2 Chainz’s “Rap or go to the League” is a Slam Dunk

The hip-hop veteran pieces together his most reflective and thoughtful project yet


In most cases, artists generally experience the height of their careers in their earlier days in the industry. Rappers and artists who were big some time ago, may fall off because they’ve lost a step in writing, creativity or even interest. But, Georgia-bred MC 2 Chainz shatters that mold. Despite being 41, 2 Chainz it seems, is just hitting his stride. While sticking to mixtapes for the majority of his career, 2 Chainz has been commercial since 2012 with the release of his studio album, “Based on a T.R.U Story.” 2 Chainz has never been extraneous per se, but his relevancy has ebbed and flowed as the years have gone on. In 2016, 2 Chainz began to make waves again with his singles “Big Amount” featuring Drake and the timeless “Good Drank” featuring Gucci Mane and Quavo. All this build-up eventually led to the release of his critically acclaimed album, “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,” where 2 Chainz really began to solidify his legacy as one of the premier rappers of our time.

Now, in collaboration with Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James, 2 Chainz released his 5th studio album, “Rap or go to the League.” Like in the past, 2 Chainz continues to break his own mold and progress despite being 41 years old. He employs a variety of talents of both artists and producers to piece together what is truly his most progressive work yet. Variety and familiarity balance perfectly as 2 Chainz puts together an album that is both refreshing and recognizable. On “Rap or go to the league,” 2 Chainz creates a defining piece of work that extends his run of progression.

The album opens up with the soulful and bombastic track, “Forgiven.” Marsha Ambrosius’ feature delivers boisterous vocals on the hook to establish the uplifting nature of the track. The build-up is executed perfectly with 2 Chainz seamlessly making his grand entrance over a beat that blends the lines between soul and trap. 2 Chainz reflects on his own life, his relationship with God and the chapters in his life defining who he is today. He sounds motivated and inspired, leaving the listener with thought-provoking outros that feed wonderfully into the rest of the project.

The most notable difference on “Rap or go to the League” from previous projects is 2 Chainz’s effort to curate instrumentals that sound soulful, natural and brass. The succeeding tracks “Threat 2 Society” and “Money in the Way” (below) serve as great examples of this new sound. The first features a pitched-up vocal sample repeating the phrase: “It’s so good just to be here, feels so good just to be alive.” Layered over a simple boom-bap pattern, 2 Chainz serves up bars reflecting on his family, his days as a drug dealer and, of course, basketball. On “Money in the Way,” 2 Chainz raps over a bright, uptempo trumpet melody placed on top of a pacey trap beat. Other tracks like “Rule the World” featuring Ariana Grande and the provocative “I Said Me” are other great examples of this sonic evolution 2 Chainz plays with. He doesn’t stick with this sound the whole time, but when he does the payoff is huge.

“But where’s the ruthless and cold 2 Chainz I love?” Not to worry, my friend. 2 Chainz immediately kicks it up a notch on the track “Statute of Limitations.” The baseline on this track is rugged, gritty and forces you to make your best “stank-face.” 2 Chainz hops back in his bag on this track as he spits solely about trapping and hustling. This is a sound true to his brand with the lyrics right on par as well. He follows a similar pattern through the midsection of this project on the tracks “High Top Versace” with Young Thug, “Whip” featuring Travis Scott and the head-banging “NCAA.” These tracks stick to the formula 2 Chainz is used to, with bars about wealth, brands and slinging dope. Cold, airy pads and keys over grotesque baselines fuel the energy of these tracks in what is a familiar, but necessary change of pace for the project as a whole.

Packed into this midsection is the majority of the features on this project. On “Rap or go to the League,” no feature sounds out of place (thanks, LeBron), with each feature adding depth or a necessary element to each track that would have been absent without them. Standout features include Travis Scott’s infectious hook on “Whip,” Kendrick’s killer adlibs and verse on “Momma I Hit a Lick,” and Ariana Grande’s spectacular vocals on “Rule the World.” Every feature keys into their strengths on this project, with Kendrick’s feature being the most unique of the bunch. Remember when 21 Savage whispered on “Don’t Come Out the House?” Kendrick gives us something similar here. His choppy, staccato flow coupled with his boastful lyrics make for one of the most memorable moments on the project.

Lyrically, 2 Chainz is somewhat of an enigma. You truly never know what you’re going to get from him when it comes to the bars. Sometimes he’s serious and other times you’d wish he’d be a little bit more serious. On the track “Threat 2 Society,” 2 Chainz misses an opportunity to make a truly beautiful song. The hook itself is off-putting and out-of-place, for all he does is repeat “I’m a threat, I’m a threat, threat, threat.” It sounds awkward and doesn’t fit the vibe of the instrumental too well. Conversely, 2 Chainz has moments on here where he really delivers. On the melancholic “I’m Not Crazy, Life Is” with Chance the Rapper and Kodak Black, 2 Chainz spits, “Unfit mothers that’s on that butter, concrete gutter / Wanna hear that gun talk, that Draco stutter / This the life I chose, and it chose me back / They threw me out to the wolves, the wolves threw me back.” In just one example of his lyrical deftness, 2 Chainz has the potential to deliver provoking lines like this when he wants, but when he’s having fun, he’ll just do his thing.


“Rap or go to the League” is one of 2 Chainz’s defining works. While it doesn’t reach the peaks of “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,” it still amazes me that 2 Chainz is dedicated to progress even at this point in his career. The exploration in instrumentals and subject matter is inspiring and stimulating. With its amazing features and production, 2 Chainz crafts a truly addictive album that will have me coming back all year. While his lyrical prowess and creativity may fall short on some tracks, it’s not nearly enough to deter potential listeners. I really believe that “Rap or go to the League” is some of the best work we’ve heard from 2 Chainz, and one could even make a case for it being an early contender for one of the best albums of the year.

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