Adaptability is 2 Chainz’s marquee skill, it’s the most important weapon in his arsenal. Adaptability is the reason 2 Chainz can drop an irresistible hook on an Asap Rocky synthy bass song, pull out a killer verse on a G.O.O.D music posse cut or bubble wrap a verse with snappy metaphors on a Robin Thicke pop song. Somehow he might stick out odd on paper but his execution is always interesting.
2 Chainz might initially seem like a schlocky combination of offbeat and normal or old and new, but step in closer and you’ll find out he isn’t the least bit tacky. He’s as sophisticated as he seems off balance – most of the time. Working in small spaces is a specialty in which he has few equals, from impressive guest features to short projects.
2 Chainz is sorely underrated as a rapper and major part of this is his inability to craft a full length album that isn’t fraught with inconsistency. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music is a different story, it is delightfully packed and contains the best parts of 2 Chainz in a sprawling one hour runtime that ultimately feels like a rewarding breeze through.
Louis Farrakhan’s easy, deliberate voice opens ‘Burglar Bars‘, the final song on the album. “…as I gazed into his eyes, I felt like I was in the presence of royalty”, the minister says. Apparently, 2 Chainz has a very strong incorporeal presence about him. Chainz then descends upon the soulful terrain of ‘Burglar Bars‘ with a gnarly ferocity that makes you believe Louis Farrakhan’s earlier remarks. Chainz releases lines about any and everything he feels like, from mantras to anecdotal metaphors to shoulder dap brags. He even stops to add to his mystical presence, “niggas like me fall out the sky, you don’t just bump into me”.
In a sense, Pretty Girls is a party where everyone is invited. Just one thing is required: acknowledge 2 Chainz as the gracious, royal host. From the onset of the album, 2 Chainz moves around with authority. ‘Saturday Night‘ kicks the album off with slinking horror keys and ominous shredding guitars, with 2 Chainz being brawny, nostalgic and petty all at once. His verse on Pretty Girls’ first single, ‘Good Drank‘ is another example of how well he thrives while shifting from nostalgia to celebratory to near derogatory.
2 Chainz is at his best when the lines fold and flow unpredictably, switching between brawn and humor while matching with impressive wit. Pretty thrives on this balancing act, packing emotional insight, snide comments, braggadocio, motivational lines together sometimes in the same song. Best part, it barely ever feels cluttered.
Apart from the way lines piece together, 2 Chainz’ adaptability to the consistently stellar production is another way Pretty impresses. While 2 Chainz’ isn’t quite capable of vocal calisthenics, his vocal cadences adds a nuance to the songs that deserve praise. His candor is mournful at the beginning of ‘Good Drank‘, almost on the same terms as the glass-tainted, confessional tone of the beat’s piano riff. His progression to brag lines and pettiness morphs with an increase in ferocity. 2 Chainz switches from a soberly vindictive to unforgiving when the post-dancehall reggae bounce of ‘OG Kush Diet‘ incorporates a fuller instrumental section on the third verse.
As with any good royal party, the guest list doesn’t disappoint. Either taking a hook or dropping a verse or both, every featured artist brings a good impression. Swae Lee crooning maternal cautions on ‘Poor Fool‘ is in contention for best hook this year while Quavo proves his proficiency as hip-hop’s leading hook man twice. Drake drops an impressive 16 on ‘Big Amount‘ which coins on trap’s love for woodwind instrument. Drake’s verse will appease those that always want to hear him rap, until they squint when he raps “got the billboard melodies, rap is what I do the side”. Pharrell brings his trademark otherworldly, minimalist funk to ‘Bailan’. It feels different from the rest of the songs on the album but it fits right, like a piece of the puzzle with a different color.
Pretty Girls Love Trap Music is the quintessential 2 Chainz album, totally enjoyable from front to back. It’s the apex of a long career for 2 Chainz. It took a while, but 2 Chainz is here.
Writer’s Rating: 4.1/5
Words by Dennis, aka Tiny Amount, aka @ayo_dennis.