Published Mar 11, 2019When 2 Chainz transformed his hoop dreams at Alabama State University into a rap career, there were only two options: become a successful rapper, or return to a street life that awaited him. It's a stark reality for many young men from inner city communities, and one that fuelled his fifth studio album, Rap or Go to the League.
After announcing the album with a million dollar blimp at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, 2 Chainz surprised fans once more by saying the upcoming album would also be executive produced by none other than LeBron James. What was expected to be a star-studded, overzealous album by nature is, in fact, a fundamental celebration of education and entrepreneurship. It's also a glimpse at a life the rap veteran rarely speaks of — the death of friends ("Forgiven"), violence ("Threat 2 Society") and marriage ("Rule the World").
There's an element of soul that threads the album together, which is refreshing amidst the harsh realities of Rap or Go to the League. Yet despite 2 Chainz's nonchalant approach to the album, he raps with a sense of urgency.
As songs like "NCAA" criticizes the way college athletes are not paid and the powers that be are overpaid, songs like "Sam" shift that energy towards taxes and how damaging the system can be for undeserved communities, touching on police brutality and experiences of growing up as a black child in that environment.
Yet, the reminiscences of the rapper formerly known as Tity Boy still shine through. "Ex-drug dealer, ex-athlete," he states on the dirty trap cut "Statute of Limitations." It's a reminder that despite the flashy lifestyle he triumphantly speaks of with Young Thug on "High Top Versace," there's another story before it.
Aside from a few less-than-strong features, Rap or Go to the League allows 2 Chainz, a veteran rapper, to use his powers to acknowledge a picture much larger than him — it's one that's rooted in his past, but is planting the seeds for the feature. (Def Jam)