HE APPLIES A FORMULA THAT’S ONLY TOO REAL FOR HIM. ONE THAT HAS SINCE BEEN ADOPTED INTO POP CULTURE. TAUHEED ‘2 CHAINZ’ EPPS TELLS RIP NICHOLSON ABOUT WHAT HE CALLS HIS MAINSTREAM RATCHET SOUND AND TAKING IT TO STAGES AROUND THE WORLD.
2 CHAINZ interviewed @ 9:00 AEST – Monday 24th November, 2014
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
Images by William Selden
[Full Q & A below]
“Mainstream Ratchet is music that I made. Being black and being good enough to come from the underground has allowed me to go to places like Australia. And that’s because of that mainstream interest,” Epps says. “That’s kinda like the idea for how mainstream ratchet music is geared, where we talk about the hair weaves, skrippers and skrilla. It’s music that’s localised and talks about the lifestyle that I come from that’s loved all over the world.”
This formula is the story of hip-hop itself; a culture perpetuated in music and tempered from whence it came. 2 Chainz, formerly known as Tity Boi, as one-half of Playaz Circle with Earl “Dolla Boy” Conyers released an independent album in 2007 featuring lead single turned local-hit, ‘Duffle Bag Boy’ adding to a growing demand for Atlanta-based Trap music. After breaking up, Epps signed with Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace imprint under Def Jam/Universal delivering two LPs and a slew of mixtapes, most recently 2014’s Freebase EP which is a sharp shot of regression to his duffle bag soundscape.
“That trap sound is what got me here, so on that base this music is more personalised and has more substance,” he says.
With the chains and matching shining ego, there is no ego as big as a rapper’s and Epps is no different. On ‘On So Can We Live’ (featuring T-Pain) he raps; ‘If you ain’t arrogant then you’re out of your element.’ But, as to how altered Epps is from 2 Chainz, the southern MC proclaims to be the same off-camera, so to speak.
“That’s kinda like the idea for how mainstream ratchet music is geared, where we talk about the hair weaves, skrippers and skrilla.”
“Pretty much what you see is what you get with me. I’m very transparent. I love my family. I love my fans. I love myself,” he admits. “I’m not a facade. The cameras don’t have to be off for me to act a certain way.”
Recently on Jay Z’s Life + Times with Elliott Wilson, Epps summarised his first album to being about strippers and cocaine, which made his music very relatable to his crowd. However, after touring internationally, Epps likened his second LP B.O.A.T.S II to a passport; dog-eared and well-travelled.
“I just did it like I had to,” says Epps. “Basically, it’s my diary that I was reading aloud. I had to show people what I’ve learned the past year or so. It’s like a seasoned passport that has a lot of stamps all through it and I’ll get even more as I go to Australia.”
The night prior to this interview, Epps was on a flight from San Diego sitting first class, next to Hulk Hogan. Two days later he was in Kenya for a concert. In March, Epps joins Canadian rap-crooner Drake in Australia and promises to give his all for the love of that trap music.
“I want it to be an experience, man. For me, I put everything I have out there on the stage, you know? I try to be excellent and give people their moneys worth. You know, I leave it all out there. You know, I’m gonna give you that mainstream ratchet that brought me here!”
[Full Q & A below]
Q & A with 2CHAINZ
Ahead of his visit to Australia accompanying Drake this coming March, 2 Chainz was free to talk to Rip2Shredz about B.O.A.T.S II, Freebase, recording with Ma$e, the authenticity of Iggy Azalea and skrippers and hair weaves. It’s all part of the mainstream ratchet that he knows only too well, and how best to sell it. But he insists despite the Most Expensive Shit videos of $295 burgers and $1,000 ice cream sundaes, riding first class with the Hulk and Versace luggage he’s still pushing out duffle bag rap records.
Tauheed ‘2 Chainz’ Epps is still Tity Boi. You already know.
RIP – What’s good, man. What are you up to tonight?
2CHAINZ – Just doing homework with my girls.
You posted some photos online of you all putting the Christmas tree together?
