2 Chainz - Freebase

A low-pressure recording jaunt meant simply to maintain his star status.

Additional Info

7.5

ALBUM: Freebase

ARTIST: 2 Chainz

2014

Hip-Hop/Rap

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”

1. Don’t Do It
Dude’s got a point.
2. Trap Back
Does anyone know what it means to get their trap back? Throwing a Will Ferrell sample into the middle of the fracas, while a bit antiquated, is typical 2 Chainz for its utter ridiculousness. “Trap Back” is interesting in that it’s not your typical club banger fare, but more in the line of tracks such as Pusha T’s “Numbers on the Board”, with its minimal feel. It’s lean, menacing and the clattering booming production—courtesy of Street Symphony and 808xElite—keep 2 Chainz’ punchlines on the right side of intimidating.7.5
3. Freebase
2 Chainz starting off this song with “I came from nothing! Me and my niggas, we came from nothing!” isn’t anything that catches your attention at first, but there’s something about the underlying beat that brings out the gravitas in his voice. The proclamation less of a boast and more of an exclamation, in a convicted. It’s easily the darkest song on the EP. That’s not to say it’s all self-serious: there are shit puns, a joke about being caught with his partner’s girl, and a well-aimed shot at Funkmaster Flex somewhere in the mix of eerie synthesizers and claps. But when he finds his footing at the end with the lines “Sold drugs to my loved ones and it’s hard for me to admit it/The first time I see a crack pipe was in my parents’ kitchen”, it pulls you right out of that world in a flash.8.0
4. Flexin’ On My Baby Mama
This is probably the most 2 Chainz-esque track. Built out of a few lines repeated as the hook, he stacks lines and lines of ridiculous like a Jenga tower. Surprisingly, it doesn’t collapse outright—but it’s not exactly to be commended for that either.7.0
5. Wuda Culda Shoulda
For a MikeWillMadeIt production, this is pretty restrained. That’s probably a good thing, since it’s something 2 Chainz sounds at home rapping over. Bringing in Lil Boosie was a smart idea, beyond the obvious publicity of receiving a guest verse from the now freed-from-jail rapper. He energizes the track with his ardent tone, but 2 Chainz manages to hold his own.7.0
6. Crib in My Closet
This gets summer hit song contender status, mostly because 2 Chainz not only sounds energized and elastic, twisting his voice and flow over the beat like a rubber band, but he manages to sound like he’s having fun. A$AP Rocky comes in for a quick guest verse (which is nothing to be proud of, although Rick Ross manages to upstage him in the listlessness department). Despite this, the song, verse hook and all, hits like a megaton bomb.8.5
7. They Know
Young Chop comes through with some simmer-down production to close off the EP. Ty Dolla Sign comes through with the most interesting—not to mention fastest—guest verse on Freebase. “This that Me Time at its finest!”, 2 Chainz proclaims, and he’s exactly right. The subject matter he’s done plenty of times before but his delivery sounds like its on auto-pilot. Fortunately, it’s brief so you’re not spending much time pondering it.6.0
Written by Jibril Yassin
Jibril Yassin is a writer based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Jibril likes writing about music because it beats the alternative of watching anime in his room alone.

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