A decade and change ago when Jesal reviewed 2 Chainz’ first studio album, his description of the rapper as “a talentless hack” seemed apt to me. I was not a fan of hearing him yell his signature catchphrase “twoooooo chaaaains” on every cameo, and had little to no interest in the artist formerly known as Tity Boi releasing a solo album. Were it not for Ludacris trying to get Chainz’ former group Playaz Circle in the door, we might not even have Tauheed K. Epps in the game. I think Jay Soul would have been fine with that. These days when I listen to “Freebase” I feel differently.

“I’m so underground you have to sit on the flo'”

His delivery of punchlines on tracks like “Wuda Cuda Shuda” featuring Boosie Badazz may feel a bit stilted at times, but at least they are actual punchlines that are being rapped. No singing, no tuning, and no lazy drug addled studio delivery. In fact his “underground” snap wasn’t entirely inaccurate when it came to this seven song EP, despite the fact his debut had gone gold and he was already established as a rap star. Look — it’s 2023 and we’re just talking about “Freebase” now. How much exposure did this one really get beyond his most die hard fans? Not much.

I’m not sure where 2 Chainz sampled the “Don’t Do It” intro from, but it’s obviously recorded by someone doing stand-up comedy. He proceeds to tell you that he stopped freebasing cocaine because it was a fast lane to hell, but then happily tells you he’ll do toot when he and his girl are partying, and it’s the same drug no matter how you consume it. That same sense of humor can be found when the “Trap Back” track includes a sample from the movie “Step Brothers” where the film’s stars are incredibly overdressed for a job interview.

Perhaps I’m too easily impressed by the title track as well, but I enjoyed the artistic choice to include a Richard Pryor sample (somebody who really understands the dangers of freebasing) and the video director’s choice to mimic/remake elements of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” None of these decisions suggest to me a “talentless hack” as such. Maybe 2 Chainz is one who borrows heavily from pop culture, but that’s been a part of hip-hop since the very beginning. There’s also a painful honesty in his bars you might not have expected. “Sold drugs to my loved ones and it’s hard to admit it/The first time I seen a crack pipe was in my parents kitchen.”

I’m not going to advise you that “Freebase” will change your mind about 2 Chainz. If you found his vocal tone annoying going in, he wouldn’t improve your feelings coming out. The beats and rhymes are well above the standard for so-called rappers in this decade, but we can’t elevate 2 Chainz to 2Pac just because the new generation forgot how to rap. What I can honestly tell you is that I’ve heard so many bad “albums” of 20 minutes or less that an “extended play” of over 20 minutes of this quality is positively a pleasure. That’s more than I expected from Mr. Tity Boi so even if he didn’t change your mind, I respect him more these days than I did back then.

2 Chainz :: Freebase
6.5Overall Score