The story of 2 Chainz is an extraordinary one, and far more unusual than his catchy-as-hell trap-rap hits. As writer Andrew Noz once pointed out, the 35-year-old star may be the oldest buzz rapper in the history of the genre. Many rappers -- a 27-year-old Jay-Z in 1996, a 27-year-old 50 Cent in 2002, for instance -- have captured our imagination despite being in their late 20s, but mid-30s? It was unimaginable until 2 Chainz arrived.
2 Chainz had a career before as Tity Boi, one-half of Playaz Circle, which was signed to Disturbing the Peace/Def Jam. The Atlanta group recorded two albums under Ludacris' imprint, and their sole hit, "Duffle Bag Boy," arguably blew up because of its Lil Wayne chorus. By rebranding himself with a more "family friendly" name like 2 Chainz, he has created the veneer of a new artist. It's an impressive, phoenix-like relaunch that has little precedent. You'd have to go back to, again, 50 Cent to find someone who initially held promise, then faltered, only to rise again, bigger and better than before.
As a result, 2 Chainz has been all over the place this year. He's on the new Rick Ross album, the new Curren$y album, the new Nicki Minaj album ... and he'll be on Kanye West's anticipated G.O.O.D. Music compilation when it drops in September, having already helped make West's "Mercy" a crossover pop smash. Our latest Catching Up playlist documents only the many singles and remixes he's generated between last year's acclaimed T.R.U. REALigion mixtape and his brand-new Based on a T.R.U. Story solo debut. There are a ton of mixtape cameos and album cuts out there, too, making him one of the most ubiquitous figures of 2012.