2 Chainz shows off past through emotional fifth album

Photo courtesy of  Matt Sisneros, Flickr

2 Chainz released his fifth studio album, “Rap or Go to the League,” on March 1 through Def Jam Records. It features a track list chosen by world-class athlete and NBA star LeBron James and collaborations with several titans in popular music, including Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Chance the Rapper and more.

The Georgia-based rapper looks not only to draw you in with catchy hooks and beats, but also to educate his listeners about his story and the limited options black youth face every day.

Partnering with LeBron James, a man who has goals of making the playoffs and keeping up with his other partnerships, proves that this album has something to offer to the world aside from music. Two individuals who both share the vision in promoting black excellence are using their platform and making really good music as a result of it.

The first song of any album should always make a statement – or even act as a thesis for what the album is about – and the opening song “Forgiven” feat. Marsha Ambrosius does just that.

As a listener, you feel the singer’s pain for the decisions he made as a teenager. Listeners will understand the love he shows for a friends' late sons, who each died before turning 21 years old. The song surmises a young black man without a career as a rapper or professional athlete may think the only path ahead is on the streets, but 2 Chainz believes that as a black man, one has more than just these two options to choose from.

In his second song, “Threat 2 Society,” 2 Chainz pays homage to his coming of age story and how it “feels so good to be alive.” More so, the rapper notifies the public that he is, in fact, still a threat to be reckoned with: “Never get the credit I deserve / I don’t know if you hearin’ every word.”

If you did not know, 2 Chainz – or before the fame, Tauheed Epps – was a talented basketball player at Alabama State University. In his song “NCAA” – the best track on the album – he highlights the mistreatment of Division 1 athletes, specifically college basketball players.

The school and the coaches rake in revenue from the players who never see a cent, yet the players are risking their own health for the benefit of the institution. We have seen this recently with a NBA-ready player Zion Williamson, who got injured at the biggest college basketball rivalry known: UNC vs. Duke.

On “I Said Me,” 2 Chainz raps about his difficult upbringing in the streets of Atlanta, yet all that he has experienced, he claims to be all of them in one. Although successful and powerful, 2 Chainz still mentions that his “past is really dark, frightening.” In terms of production, 2 Chainz samples “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” as the introduction.

In 2 Chainz’s final track, “Sam,” the topic of taxes is addressed and how “Uncle Sam” is stealing money unnoticeably: “Say it one more time, I don’t stand in line / Got my drive in overdrive / I work overtime and he take half of mine / Yeah, my uncle like the middle man that’s stealin’ on the side to survive.”

“Rap or Go to the League” is 2 Chainz’s best album to date. As he gets older, he becomes wiser. The album is mature and speaks about topics that are overlooked by the public. With superstar execution, 2 Chainz makes clear why he is a veteran of the rap game.

5 stars