Aspiration, ambition and ascension are all thematic hallmarks of many a successful rapper, and the move from deprivation to glory is perhaps the most familiar hip-hop narrative. In Rap or Go to the League, American south icon and basketball player-turned rapper 2 Chainz perfects this age-old fable with the help of the all-star lineup of Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, and Lil Wayne amongst others. This is 2 Chainz’s most nuanced album to date with his usual heady mixture of hedonism and exuberance contrasted with some salient societal messages.
Dem Jointz’s spacy, offbeat, and at times spiritual production combined with a series of redemptive verses about past sins gets the album off to a strong start on ‘Forgiven.’ The track is amplified as Marsha Ambrosius’s powerful and soulful vocals give weight to 2 Chainz’s words: ‘If you’re doin’ somethin’ to make your parents have to bury you/ you may want to slow down.” Here 2 Chainz renounces both his earlier life as a dealer and general gangster lifestyle, providing a welcome glimpse of 2 Chainz’s maturation that we see in the album.
The track ‘Whip’ is a pleasing piece of melodic ear candy with a great Travis Scott verse, reminiscent of Scott’s highly successful Astroworld. ‘NCAA’ is 2 Chainz at his best, emanating seemingly endless amounts of energy and confidence supported by Honorable C.N.O.T.E.’s sturdy trap beats.
The album’s pinnacle is the surprisingly open-minded admission at its finale: “to think they can only be entertainers, uh, and jocks/ I said, first of all, we can be doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, fire and policeman.” With this, Chainz reveals the album title to be oxymoronic: African-American youths should aspire to be anything they want; they shouldn’t have to just look to ‘rap’ or go to ‘the league’ to escape their predicament. Except these discussed opportunities may not exist as is made clear on ‘Sam’: ‘education levels round here don’t exist’. This newfound maturity makes Rap or Go to the League 2 Chainz’s most intriguing album to date.
Image: demxx via Flickr