Yep, yep that’s what it’s about.
I see you riding with Hulk Hogan on a flight. What did you guys talk about?
Nothin’ man. Just admirin’ each other’s talent that’s all. Nothin’ really. I took a rest on there.
Did you attend the American Music Awards?
No I didn’t
What did you think of Iggy picking up best rap album?
I don’t have any thoughts concerning Iggy or the Rap Album award. I don’t have no thoughts towards that, you know. It’s essentially nothin’ to do with me I didn’t drop a album this year. So I’m just supporting’ the cause and have nothing bad to say on that. I know she’s from Australia so I know that’s a big thing. That’s gotta be good for Down Under that she won, you know what I’m sayin’?
Yeah, it’s not really though, you see. It’s the opposite. She’s not very liked down here because it’s widely believed that she isn’t representing hip-hop in the truest form.
Woah, hold up! lemme ask you some questions then. Man they told me she was ill in Australia and I gotta open up for her at some stage.
Nah, she gets negative press here, especially across the hip-hop scene. I interview a lot of Australian artists and the consensus is she is not very welcome. She’s a pop star, trying to be a rapper, faking her accent and posturing too black. She is really not Australian, man.
(Laughs) Hold on, bro. Hold on, hold on. She ain’t faking the accent now, that’s straight up.
She never started her career down here. Her accent, true might not be fake. But it leaves her with no distinction to her Australian roots. And therefore she receives very little respect in the Australian hip-hop scene. But anyway, we’ll leave it at that.
The Freebase EP – Damn, that was a dope hit. It seems on this you went back to that Duffle Bag sound of Tity Boi. Is it important for you to channel back to the days of Playaz Circle?
Well, for me it’s just important to take care of the core fans and introduce my music to new fans. And that trap sound is what got me here, so my music moving forward is more personalised and has more substance. I feel like I’m a fixture in the community as far as people coming up and recognising me and I’m just tryin’ to teach them a few things, you know?
Your music is getting more relatable. Songs like ‘Shuda Cuda Wuda’ is dope! Mike Will Made It killed it on that one, too. With Elliott Wilson on Life & Times you explained your first album was about strippers and cane, then you went around the world where shit was different. On B.O.A.T.S. II, did you feel you had to be more internationally relatable?
Nah just did it like i had to. basically it’s my diary that I was reading out loud. I had to show people what I’ve learned the past year or so. That’s what music is about. For me, speaking out loud it’s like a diary so this is what. It’s like a seasoned passport that has a lot of stamps all through it and I’ll get even more as I go to Australia., to so you know. I’m just trying to shed some light on other folks.
Is it therapeutic for you to get it out on paper or spit those problems out?
Yeah it’s very therapeutic, music is very therapeutic for me.
‘Beautiful Pain’ you hooked up with Ma$e… How was that, how did you hook up and how is dude these days?
He’s doing well and living in Atlanta. I ran into him and I’m a fan of Ma$e from his days back with Bad Boy. Very humble guy, we came to the studio and we vibed for a couple nights and we came out with ‘Beautiful Pain’ and I love what he added to it. Shout out to C-Note, the producer.
‘Black Unicorn’ having your daughter (Heavens) sing out the end, that must feel special. Like you’re in a good place that you can do that for her?
Yeah, I try to involve the kids one way or another somewhere in the product that I’m growing because they are a part of my growth so it was natural it was organic. Black unicorn, I mean, you already know ain’t no such thing as unicorns so you know how they feel about black unicorns so it’s about standing up, being independent and positive and self assured.
Are you teaching her to keep an eye on her royalty checks?
Aaahhh, I got ‘em put away for her, (laughs).
You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists. What are some of the traits or habits that you learn from being with them in the creative zone?
Yeah, you know this is a learning game, we feed off each other. When we’re in the studio we just think about doing great things and that’s basically what comes out of our studio sessions. One way or another we kinda vibe out, exchange stories and just feed creatively off each other.
