2 Chainz is a 43-year-old rapper who’s been universally praised for his outstanding feature performances over the years. From GOOD Music’s “Mercy” to Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem”, the Atlanta MC has been key to many of hip hop’s biggest singles in recent memory. While being respected for his guest appearances, Chainz’s solo work has never truly blown anyone away despite it being solid year in and year out. This weekend he released his sixth album, So Help Me God!. With a chance at breaking this stigma, will 2 Chainz excel under pressure?
Throughout the 49 minutes and 53 seconds of running time, it feels like there are two forces pulling 2 Chainz apart. On one side, we see some of his most heartfelt material ever like “Southside Hov” and “Vampire”, yet the abysmal “Quarantine Thick” and Lil Wayne collaboration “Money Maker” will make you think he’s just an average trapper. Fortunately, the 43-year-olds passionate side prevails, as we see some of his most ambient material since his debut, Based On a T.R.U. Story. Whether he’s toasting to his success alongside Rick Ross and Skooly on “YRB” or counting his blessings on “55 Times”, it’s clear Chainz intended to hit home here. At the climax of this is “Wait for You to Die”, a brutally honest anthem of how fake friends and record labels wouldn’t mind 2 Chainz dying as it would result in some quick cash for them. Even “Save Me” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again works within these guidelines as the 21-year-olds melodic hook and bittersweet verse mix well with Chainz’s war-torn songwriting. This bunch’s definite standout is “Feel a Way”, which consists of a spine chilling hook from Brent Faiyaz, a lyrical triathlon from 2 Chainz himself, and an outstanding Kanye West verse filled with skepticism and knowledge. It would also be a crime not to mention “Can’t Go for That”, which sees the Atlanta veteran team up with Lil Duval and fellow feature king Ty Dolla $ign for a vibrant ballad inspired by Jay-Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”. When it comes to the rest of the LP, the artistic liberties taken here don’t follow through as songs like “Toni”, “Lambo Wrist”, and “Grey Area” are your straightforward gangster anthems that 2 Chainz has been repackaging for years. While moments like these are not bad, they don’t contribute anything to So Help Me God!’s messaging. Similar to these cuts, “Free Lighter” and “Ziploc” suffer from the same issues but are justified due to the change in pace Lil Uzi Vert, Chief Keef, and Kevin Gates bring, respectively. Even with a few subpar songs, 2 Chainz’s performance here is one of his best to date.
Behind the boards, there is a clear increase in quality and originality from his previous albums. Even on the lesser notable songs like “Lambo Wrist” and “Grey Area”, the production is super intuitive and diverse. This makes nearly every corner salvageable as times where both 2 Chainz’s vocals and beats fail are limited to “Quarantine Thick”. “Can’t Go for That” was a definite highlight as the sample from the Hall & Oates song of the same name is perfectly integrated. Produced by Playa Pizzle, “Money Maker”s instrumental was absolutely amazing as we hear a marching band horn section play the melody line of the classic 2Pac song “Run that Streez” over a glossy coating of an intuitive trap drum and a xylophone sample. Out of all the talented names working alongside Chainz, MIKE DEAN’s contributions may be the most significant as “Feel a Way”, and “YRB” are brought to life through his masterful synth’s. The legendary David Banner’s presence is evident on “Wait for You to Die” as he mixes the glitchy baseline with some mysterious vocals beautifully. Out of all the iconic samples utilized, “Southside Hov”s radiation of Jay-Z’s 1996 track “Feelin’ It” doesn’t just feel soothing, it makes the whole beat suitable for a cut named in the mogul’s honor. Being more consistent than its already formidable vocal counterpart, the soundscape on this record is the cream of the crop in 2 Chainz’s catalog.
After multiple thorough listens, it’s easy to say that So Help Me God! is one of 2 Chainz’s best studio albums yet. While not as consistent as Pretty Girls Like Trap Music or as ruthless as his debut, the themes of self-growth and empowerment make this LP like no other he’s touched. On top of his well-driven performance having the best sonic backing of his career makes this even more of a joy to unpack. Going forward, I’m not sure what direction 2 Chainz is heading for, but as he gets older, I hope he can build on this and further mature his content to eventually create something borderline of a classic.
- Most mature work to date
- Great features
- Best produced record to date
- Lyricism is super refined and empowering
- Some filler songs
- Some songs, despite sounding good, don’t fit the overall narrative
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop