2 Chainz and the Brilliance of Simplicity (Editorial)

2-chainz

She got a big booty so I call her big booty,” might be the most brilliant line in rap within the past 5 years.

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Birthday Song was a smash. The single by 2 Chainz had heavy radio rotation, and was often a premier club banger.  After shedding the ill-advised rap moniker ‘Tity Boi’, 2 Chainz began his rise to stardom on a scale that rivals many other big names. He first came onto my radar when I saw him on the BET cypher in 2011, a time when he was still associated with DTP (Disturbing the Peace). During the cypher he dropped one of the better versions of the non-connecting-word simile rap that I had heard to date. The line being “I’m Hood approved and I’m street tested/ You a nobody . . . anorexic”. Regardless to say, it made me raise an eyebrow. While a single moment of intrigue was not enough for him to be brought into circle of our collective consciousness, and association with G.O.O.D music certainly helped.

Mercy, the single from the G.O.O.D. music compilation album Cruel Summer featured nearly their entire roster. Big Sean opened things up with his creative verbal ass play (sorry. I couldn’t help myself), and Kanye West even broke the song right up the middle, switching the pacing, the tempo, and the type of flow: grafting a fist pumping techno vibe worth of the Jersey Shore. 2 Chainz’s verse followed in what could have been considered the worst place on the track. For example, if I’m a comedian, I do not want to follow Chris Rock. He is someone who is guaranteed to get the audience so hyped  that anything I do will seem minor by comparison. This cold have been the case for 2 Chainz at the time, but I suppose I was underestimating G.O.O.D. music’s ability to collaborate. They were in fact setting 2 Chainz up for extreme success.

 

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His verse on Mercy might be the stand out. It’s sharp, clever, and most importantly fun. He spins things inside out, finding a new way to surprise the listener. The line “Horse Power/ Horse Power/ All this Polo on I got Horse Power” exemplifies what 2 Chainz does best. He phrases things very simply yet finds a way to make them clever. Not only that he goes one step further. Because of how he phrases his lines, many people believe they are not clever. Perhaps it’s his delivery, but there is a sense that people perceive a lack of creativity. Many maintain an assumption that anything clever from 2 Chainz is happenstance. I disagree. There are too many instances for it to be random.

While I am making a point to emphasize the impact of the directness of certain lines, he is not averse to tossing his hat in with the other wordsmiths. “Drunk and high at the same time/ Drinking Champange on an airplane”, is a careful construction from the song No Lie feat. Drake. The cleverness of this line is in the misdirection. Other times, 2 Chainz can be so direct that he isn’t even really rapping. He just lays down statements that are so cutting they feel more like declarations than lyrics. “Name a Nigga that want some/ I’ll out rap his ass out trap his ass/ Put his ass in a plastic bag with his trashy ass/ take ‘em out” he continues to rhyme in No lie. This is an extension of the style of rap he does so well, but even then the starkness of it when compared to actual rhymes schemes makes the listener pay attention.

And that’s what entertainment is all about. The entertainer has to compete with countless other life distractions. Their job is to be so compelling that the audience can only think of paying attention to them. In regards to rap music, throwing out a phrase of disharmony is certainly one way to do it.

There is something else that 2 Chainz does that might be his most brilliant bit methodology.  Whenever he comes onto a track he yells his name. He doesn’t spit it out in quick rapid fire before going into his verse. He lays it out thick like pouring sauce onto Mississippi barbeque. As a result it’s as bold as sunshine and country as all get out. The words, the inflection, and I would even argue the frequency are perfect for getting into people’s heads. During the initial rise of his mainstream popularity, it was common to hear people imitate his shout. They weren’t doing it just because he did it, rather because it was fun to say. Shouting “2CHAINZ!!!” in a crowded room was often a good way to get a laugh. The phrase is silly enough that nobody feels they need to take it seriously. As a marketing tool, this works in his favor. The best thing a commercial can do, is get the viewer to sing the jingle in their daily lives. Corporations do this by make their slogans simple, catchy, and fun to say. Sound familiar? 2 Chainz is not the only rapper to use this tactic. Jay Z will often start a chant of “Hova! Hova!” at a concert, getting the people indoctrinated in the call of his industry. 50 cent had lesser success with the catch phrase of his former association. The main problem being that spouting “G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G UNIT!” was too difficult to say. Nobody really knew how many “G-G-G’s” There were, and when a saying a phrase requires rehearsal, it can’t really be considered to be catchy. 2 Chainz tapped into that vein in a very successful way.  Keep it simple. Keep it memorable. Think about his album artwork.

 

2-chainz-boats-cover

The coverart for his first major label album, Based on a T.R.U. Story from 2012 was also brilliant. Once more it is brilliant because of it is simple.  And yet again, it is so simple that people do not see it’s brilliance. His album cover is the summation of 2 Chainz as an artist on a 5 x5 inch jewel case. The point of creating a logo is to generate a symbol that the consumer will be able to instantly associate with your product. The most highly regarded symbol in advertising is the logo from the movie Ghostbusters.

ghstbusters logo

The simplicity of hing a ghost in a red circle with a red diagonal slash is perfect. When viewing it, people instantly knew what it means. The cover of 2 Chainz’s first album is the same. The black field with 2 gold chains draped across, as if they are hanging from a person’s neck sends a very clear message. If I were to walk into any Best Buy in America and see that album cover for the first time, I would be able to put 2 and 2 together on my own. I would instantly know that this is and 2 Chainz’s album. It’s perfect. It’s simple. It’s brilliant.

So think about this line again. “She got a big booty/ so I call her big booty”.

This line is seemingly the opposite of what rap music should traditionally strive to be. It is so direct that it could come across as lazy, but I’m a believer that that’s not the case. “She got a big booty” is the declarative statement. “So I call her” is the set up. As a listener, we are expecting a clever line or a witty turn of phrase. We are primed by our instinct as well as our rap conditioning and are therefore expecting a ‘same’; a clever ‘same’ mind you but a same nonetheless. Instead we are given “Big Booty.” This is not what we were expecting. That place in the rhyme in our minds should have been held by a nickname, not a repeat of the declarative statement. No one would argue that it’s not accurate but it certainly feels too easy, but think about what we are ignoring. We are ignoring the reaction. The surprise of getting something different from what we were expecting. That generates confusion, and a pondering, wondering if we really just heard what we thought we heard. Then we are greeted with an outward response; sometimes an audible annoyance but more often than that laughter. It’s almost mind blowing that in that one brief phrase we are so deeply invested that synapses fire in our brain in an almost uncontrollable sequence. Then that line becomes another saying that 2 Chainz is associated with. It becomes a talking point. It becomes another marketing tool. It becomes a line that we’ll never forget because it’s really fun to say.

– Cryston

The thoughts of this article resonates the authors thoughts, not a general consensus of the website (unless otherwise stated).