2 CHAINZ at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Tuesday (September 4), 8 pm. $31. PDR, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
For a man who increasingly seems like hip-hop's best-connected rapper, 2 Chainz is resolutely self-sufficient when it comes to recording.
"I'm an only child. I don't have any best friends. I have a strong, strong conscience and I feel like that talks to me and I listen to it," he says over the phone from a tour stop in Baltimore. "There are some things I connect with. I pray a lot. I'm very spiritual.
"[The music] I make I can organically tell like what it's like due to the fact that I take myself out of my body," he continues. "I become a fan. I become the listener. I won't be me for some time and I'll just listen to a few things like that, and that's how I get the feel for a record."
Though 2012 has been his breakout year, the 35-year-old, 6-foot-5 College Park, Georgia native (born Tauheed Epps) has been making music for more than a decade. He was known as Tity Boi (a family nickname meaning spoiled brat) as part of the Ludacris-affiliated duo Playaz Circle, which scored a hit in 2007 with the Lil Wayne-assisted song Duffle Bag Boy.
Last year he renamed himself 2 Chainz and released a constant stream of music that culminated in his debut album, Based On A T.R.U. Story, entering the Billboard 200 album chart at number one.
Though he describes himself as a lone wolf insomniac tirelessly working in his mobile studio while on tour for the past year, he's had some help in his rise to the top of the charts. Memorable cameos on Kanye West's summer jam Mercy and Nicki Minaj's hood anthem Beez In The Trap solidified his rep as a skilfully inane MC, and numerous guest spots on singles for everyone from Justin Bieber to Jadakiss propelled him to hottest rapper of the moment status.
Doing it all, however, has its down side. He records from 10 pm to 6 am and thus doesn't sleep much - an issue he addresses on T.R.U. Story track Ghetto Dreams, a moment of personal candour in an album top-loaded with no-brainer club bangers.
"In 09 when I was on tour with Lil Wayne, seeing him go from stage to the booth and already being a successful artist and having a million shows and tons of money made me, like, ‘Who the hell am I to own a studio and not go hard every day?'" he says.
He lives on the road and wouldn't have it any other way, despite owning an awesome-sounding pad in Atlanta.
"I probably stayed in it maybe 10 times - maybe. That's pushing it," he says. "I had an interior decorator do the whole house. I had it landscaped. It's 22 acres, and I have a saltwater pool. I've never even put my toe in it."
On Based On A T.R.U. Story, he largely stuck with Atlanta producers like Drumma Boy, Mike Will and Bangladesh so as not to alienate long-time fans of his Southern trap rap sound, but branched out into R&B with crooners The-Dream and Mike Posner - a direction he wants to explore further.
"I've actually talked to [R&B funk,neo-soul singer] Maxwell on the phone, and he's a huge fan," he says. "I'm like, ‘Yo! My aunt loves you, fool!' So I gotta work with him."
In a genre that thrives on conflict, 2 Chainz has been able to work with everybody. Asked if his self-sufficient ethos is integral to his popularity, he demurs.
"People call me and that's basically it. I don't have a problem with anybody," he says insistently. "You need to interview the other parties and see where the interest came from, because sometimes 2 Chainz is just sitting in his studio working. That's all. And a lot of good things came out of that."