2 Chainz: the evolution from Tity Boi to Big Toni

Hey, you. Yeah, you. How’s your day going? Do you have time for me to tell you about the evolution of 2 Chainz? How he went from Tity Boi to Big Toni? Okay, cool. Have a seat. You need to hear this so you can comprehend his latest album ‘Rap Or Go To The League.’

You see, in the beginning there was little Tauheed Epps. A young kid in Atlanta whose dreams were limited by resources, but his imagination dared to dream different. After playing college basketball, his hoop dreams eventually turned into rap dreams. I mean, why not? He is from Atlanta.

That’s how we get to Tity Boi. Tity Boi got it out the mud and didn’t need rapping to make money. He was already certified in the streets and verified before Instagram. No blue checkmark needed. He realized the rap game was much easier than… you now, other lifestyles. So, why not give it a try?

Tity Boi grew up in Atlanta so the southern hip-hop influence ran through his veins. The Dungeon Family gave him the blueprint of what he could achieve. He witnessed their greatness unfold and waited for his moment. It was only a matter of time.

Tity Boi and his childhood friend Dolla Boy formed the rap group ‘Playaz Circle.’ A feature from Lil Wayne on the single “Duffle Bag Boy” would accelerate them to mainstream success.  Maybe this is when you started paying attention? Or was it ‘Spend It?’ Anyway, the bandwagon always had enough room to bring in a new fanbase.

Fast forward about 12 years after ‘Duffle Bag Boy,’ and now there’s Big Toni. Okay, you’re probably asking, who is Big Toni? And why does this man have so many different names? That’s a very good question. It really is. So, simply put Big Toni is what 2 Chainz now refers to himself as on social media and in interviews.

He speaks of Big Toni in third person, as an embodiment of the man he’s become. It’s been a long journey. Toni has arrived. He’s an entrepreneur, a husband, father and a businessman using his platform to go after his next goal: the throne. What’s up HOV?

His fifth studio album ‘Rap Or Go To The League’ has a powerful message. There’s another option that’s not on the album title. What he’s trying to say is… you can rap, go to the league or carve out your own lane of black excellence. You don’t have to be limited by those two options. You can achieve greatness in your own way.

What’s different about this new project is simple. The entire album is not for radio. But radio will play it, though. This album is not for the clubs or the Billboard charts. But it’ll get love from both.

You see, this album is for the young Tauheed’s who daydream about their future. It’s for the young artists to remind them that hip-hop is bigger than rap. It serves as a reminder that hip-hop doesn’t kill. Jealousy does. Hate does. Beefing over insignificant things does. Being ’bout that life’ and not knowing how the consequences affect the whole community does. Hip-hop is for the culture and this album is trying to move the culture forward. That’s the responsibility Big Toni takes on.

‘Rap or Go The League’ is for 2 Chainz. Quite possibly the first album where he’s prioritizing himself and his artistic vision. This album is a tribute to his life story. It shows who he’s become. It’s the fruit of his labor. The emotional vulnerability in the song ‘Forgiven’ shows his maturity and wisdom. He opens up about the struggles of his childhood and his days of being the neighborhood & industry ‘plug.’ But most importantly, how he turned his life around.

The album speaks for itself. Each track is a chapter of his autobiography that has yet to be written. You can tell this is the early stages of 2 Chainz documenting his own story. We’re now in an era where rappers are releasing documentaries about their life while they’re still progressing in the industry. This is a glimpse into what that story would be. He’s controlling his own narrative.

Now back to Big Toni. You see, Tity Boi wanted to be successful like Wayne and get hometown love like Andre. He did that. Alright, cool. Toni, though. He wants to cement a legacy far greater than rapping. Toni wants the throne. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting on it. You can argue about that all you want. He just wants it.

Big Toni wants to be brought up in conversations about the “greatest rappers of all time.” He wants to be respected and recognized as a G.O.A.T.

You see, that’s what ROGTTL is all about – dreams fulfilled and goals still left to accomplish. In his album,  he takes on big topics that reflect on social issues, socio-economics, financial literacy and the need to stop gun violence.

To this day, he admits to feeling like the underdog – underrated and overlooked. But that’s how 2 Chainz has always managed to thrive. Like he has something to prove even when he’s already proven his worth in the industry. This album proves that he can pivot in a different direction and lyrically drop 16 bars about heavy content. Toni proves depth has a space in Atlanta’s current hip-hop scene – a scene often times stereotyped as a city full of mumble rap. Um, that’s false.

