Seven albums deep, 2 Chainz has long perfected his brand. Rap hewn from the streets, his swagger is built on illicit deals and back alley personas, achieving enormous success and no small degree of success in the process. Trap’s decade long arc to the top of the Billboard charts arguably falls in his shadow, with the rapper – real name Tauheed Epps – able to command respect from the upper echelons.
Yet seemingly a change is coming. ‘Dope Don’t Sell Itself’ is, he says, his “last trap album” and while it’s a punchy farewell to that style, it’s often slight, and occasionally shallow. Linking with Lil Baby on ‘Kingpen Ghostwriter’ provides an early triumph, the punchy flow and dextrous word-play showcasing two vital rappers in their element. Roddy Ricch appears on the soulful ‘Outstanding’, perhaps the project’s one overt display of introversion amid its end-to-end braggadocio.
All too often, however, ideas are approached, and then undeveloped. The production reaches for arenas, but there’s a lack of depth to some of the sonics; ‘Free B.G.’ feels like a sketch, while ‘Pop Music’ opens in bizarre fashion – an older voice asking “excuse me sonny, do you know where I can find some booty?” – and opts to sit on an irritating, simplistic club groove.
Latter highlights include ’10 Bracelets’, while features Youngboy Never Broke Again in his ascendancy. An over-reliance on features, however, perhaps masks the lack of ideas on ‘Dope Don’t Sell Itself’ – with only 12 tracks and 30 minutes of music, it lags breathlessly behind the epic double-length LPs pursued by Drake & Co.
Closing with the neat ‘If You Want Me To’, this is an entertaining but all-too-often frustrating record. Ideas are left unexplored, while 2Chainz innate abilities – on his day, one of the best MCs around – is clouded by a willingness to pack the tracklisting with guests. If this truly is his last trap project, then perhaps a change is overdue.
Words: Robin Murray
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