the way 2 Chainz' best material tends to.
That said, there are slight jumps forward into the unknown. The title track has 2 Chainz toning down his boisterous persona and lamenting the pitfalls of selling crack to your family. It's a far cry from his usual party fare, and in the context of the EP, stands out as a big deal. Whether this subject matter makes a reappearance on the next 2 Chainz release is anyone's guess, but it's a step forward. You can't fault the man for trying to make this a fun listening experience. Freebase is a low-pressure recording jaunt meant simply to maintain his star status. For now, it’s the closest thing we'll get to 2 Chainz in musical form.
“I should be on my own box of Wheaties”