CD Reviews: 2 Chainz, Nude Beach
Based on a T.R.U. Story
After making his name as one half of the Ludacris-signed Southern rap duo Playaz Circle (where he went by Tity Boi), Tauheed Epps wisely re-branded himself as 2 Chainz early last year, and has since broken through to the majors on the back of a hot mixtape ("T.R.U. REALigion") and a spate of guest spots, most notably on Kanye West's "Mercy," sharing time with the likes of Pusha T and Big Sean. Now signed to the Def Jam roster, his solo studio debut is a solid effort that nevertheless struggles to sustain his immediate, but short-lived appeal.
Rapping with urgency, 2 Chainz relies on blunt force of personality rather than lyrical density or inventiveness. He is often saved by his producers or guest stars, or, as with the Drake-featuring lead single "No Lie," both, with Drizzy's tight bars dropping perfectly into the menacing beat from Mike Will, a highlight matched only by the rich-sounding "Ghetto Dreams," with Scarface and John Legend stopping by.
That's not to say every boldface name is a boost, with Lil Wayne positively lackluster on uninspired opener "Yuck!" and Nicki Minaj relying on muscle memory on "I Love Dem Strippers."
With their collection of scruffy, careworn classic rock melodies, Brooklyn trio Nude Beach is treading fatefully familiar terrain. But like the Replacements, Tom Petty, R.E.M. at their rootsy best, and especially the rollicking Old 97s, who they resemble most, they embody the sticky-floored bar band sound with gusto, giving each ragged vocal their all, keeping tight time, and knocking each chorus of "II" back to the warning track, whether it's a late night, drive-time burner like "Some Kinda Love," or the oldies boardwalk stroll of "Keep It Cool."