Wow, you made it to the end of this post? Congratulations. I hope you enjoyed this story about Tity Boi and Big Toni. If you were confused in any way, that’s totally understandable. I’m sure there will be an autobiography that will come out in a next few years along with a biopic. This was just a quick summary. Okay, you can go back to listening to Big Drako. That’s whole ‘nother story for another day.

Sincerely,

@NeimerDreamer, your favorite news lady from Atlanta with good music taste. (Neima Abdulahi)

J.Cole’s new album ‘KOD’ is a self-help guide for millennial hypebeasts

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J.Cole’s new album ‘KOD’ is not just for people with bookshelves, good credit, kindles and a 401K plan. Yes, it’s deep and lyrical enough for a traditional conscious rap audience. But this album is targeting another group.

…..millennial hypebeasts who follow trends with social media infatuations, seeking instant gratification from ‘likes’, quick success, and affiliating with what’s considered cool at the time.

The North Carolina MC is giving a free therapy session for the industry at the right time. ‘KOD’ is a self-help guide for anyone trying to make it from the bottom to the top. But this all depends on how the ‘top’ is defined and who’s defining it.

I’m not surprised this album dethroned the mainstream superstar Taylor Swift’s Spotify record. His title track ‘KOD’ broke the opening day record for most streams in the U.S. Here’s the breakdown: J.Cole’s KOD – 4.2m, Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do – 3.8m, Kendrick Lamar’s DNA -3.6m, J.Cole’s Photograph 3.55m, The Weeknd’s Call Out My Name – 3.5m.

 

The album leaves a lot to the imagination. For example: What does ‘KOD’ even mean? According to Cole, it could mean three things: kids on drugs, king overdose, or kill our demons. It all depends on how you interpret it. But all three title options have one thing in common – addiction. You’d have to listen to the album to pick up on how many forms of addiction he touches on. Here’s a hint – a whole lot.

When you see how successful the album already is with little promotion, it makes you wonder how a conscious rap project could be so relevant and get this kind of love? Because he’s talking about current topics. This 5th LP is different. It taps into a mentorship he sees missing in the industry and the hip-hop community.

While we love the hype and come-up of artists who rise to the top quickly, that comes with a price. Can they maintain that success? Will their fans continue to support them as they grow from their teenage years and into adulthood? Or are they just hot now and gone tomorrow? Cole – whether you agree with him or not – is breaking down the game to a microscopic level. It’s not meant to offend but just provide the kind of prospective you gain once you’ve been in the game almost 10 years strong.

Just think about it. Cole came up the same time we became familiar with Drake, Wale, Kendrick, Cudi, B.O.B, Big Sean, Wiz, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T, and so many other breakthrough artists around the year 2009. I call all these artists the baby GOATS. They’ve survived long enough to know their place in the industry, but also have seen so many changes, styles, trends, fads and ‘new waves’ while maintaining their authenticity.

The times and waves have changed. While I personally embrace the new ‘freshmen’ class of hip-hop/trap music, I know there’s still a place for conscious rap albums like KOD to take off and break records. It’s easy to criticize “SoundCloud rap” and “mumble rap” and dismiss it as ‘not real hip-hop’ but that’s part of the culture now. Just look at how successful it’s become.

In this album, I don’t think Cole has beef with the new sounds, he just wants to warn them about things to avoid (and he has a loooooong list throughout the 12 tracks). The good news is there’s enough room in the industry for a Migos album to sell millions of copies and for a Kendrick Lamar album to win a Pulitzer prize. That’s variety. And it says alot about the taste bud of hip-hop consumers – they love it all.

As I listened to Cole’s album, it reminded me of how the legendary producer NO I.D helped shape the style of Jay-Z’s 4:44 project. The beats weren’t overpowering. The lyrics guided you through the album instead of highly-produced beats that have a personality of its own. It’s a reversal effect from what we’re used to. Cole produced the majority of the album himself. Not surprised because it seems carefully stitched together. He sampled Junior Mafia’s 1994 classic ‘Get Money’, Kanye’s 2004 track ‘We Don’t Care’, the legendary Bill Withers’ 1972 song “Kissing My Love.”

My favorite track from the album is ‘1985’ because Cole takes jabs at the industry without coming from a rude place. He cares about the art as an artist and isn’t afraid to tell you how he feels whether you agree with him or not.

