If there's a reason to cheer for 2 Chainz, it's that the limited but now loveable rapper lifted himself out of a dead-end group (the Sporty Thievz-like Playaz Circle), dropped his awful name (who wants to say they're the world's biggest Tity Boy fan?), and reinvented himself as a welcome character somewhere between the syrup-sipping Pluto and the slang-slinging Pootie Tang, all while rocking True Religion everything (and if the clothing company didn't pay for all this album's product placement, they should send Chainz a box of swag immediately). This devil-may-care style that's right in line with the flash-flavoring landscape of 2012, was refined over mixtapes, street releases, and guest spots, all of it smart preparation for this official debut. Based on a T.R.U. Story is a fine payoff, coming off as trendy as those jeans Chainz keeps repping, but still quirky enough to stick to the ribs. Prime example is the opening "Yuck!," a high-powered Streetrunner production with Lil Wayne getting in the distasteful spirit of the album (warning: he's searching through his black book for a girlfriend who's not experiencing "the monthlies") while Chainz places his second favorite product when Similac gets another mention, once again thanks to the rapper's skill at baby making. "Birthday Song" borrows Wayne's love of dumb bluntness for the great "She got a big booty, so I call her 'Big Booty'," while "Extremely Blessed" offers both "Our first date was the Waffle House" and "If you a chicken head, go and lay some eggs" which producer The-Dream coats in polished R&B for a track that's quite velvety and Ludacris. In this environment, a stripper track with Nicki Minaj can't go wrong, and when hooky singles "No Lie" with Drake and "Birthday Song" with Kanye West find their respective superstars coming down to Chainz' big booty level, it's like free drinks and table dances all night long. Still, there are a couple unexpected highlights, like Mike Posner getting convincingly nasty on "In Town," or "Stop Me Now," which plays it soulful, smooth, and nostalgic ("All my Planets were Digable"). The claim "Every line is so dope, you can snort it" is an oversell, but 2 Chainz over-promises and almost delivers on his official debut, putting him right in the punch-line rapper's sweet spot.
© David Jeffries /TiVo