2 CHAINZ at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, September 4. Rating: NNN
It's been a month of firsts for Atlantan rapper 2 Chainz: an early August Toronto debut at Drake's OVO Fest, a headlining tour supporting his first studio album, Based On A T.R.U. Story ("B.O.A.T.S."), entering the Billboard 200 at number one and, just this morning, the announcement that he'll perform at the upcoming MTV VMA's.
It's been a long rise for 2 Chainz, formerly known as Tity Boi, once one-half of Playaz Circle. And over the past two years, solidified by a slew of slurry, seductive summer 2012 hits, he's transcended popularity, becoming practically a fixture.
Not everyone likes 2 Chainz and his non-sequitured, nonsensical, sometimes non-rapping rap, but everyone knows 2 Chainz. And infamy is, no doubt, the end game for someone who's gone on record with a dying wish to be buried "inside the Louis store."
Last night, loping around in front of a lit-up bitmap-style logo, he was boisterous and dramatic and surprisingly self-effacing - his own court jester. And for all of 2 Chainz's gratuitous misogyny, flagrant inanity and misguided proclivity toward True Religion clothing, it's difficult not to like the dude.
In a rap landscape populated by proselytizers, pop goofs and one per centers, 2 Chainz is downright accessible, making hooky, radio-friendly, on-trend rap songs with enough personal bravura and weird self-awareness to appeal to multiple demographics.
There is room within rap for a personality as outsized as 2 Chainz.
In what amounted to barely 50 minutes of feature verses, hooks, clipped songs and frequent, stagey bellows of his patented adlibs - "TRUUU" and "TWO CHAAAAAINZ" - the rapper managed to deliver a solid performance with no outside help (meaning: Drake did not show for No Lie).
2 Chainz is his own hype man: quick with the dancing, limbs flailing unmoored like a Muppet, willing everyone else to get silly as well. Everyone is having a good time; it's not really a joke. But if it were, you get the sense that he'd be in on it.