The big question in this ‘self-help guide’ of an album is, who in the industry will listen? Will it shift any artists’ direction? Will the audience he’s targeting even listen? I mean, they don’t have to. I do know one thing. When lyricism gets mainstream love, it makes you wonder why that’s so rare. I mean, just look at the Spotify numbers. I’m happy to see a time in hip-hop where a project like this can make a big splash. The industry is at an intersection right now. And with this album, Cole is standing in the middle of the intersection as a crossing guard trying to guide traffic to detour routes instead of the ‘fast lane’ he considers hazardous roads.

MY PREDICTION: Cardi B’s debut album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ could be the best-selling female hip-hop album of all time

CardiCardi B’s debut album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ is well on its way to break records on the Billboard charts. Early projections indicate the project could sell more than 200,000 units within the first week alone. No doubt about it, ‘Invasion of Privacy’ will quickly make it to the #1 spot on the Billboard album charts. This is something accomplished by only four other female rap artists – Nicki Minaj, Eve, Foxy Brown and Lauryn Hill.

While the projection is around 200,000 units in the first week, it could surpass Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pink Friday’ first-week sale of 375,000 units. It could also compete with Lauryn Hill’s album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ which sold an impressive 423,000 in the first week back in 1998.

The album has been out for a few days and it is already certified GOLD by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), due to the success of “Bodak Yellow” which was certified 5X multi-platinum towards the end of last year.

The album is one of the most powerful debut projects of this millennium with appearances from Kehlani, SZA, Chance the rapper, YG, Migos, 21 Savage and others.

Carbi B’s success story has captured the hearts of many millennials, reality tv fans and hip-hop enthusiasts all over the world. The “look at me now, I made it out of the strip club” storyline showed a humble artist who has embraced her journey as we watched her become a larger-than-life superstar brand. From her days on VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop: New York” to becoming the chick with back-to-back radio hits, this is only the beginning for Cardi.

The critics wondered if her success would just amount to a 15-minutes of fame. Nah, not Bardi. Not if she or her dream team has anything to do with it. While you can distinctly hear her New York influence by the way she flows, her hustle is Atlanta.

Her promising music career has had a lot of hype and now she’s backing it up with numbers. Cardi B is here to stay.

The track “Bickenhead” pays tribute to Southern Rap with the 2001 classic “Chickenhead” by Project Pat featuring Three 6 Mafia & La Chat. The album also creatively fuses in samples from different generations to show Cardi can re-invent how we view the classics.

The list of hot tracks goes on and on with bangers like “Drip” featuring Migos, to “I Like” with a Dominican flare, and “Best Life” with Chance The Rapper. This album is worth listening to and putting on repeat. That alone says Cardi  B is no longer the underdog. Respect her hustle.

Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy tracklist

  1. “Get Up 10″”Drip” featuring Migos

    3. “Bickenhead”

    4. “Bodak Yellow”

    5. “Be Careful”

    6. “Best Life” featuring Chance The Rapper

    7. “I Like It”

    8. “Ring” featuring Kehlani

    9. “Money Bag”

    10. “Bartier Cardi” featuring 21 Savage

    11. “She Bad”

    12. “Thru Your Phone”

    13. “I Do” featuring SZA

 

What Mannie Fresh’s career teaches about ‘Homeboy Business’

cashmoneyFact: Mannie Fresh is one of the best hip-hop producers of all time. He may be too humble to claim that, so I’ll say it.

That distinct New Orleans signature sound that got the world’s attention would not have been the same without him. As a producer, the sonic architect gave us epic and memorable tracks like “The Block Is Hot”, “Go DJ”, “Number One Stunna”, “Back That Thang Up”, “Set It Off”, “Get Your Roll On” and many more. As a hitmaker, not only did he reinvent southern hip-hop, but he helped create the rise of (what appeared to be) an unstoppable dynasty.

The block was hot in the mid 90’s thanks to his Cash Money crew – Juvenile, Baby, Turk, B.G and this young teen who would become a G.O.A.T. It’s hard to believe Lil’ Wayne was just 16 years old when he graced the hook on “Bling Bling.” The song would foreshadow what was ahead – a lifestyle the group craved. The type of success that can take you from Holly Grove to Hollywood.

Before I go any further, let me just say New Orleans as a music scene was popping for several other reasons. Master P was making a name for himself after his success with ‘bout it, bout it’ as he crafted his own label with a down south gritty sound.

