2 Chainz has always been about his hustle. When the multiple Grammy-nominated rapper and entrepreneur was coming up in College Park, Ga., a few minutes away from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the then-impressionable artist looked up to the drug dealers in his neighborhood because of their opulent and flamboyant style.
“That’s where I get a lot of my flavor from,” the 6 foot 5 performer born Tauheed Epps declares an hour before performing at the Atlanta Hawks’ contest against the Detroit Pistons.
Those dope boy aspirations might’ve been short-lived, but the grind through music manifested. In recent years, 2 Chainz has become one of the most sought-after, highly visible feature artists spanning hip-hop and pop. The 39-year-old self-motivated, lanky rapper once signed to Ludacris’ Disturbing the Peace roster consistently incorporates dynamic vocal inflections with humorous staccato and a potent Southern accent in his verses.
His punchline-heavy one-liners are filled with references to luxury brands, rehashed phrases, rhythmic ad-libs, stressed sound effects and clever puns. 2 Chainz channeled his talents into a chart-topping, gold-certified Def Jam Records debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story (2012), its follow-up LP B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (2013), a collaborative album with Lil’ Wayne entitled ColleGrove (2016), and the upcoming Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
Channeling his prolific output with civic and business undertakings, 2 Chainz partnered with the Hawks for a second time (the first was in March 2015). The openhanded performer competed in a three-point shootout against Hawks icon Dominique Wilkins. “This is something fun and entertaining,” 2 Chainz declares.
The once-exceptional student athlete who majored in psychology at Alabama State University treated 20 random fans to lunch at Benihana. 2 Chainz coincidentally dropped a mixtape, Hibachi for Lunch, last October, accompanied by an apparel line inspired by Japanese art. Restating a few times how loyal he is to both sports and the Hawks, the former half of duo Playaz Circle known as Tity Boi draws a parallel between the basketball court and the stage.
“Once you have the ball, everybody watching you,” 2 Chainz, who released another mixtape, Daniel Son, Necklace Don, back in August, explains. “Once you have the microphone, everybody watching you. That’s why I’m here.” What excites 2 Chainz at the Hawks/Pistons match specifically is debuting his customized memorabilia.
The rapper, along with the Hawks, created a graphic t-shirt featuring a replica of his gold linked necklaces overlapping the NBA franchise’s jersey font. A black hoodie with his new clothing line, CEO Millionaires, has his brand’s logo in fluorescent green overlapping a watermark of the team’s logo. Also behind the massively successful “Dabbing Santa” ugly Christmas sweaters, 2 Chainz showcased a “Hit Dem Folks” graphic t-shirt highlighted with a caricature of the Hawks mascot, Harry the Hawk.
“They’re fresh,” the eager host of GQ’s web series Most Expensivest Shit says, wearing a gargantuan golden brown animal fur, a long custom white Hawks jersey, gold eyeglass frames and several diamond-encrusted necklaces. 2 Chainz almost immediately gives a thorough explanation behind CEO Millionaires, an acronym that stands for Creating Every Opportunity.
“It’s about finding the boss in you…looking to take steps forward in creating your own revenue along with doing and finding your own passion,” the BET Hip-Hop Award winner adds as he places his hands on his hips.
A combination of saturating the streets with music and having that impeccable work ethic is continuing to elevate 2 Chainz’ persona and financial portfolio. The owner of his own imprint, The Real University, or T.R.U., opened his first eatery, the 3,000 square foot Escobar Restaurant and Tapas, in Atlanta’s lofty Castleberry Hill district. He’s acquired real estate properties near both the restaurant and Philips Arena, the Hawks’ home court.
2 Chainz shares that his next endeavor is selling luxury beds. Once teaming up with Adidas to release the “2 Good to be T.R.U.” sneaker, the style setter will also unveil a new sneaker, the “Louie Ewing,” in partnership with Ewing Athletics. “I just try to get better at everything,” 2 Chainz states as he scratches his chin with his left pinky wearing an onyx and gold ring. “What you put out, you bring back.”
Giving 2 Chainz even more gratification is paying his success forward. During election season, he chartered buses to drive people in low-income areas to the polls. A portion of the proceeds from his “Dabbing Santa” sweaters are used to help less fortunate families: taking care of single parent homes’ rent for a year, providing fully furnished accommodations, purchasing homes for large families once living in rodent-infested slums, and providing minivans with wheelchair ramps for families with disabled siblings.
A one-time point guard and father of three, 2 Chainz’ nonprofit organization, TRU Foundation, has hosted a holiday two-on-two basketball tournament, Tru 2 Hoops, for boys ages 10 to 13 over the last four years at his alma mater, North Clayton High School. At the Hawks game, the first 5,000 in attendance got physical copies of Hibachi for Lunch.
“I love my fans,” 2 Chainz proclaims, reiterating how blessed he is. “If it wasn’t for my fans, I wouldn’t be me. This comes from me growing up in the streets of Atlanta.”
When 2 Chainz takes the stage at halftime, the towering entertainer with dreadlocks down his back performs “Big Amount” and “Watch Out.” Shedding the animal fur during the post-game concert (Hawks trump the Pistons 105-98), the ecstatic crowd sings along to a medley consisting of album and mixtape cuts (“Good Drank,” “Birthday Song,” “I’m Different” and “No Lie) and cameo appearances (Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” and YFN Lucci’s “Keys to the Streets”).
The future, 2 Chainz says, looks bright. He anticipates more collaborations with the Atlanta Hawks. He will continue to release new music in bulk and concentrate on selling more merchandise. Acknowledging himself as a “work in progress,” 2 Chainz prefers to not make any specific resolutions for 2017, or any year.
Instead, 2 Chainz believes in doing things in good fashion. Being consistent, he says, is what allows him to stay relevant. “I just continue to do what I do,” 2 Chainz says. “I keep it moving. It’s about you taking care of yourself and being prepared for the next chapter of your life. That’s what I’m prepared for.”