2 Chainz live: The journeyman-turned-star enjoys his moment in the spotlight


2 Chainz performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington on Monday. The star left a lot of his rapping to the audience, but in the end the skilled showman still left little to be desired. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)
March 25, 2014

On Monday, 2 Chainz brought his “2 Good To Be T.R.U.” tour to a sold-out 9:30 Club, and the name was an accurate one: Even in a rap world heavy on (real or imagined) rags-to-riches stories, the unlikely career of 2 Chainz is almost too good to be true.

The 36-year-old Tauheed Epps has taken the long road to rap stardom, debuting in 1997 as part of the duo Playaz Circle and finally breaking through as a solo artist with 2011’s “Spend It.” Lately, he has become a ubiquitous presence in hip-hop, seemingly every rapper’s first call when they need a guest verse; he has aided the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and many others.

The nearly two decades of toil have certainly benefited his live show, as the always-entertaining MC marched through an hour-plus hit parade with a showman’s touch. A 6-foot-5 former college basketball player, 2 Chainz is a towering figure; he slithered and stalked across the stage, all two-step and understated dance moves. In between songs, he worked the crowd like a comedian, his banter met with cheers and the occasional pair of underwear, which he wore like jewelry.

In concert, 2 Chainz is a performer first and a rapper second, bothering to actually rap only about half of the time and leaving the rest to the crowd, usually to the tune of a verse and a chorus for each song. Often, a little went a long way, especially for the songs off last year’s uneven “B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time,” but opting for an a cappella verse on the massive hit “Mercy” was anticlimactic. Yet when one song fell flat, there was another hit nipping at its heels.

With his DJ to the side, 2 Chainz’s main accompaniment was a trio of video screens hoisted behind him that played black-and-white footage featuring urban scenes, historical figures, sports highlights, rap videos and, yes, plenty of twerking. There were occasional vignettes (the live equivalent of skits on a rap album), during which 2 Chainz would disappear backstage. With the notable exception of the comical, pornographic finale, they dragged on for too long, but whenever the audience’s interest seemed to be waning, 2 Chainz reappeared with new clothes, a new chain and another crowd-pleasing singalong.

As the show came to a close, 2 Chainz thanked the fans and admitted that he did the best he could do with what little voice he had left after the rigors of a two-month tour. He wished the audience “love, peace and hair grease” before donning a cape befitting James Brown. He may not possess Brown’s one-of-a-kind talent, but he is definitely one of the hardest-working men in show business.

Kelly is a freelance writer.

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