In the lyrics of ‘On So Can We Live’ (w T-Pain) you said, “If you ain’t arrogant then you’re out of your element” – as entertainers you take on an alter ego, especially in rap. How real are you to 2 Chainz the rapper?
Pretty much what you see is what you get with me. I’m very transparent, what you see is what you get. I love my family. I love my fans. I love myself. What you see is what you get I’m not a facade. The cameras don’t have to be off for me to act a certain way.
When you feel that moment of success for the work you’ve done, what is it that triggers that satisfaction of knowing you made it, as far as being able to provide for your family?
Paying my kids private school bills. So, you know stuff like that, making sure the kids get a proper education. make sure the kids don;t want for anything, that’s how I know I made it.
You’re back on tour with Drake. You first went out in ‘08 with Drake and Ca$h Money. What is Drake like to be on tour with?
I went out with Lil Wayne, Drake was fresh off a TV show.
Still on Degrassi?
He was off Degrassi but he was doin’ his rap thing. We was down with Wayne, basically that was a learning curve right there. Out with Birdman, Tyga and the rest of the crew. So I learned a lot.
Do you know what is going on over there at Ca$h Money lately?
No, man. This ain’t got anything to do about me. It’s not about Iggy, I’m just trying to be 2 Chainz.
I can’t help sneak these questions in, it’s the beast of the journalist in me. Always trying to get the edge on what’s going on behind the scenes.
You know I know, shit. I get it. I know what’s up.
Now being on tour with Drake, he can bring some screaming girls to the front row. Does he scoop the girls away from you?
Ask me a serious question, man. Come on, (laughs).
What are you hoping the audience at your Australian shows takes away from the event?
I want it to be an experience, man. For me, I put everything I have out there on the stage, you know? I try to be excellent and give people they money’s worth. You know, I leave it all out there. You know, I leave it all out there. I’m giving up that mainstream ratchet that brought me here! So, for me it’s I hope they leave a bigger fan than they already are and if they’re not a fan I hope they leave gettin’ on iTunes and doing their research into becoming a fan.
Recently Redfoo got into some trouble here over the last joint he did with you and Ice Cube ‘Drop Girl’ for the misogynistic lyrics.
Oh, for real? He got in trouble over there?
Yeah. He’s big on TV with X Factor, so he has to be squeaky clean and family. If it not for the TV contract no-one would give a shit about a pop dance act being misogynist.
So, what happened?
Because of the ‘shut up, bitch’ lyrics he got into hot water over it. Nothing serious. But the point from this I want to make is, do you think entertainers should be made to take on the responsibility of being role models?
With music there’s a choice. That’s it. I mean, you don’t have to listen to it if you don’t want to. Um, i think you should first make that choice.
I’ve always thought that idolising music and TV stars. They were not designed to be role models. Parents are.
A lot of (kids) are inspired by music artists, though and entertainers. If you trying to be like Mike or going down the wrong path, that can be the better option. And as you can see there’s a whole new generation that can jump over backboards and make jump shots, like Jordan. So, same with Michael Jackson, same thing with artists. Actors on TV. Sometimes you don’t want, as parents, for them to idolise them but you do want them to be inspired by someone that has far reach. It’s hard to get that far without first seeing how it’s been done before. Sometimes being from the neighbourhood you get localised, where nobody but people around you in your same situation, you have to search for inspiration. I didn’t get my inspiration from the hood or nothing like that, it came in the form of other things. Other than that, I’d be hustlin’ on the street corner still probably.
So inspired perhaps but not idolised.
To each his own, you know. To each his own.
OK, my last question. When describing your second album you said you applied the formula you called ‘mainstream ratchet.’ Can you explain what this means?
Mainstream Ratchet is music that I made. Being black and being good enough to come from the underground to allow me to go to places like Australia. And if enough people like that so it gives it a mainstream interest. That’s kinda like the idea for how mainstream ratchet music is geared, where we talk about the hair weaves, skrippers, blunts, it’s music that’s localised and talks about the lifestyle that I come from that’s loved all over the world.
2 Chainz, thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing your show.