Album: “Dope Don’t Sell Itself”
Artists: 2 Chainz
Label: Def Jam Recordings, Gamebread, T.R.U.
Release Date: February 4
If there is one word to associate with rapper 2 Chainz, it’s consistency. Over the past decade, the Georgia artist has built a name for himself as one of the most versatile rappers in the industry. Sadly, his latest effort, “Dope Don’t Sell Itself,” is one of his most lackluster projects to date, despite his admirable decision to delve into less familiar territory.
That “admirable delve” is easily the album’s high point, as Chainz blatantly demonstrates a desire for experimentation on the album’s opening track, “Bet it Back.” Across a retro beat reminiscent of the video game “Undertale,” this song showcases Chainz as confident as ever:
“Off the rapping game, I bought three mansions / You n****s ain’t agin’ wellー, you look like Steve Francis.” But even with lyrics miles better than the general standard of the genre today, lines like this feel decidedly shallow compared to what Chainz himself typically releases in his discography.
Thankfully, Chainz enlists the talent of young rappers like Lil Baby, who, as per usual, delivers a show-stealing verse on “Kingpen Ghostwriter.” Despite a generic beat and forgettable lyrics from Chainz, Baby successfully reminds listeners of his status as the best rapper alive, displaying his trademark cocky style:
“I don’t gotta tell ‘em, they know what I’m sayin’ / Five mil’ in blue, let ‘em know I ain’t playin’ / Back of the ‘Bbach getting head when I lay there / You wanna f**k with a n***a, just say that / McLaren fast, it belong on athe racetrack / None of that bullsh*t, you know I ain’t play that / I had a cleanup crew come through and spray that”
Speaking of young talent, Chainz also enlists “The Box” artist Roddy Rich on “Outstanding,” and Moneybagg Yo and Beatking on “Pop Music.” While neither artist offers anything particularly special, they both display excellent improvement in their writing, giving an exciting look into what their future projects may sound like.
Without question, the album’s star is none other than its producers, who give an exciting variety of beats for Chainz to play with.
No beat better exemplifies this than what might be the album’s best song, “Neighbors Know My Name.” Equipped with production from Chainz himself, Nolan Presley and FKi 1st, this track sounds like a night out on the town, complete with an excellent intro from Shawna. Chainz delivers on one of the project’s shortest songs as he provides the clever lyricism fans have come to expect:
“Whatever necessary, got more heart than February / Maybach so big, it came with an office, where the secretary?”
Later in the album, fans receive another excellent feature courtesy of Atlanta native Sleepy Rose on “Lost Kings,” where Chainz, Rose and Chicago rapper Lil Durk rap about life on the streets and their desire to rise above it.
[Sleepy Rose] “And I’m like, how the hell a n***a supposed to breathe? / If all they do is kill off all the kings / Every other night, a different murder scene / Every other night, a different murder scene / And I got a full vision / Tryna see my son grown up, and I can’t shoot different / Had a nightmare about me killin’, it was too vicious”
It would be silly to say 2 Chainz has “fallen off.” Hank Aaron didn’t have a perfect batting average, and Muhammad Ali was far from undefeated. As proven by many smaller pieces, “Dope Don’t Sell Itself” once again showcases the many details which make 2 Chainz great, but the final product is, sadly, less than the sum of its parts.
Alex Falter is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Falter is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.