(NPR – LaTesha Harris | February 17, 2021)
“There are a lot of people who have been moving the needle forward for Black people. And they have been for some time,” says an earnest, almost plaintive 2 Chainz. In a heart-filled sermon, he cites Martin Luther King Jr., Tyler Perry and Puffy as trailblazers, practicing gratitude for Black leaders who inspire him and the world at large. It’s a sober moment of euphoria — and a drastic shift from the first 17 minutes of the Grammy winner’s flashy Tiny Desk.
Colored in royalty, neon hues of lavender, fuchsia and violet, in his high-end nail studio Pamper (yes, he owns it, and he’s not shy about letting you know), 2 Chainz is feeling himself throughout his five-song set. Getting a champagne-soaked pedicure, rolling one and periodically shouting out his sixth and latest studio album, So Help Me God!, the rapper exudes Black excellence in the way of luxurious comfortability. His unbridled braggadocio so clearly comes from the freedom of security after being denied opportunities, not just individually but generationally.
And he’s worked for it. First coming up from Atlanta’s hip-hop scene as one half of Playaz Circle, 2 Chainz landed a solo record deal and guest verses on Kanye West’s “Mercy” and Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” in 2012. And, through guest verses and singles, his music’s been dominating the charts ever since. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he rewinds the clock and samples that stacked discography (“Good Drank,” “I’m Different”) and performs three new hits (“Grey Area,” “Southside Hov,” “Vampire”). Alternating between earnest vulnerability and well-deserved conceit, 2 Chainz offers up his best: leaning into the dynamism of life and practicing gratitude.