2 Chainz: Daniel Son; Necklace Don

My favorite thing about 2 Chainz’ newest mixtape is the cover design. It is a Boondocks-style cartoon of 2 Chainz as a blinged out Karate Kid against a Japanese rising sun. I wish the music was as stimulating as the image, but it’s just not.

The mixtape has come to be a canvas for artists to stretch their lyrics and hooks without all the baggage of a full label release. Since they’re usually free (Daniel Son was released free on Soundcloud), the audience doesn’t really have the right to expect much, but of course they still do. On Daniel Son; Necklace Don, 2 Chainz shows real insight and craft in places, but most of the lyrics are strictly boilerplate.

After a brief intro, he busts into “Get Out the Bed” which begins with a mini-skit about ordering codeine, a main ingredient in the cough syrup so popular with contemporary rappers, at a fast food restaurant. He goes on to repeat “Get out the bed and grind and hustle,” which doesn’t really seem like what you’d do after downing a bottle of codeine. Beyond this superficial plot hole, the rest of the song is a series of non-sequiturs strung together with a catchy hook.

He follows it up with what I consider the strongest track of the bunch, a catchy song called “Ghetto.” Around the refrain of “I’m ghetto, excuse me,” he unfurls an evocative list of images describing what it looks like to grow up poor in the ghetto. The rap track has become the dominant form of memoir for the young underclass in America, exploring the frustrations and celebrations of eking out a life from nothing. 2 Chainz rhymes about memories of stealing cable, warming the house with the oven and dipping bread in Kool-aid, and ends with “as kids we don’t choose where we grow up at.” At just under three and half minutes, he manages to create a vignette as poignant as Sandra Cisneros or Jeanette Wells, but with better beats.

The rest of the tracks are mostly forgettable, even with the mixtape impresario Drake appearing on “Big Amount” over Asian flutes straight out of a love scene from Mulan. That song is by far the most commonly clicked of the mixtape, but there’s not much to make it stand out other than Drake’s name on it.

For free, I’ve got no complaints. There is enough here to get your head bopping, but not enough for you to remember what you heard ten minutes later.

Rating: 8.0/10