Rap or Go to the League is the 5th Studio album released by 2 Chainz.
To be honest, I haven’t always been the biggest 2 Chainz fan but I’ve always had a respect for his humorous adlibs and creative rollouts. 2 Chainz has had a longstanding history of rebranding himself to keep relevant within the scope of today's fickle hip hop landscape. In alignment with the theme of the album, Chainz garnered the support of NBA superstar, Lebron James to A&R the project. Now whether or not LBJ’s title of A&R is a sheer marketing play, the concept is genius!
On this project, Chainz’s shows his thoughtful and conscious side, and I truly believe this is his most important body of work. I won’t make any bold predictions on how many songs on the album will chart, just i think the overall narrative on this project is what’s most polarizing. Through music, 2 Chainz was able to artfully capture the outlook of success impressed on some many black males growing up in the inner cities of America today. In my years of mentoring young black men and having eight nephews, young black boys who grow up with limited resources, exposure and options believe you find success by either playing ball or writing sweet 16’s. 2 Chainz challenges that notion and provides something more.
On this project, he uses his life’s story as a prop. He ’s vulnerable, addressing trauma associated with loss and mental health. He’s also playing the role of “Big Homie” offering mentorship through his lyrics directing young men to be aware of how the decisions they make will impact their lives and the lives of people who love them. Songs like “Momma I hit a lick” offer celebratory praise that I believe every black man can relate to. We all look forward to the day when you can put ourselves in a position to take care of mom dukes and make her proud.
Let’s examine the tracks.
"Forgiven" is the first song on the album. It opens up with a very dark synth accompanied vocals from the soulful Marsha Ambrosius. Her opening lyrics are very reflective “ Prayer for our sons, Prayer for our souls, Tears that we’re crying, let it all be forgiven” The second verse 2 Chainz opens up about the killing of his childhood friend Lil Fate ’s son back in 2014. “Kids ain’t suppose to die before us” is telling of the high statistics associated with black children and homicide rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black children are 10 times more likely to die from a gun-related homicide than white kids.
What I appreciate the most about this verse is how Chainz illustrates the healing process that occurred after this tragic event. Instead of retaliation, he raps “ One of the biggest forms of revenge is prayer” Hear he’s able to articulate that violence isn’t always the best form of revenge and only leads to more grief in an already broken system.
The outro of this song closes with a brilliant poem that in sum reiterates how at times society loves what we produce but easily disposes the person behind the talent :
In all his majesty and might, his brilliance and his beauty
His black and his blue
"Boy," still slips from their lips when they address him
Still, linger in the velvet of his dreams, the scene unseen
Black boy fightin' for manhood in a world that still sees through Jim Crow lens
Oh, them love him in his place
Separate, away, torn, disconnected, passive, submissive, and shufflin'
Oh, now just turn that shufflin' into dancin'
'Cause you know them love black boys dancin'
And singin' and ballin'
You know them love black boys' strength
But don't love black boys
Let me see your hands
Another standout song on this album is "NCAA". The pulsating bass and trappy-ness of this production is RAW!
The first verse is the 2 Chainz were all familiar with. Braggadocios. A lot of Bravado. FLEXIN! He relates his days of trapping in the streets of Atlanta to a life of Sport. The second verse is where 2 Chainz shines. He addresses a hot topic in the world of sports for so many black athletes. Over the last few years, there's been much chatter and debate on whether the NCAA, an organization that brings 1.1 billion dollars in revenue should compensate athletes for their play. Black male athletes make up 46.9 percent of the NCAA Football Division and 58.9% of the NCAA D-1 basketball. We know all too well the backstories for most of these athletes. Black boys raised in a single parent home, typically by black women who made incredible sacrifices for their son to have a shot at being the next Lebron James or Zion Williamson. Even these students are offered a free scholarship to some of the countries best schools, they are burden with the responsibility to play the role of the student-athlete and provider to their families back home. The need for financial gain and stability has created the one and done trend seen recently in NCAA D1 basketball. He ends the verse by posing the question “ You think just because I got a scholarship, That I don’t need dollars to parlay with?”
"2 Dollar Bill (feat Lil Wayne, E-40)"
This song GOES! The repetitive hook” I’m rare” over DJ Mustard-produced beat got me feeling myself. This record can quickly be adopted as an Anthem for black men in 2019 giving them permission to feel affirmed and proud.
"Sam" is the albums last cut. 2 Chainz personifies the US Government to a family who robs and steals, especially from those who achieve a high level of financial success. The lyrics that struck a chord for me were on the second verse. “ Taxes pay 12 (the cops) but don’t pay em to kill the kids, What it is? That was just a cellphone in his hand” This verse is a snapshot of how we pay tax dollars to law enforcement who in truth are supposed to serve and protect. We know reality. Time and time again they have failed and slaughter innocent black men and boys. Most recently the Sacramento police officer who back in March 2018, shot Stephon Clark who in his mothers back yard. Police officers thought he was holding a gun. It was only a cell phone. The cops involved in the fatal shooting of the unarmed black man will not face any criminal charges…
My takeaways from Rap or Go the League has me in full support of the direction that 2 Chainz is taking with his music. My brother Karega Bailey who is an MC and educator in Oakland would always say, "I often asked what made me choose to be a teacher... I say cause aint no laws to make em want to go see a preacher" . Artist like Chainz have an incredible reach and with that reach comes responsibility. He can touch people that TD Jakes can’t say which makes his message all the more critical. 2 Chainz, you are Stature, and we fully support your stance in changing the narrative.