"Freebase" finds 2 Chainz vacillating between the surface level fun of his previous recordings and the slightly introspective, making for a raucously good time.
Larry King was fond of saying that nothing is dead, everything is new, and 2 Chainz embodies that maxim so fully you imagine him as a Rap star painfully sculpted over two decades to take the world by ad-lib fueled, fun-as-hell storm. His meteoric rise to 21st century Rap stardom coincided so perfectly with his unlikely two-year run of mixtape dominance and the rise of “Mainstream Ratchet” that other artists in similar positions who lacked both the stamina and the sheer optimism of the College Park emcee have now since been deleted from our collective memories. And now, in between B.O.A.T.S II and B.O.A.T.S III, he comes out of nowhere to give us the most fun we’ve had on a mixtape in quite some time.
The formula is well documented. Flawless beats jerry rigged to non-sequitur lyrics formed as shots of an elixir that leaves you shouting, “2 Chainzzzz!” at the top of your lungs at 3 am anywhere fun is had. His raps are often nonsensical and enticing, not so much a full meal than one you hastily devour and leaves you hungry two hours later. This is his charm. But, where in albums past he never really took to the trappings of Internet Rap super-stardom (muddying up signature production from The-Dream, Mike Posner, and Drumma Boy) he now seems to have settled down nicely into his role as the grandfather of turn-up. Ironic for the slow drawl of his delivery, his ability to excite has undoubtedly matured into something more lethal. The result is a fusion of his initial burst on the scene with jokes like, “Go so hard, Viagra try to sign me,” to semi insightful lines like, “Look at my car, how did it get on those sixes / This flow come from Drizzy, he got it from Migos, they got it from Three Six.”
From the beginning this project showcases its hilarious semi-maturity. Snipping a slice from a ‘90s local Nashville TV show called Cuts and its train-wreck of an attempt at a PSA, 2 Chainz slides right into “Trap Back” produced by Track or Die’s Street Symphony and 808xElite. You’re then shot out of a cannon into a herky jerky trap fest that lasts through the rest of the mixtape. From the pulse-pounding two-by-four of “Freebase,” which features Chainz shouting, “I came from nothing!” on the hook over sinister synths as he reminisces about selling drugs to his family and first seeing a crack pipe in his parents kitchen. It continues at 200 mph directly into the grown man fun of “Flexin’ On My Baby Mama” where he screams, “I take care of my kids but I’m flexin on my baby mama!” And laments, “Damn I should have worn a condom.” All this, mind you, while stunting on his riches and solemnly sneaking in a line about missing his father. It’s revelatory if only because you don’t expect it. And the momentum only barely slows on Mike WiLL Made-It’s “Wudda, Coulda, Shuda” featuring Lil Boosie where, oddly, we find him at his least effective. But it still rolicks enough to last you through the only real hiccup on the project: the A$AP Rocky and Rick Ross buttressed “Crib In My Closet,” which sadly is no fun at all.
Now, throughout this descent into 2 Chainz’ world he vacillates between the surface level fun of his previous recordings and the slightly introspective allowing us to see the other side of the man formerly named Tity Boi. The one who’s not just content to wink at you while charmingly boasting about being richer, knowing gorgeous women, and doing better drugs than you, but the one who’s slightly more okay with what he’s got going on in his inner reality. Interestingly enough, these contradictions make the tape more fun than anything we’ve heard from 2 Chainz in a while, and, equally, it shows the most fun for a listener is a hint of depth added to a raucously good time.