Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz's new album Based on a T.R.U. Story debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200, R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap Albums charts the week of August 14th, 2012. While T.R.U. Story is technically his solo debut, 2 Chainz is no overnight sensation. His fame came after years of building his craft and cred within hip-hop circles, first with hip-hop duo Playaz Circle and then with a flurry of solo mixtapes and guest verses on singles by Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy and many others. He's been praised all over the mainstream and urban music press for his charisma and memorable wordplay. The only person surprised that 2 Chainz has met with such phenomenal success? 2 Chainz himself.
Congrats on having the #1 album on Billboard! How's your last week and a half been?
It's been comprised of a bunch of "I'm proud of you," "Congratulations," mixed in with some of that "We gotta continue working. Don't get complacent." You can't get content.
It seems like your career was reborn after you changed your name from Tity Boi to 2 Chainz. Do you feel like you've changed the way you rap, or what you rap about, as well?
No, I didn't do any of that. I've been rapping the same for a long time. I've been working hard, and I think the timing just came. 2 Chainz was one of my akas when I was Tity Boi. When I put out the mixtapes, you know, I created a fanbase, started connecting the dots with my peers. That mixed with a little prayer got me over the top. It got me through there, you know what I mean? 2 Chainz became a little more family friendly, so I can't take the "genius" role, like I changed everything. It kinda happened gradually.
Do you consider Based on a T.R.U. Story to be your breakthrough album?
I really think I broke through on my mixtapes. That's how I got my core fanbase - it's how they're familiar with me. And everything leading up this album made it phat. You know, my features, the "Mercy" record [by Kanye West], "Beez in the Trap" [by Nicki Minaj], "SupaFreak" [by Young Jeezy], just all the features, combined with me putting out my debut solo album with major distribution. It was a perfect setup.
Tell me about those feature verses. It's a unique way of getting your name out there. How important were those experiences to you when making Based on a T.R.U. Story?
Definitely it's a marketing perspective. When you do records with other people, you just kinda leave it up to them, count on them to do the promotion and marketing for you, because it's their song. You hope their label pours money into it, you hope they shoot a video, a visual, things of that nature. That's one thing that I see when DJ Khaled puts out records - Khaled's not an artist, he's a DJ - so when artists are able to do that, that gives them another, separate look away from their personal look.
How about from a creative perspective? Do you find that you learned anything guest-rapping on all those different records?
With me, if it ain't broke, don't fix it man. I've been kinda consistent, doing some of the same things as far as my approach to records. Every time, my approach is simply to do better than the last one.
You worked with so many amazing producers. Was it important to keep a consistent sound throughout the album?
Yes, about half of my album's done by producers from Atlanta. That's where I'm from, so I definitely wanted to keep that core home sound, you know what I mean? But I definitely showed progression on tracks, whether it was a feature or a new rhyme style, rhyme pattern. I definitely wanted to work with some of our homegrown producers.
Was there a specific Atlanta sound that you and your producers were trying to get?
For the most part, I know what I like, I know what feels good to me, so if I'm in the studio with someone that's making the beat, I know what sound I want to use. I'm a sound-picking person. I pick different sounds and then most of the rest of the beat is based around certain sounds that I pick.
Were most of your verses written specifically to the tracks on the album, or were there any of them that you wrote previously?
I never do that. All of my stuff is for the track. I don't have any verses sitting, waiting for the song. I like to stay within context.
Which track on the album is your absolute favorite and why?
I think I like "Ghetto Dreams," featuring Scarface and John Legend, who I'm a huge fan of. It took me a little longer to put the track together and it's more personalized, so I really liked that.
What's the most unexpected thing that's happened to you recently?
I didn't know my album was going to go to #1!
What made you decide to join ASCAP?
I been with ASCAP my whole career. It was the natural thing to do.
Based on a T.R.U. Story is out now.
Find out more about 2 Chainz at www.2chainz.com.
Like 2 Chainz on Facebook: www.facebook.com/2Chainz
Follow 2 Chainz on Twitter: @2chainz