But now let’s go back to that “fly as a son of a gun, son of a stunna…”

With the success of Wayne and Cash Money, we got to see the undeniable creativity of Fresh. Because of him, New Orleans had its own identity as a Southern hip-hop scene. A city that in the 90’s competed for notoriety against the future mecca of hip-hop: Atlanta. The Southern region was demanding respect. And Mannie Fresh helped the region gain that. Same way Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family brought the spotlight to the A.

Mannie Fresh often times said the mid 90’s was a defining moment for the music business industry. Artists got to see how much money they could make as entrepreneurs and businessmen. They only got in it to get out of the projects. They learned that putting ‘the pain’ of their life experiences in the music could help connect them with people all over the country.

But one thing Mannie Fresh regrets is doing “homeboy business.” This is when artists and producers (who work alongside lifelong friends) don’t properly document business deals, songwriter and producer credits, royalties, publishing rights, etc. As soon as the friendship goes south, millions of dollars are on the line.

In his latest album, Rick Ross touched on this topic in the song “Idols Become Rivals.” In the track, Rozay said Birdman’s allegedly questionable business practices ripped apart the Cash Money dynasty. As a hip-hop fan watching it all unfold from the sidelines, Ross says he prays Mannie Fresh will bounce back from the legal issues with Cash Money once he left the label.

The entire industry realizes Mannie Fresh is one of the greatest. But he had nothing to compare his come-up to. He had to learn from his own mistakes on how to make the right kind of business moves. When you treat the beginning of your rap career like a hobby, there are opportunities you can miss out on that can be critical down the road. Like not having the rights to your instrumentals, lyrics or brand.

Learn from Mannie Fresh. Yes, trust your circle but make the right moves for  the longevity. So when you get hit with that “It’s not personal, it’s business”, you know the business is taken care of. Twenty years after making “Back That Thang Up”, the song continues to bring in revenue and get radio play. Something they might not have thought of as young moguls in the making.

I’ve listened to several interviews recently where Fresh tells aspiring artists to avoid “homeboy business.” Do it the right way. Loyalty is royalty. But at some point in your career, you’ll have to be able to separate loyalty from royalty.

As a hip-hop fan, I look forward to the day when a Cash Money reunion tour will be a reality.  Puff’s Bad Boy has been able to do that. And Cash Money was the Bad Boy of the South so here’s to hoping that will happen someday.

What rap legends have in common with Nina Simone

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Maybe this is why Nina Simone is one of the most sampled musicians in hip-hop music. Her art resonates with the underdog story. In addition to her remarkable talent, she remained unapologetically true to her authenticity. But being (and remaining) true came with a price.

The price Nina faced is waiting until time ran out to get wholeheartedly recognized for her cultural influence, daring take on social issues and incredible vision as an artist. What do I mean by this? Let me just make one quick example. The queen just got inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll hall of fame last year when she was qualified to be inducted in 1986.

How does that happen? I call that long overlooked. Just like what so many hip-hop legends experience during their lifetime. Not feeling widespread love ‘til it’s too late (unless you’re one of the lucky ones).

The reason why I’m making the comparison between Nina and rap legends can be best explained by Kanye West’s lyrics from his song ‘Big Brother.’

‘If you admire somebody, you should go ahead and tell them. People never get the flowers while they can still smell them.”

I wonder if the late New York rapper Craig Mack got a chance to smell the flowers. I spent the whole day reading beautiful tributes about Mack who helped lay the foundation for Puff’s dynastic label Bad Boy Records. He died at the age of 46.  

Although Craig Mack voluntarily walked away from the rap game, I wonder if being reminded of just how much love millions of hip-hop fans still have for him would convince him to bless the mic once again. Yes, he didn’t reach the success Biggie Smalls experienced as a labelmate, but he was a pioneer like BIG even if he didn’t make it as big as he could have.

Craig Mack joins so many others who probably didn’t get the praise they deserved for their creative contributions to hip-hop and so many other rappers who left us too soon.

Hip-hop artists often talk about the struggles of coming up as an underdog and not feeling the love throughout their career. Sometimes the love is felt when they’re no longer there to see the standing ovations. Sometimes the awards and mainstream recognition comes after they’re gone. Just like Nina Simone.

It’s heartwarming to see all the artists coming forward to say they were influenced by Craig Mack, how he gave them a solid foundation for success and how much he meant to them. If only he heard at least 5% of that just a few days earlier.

Here’s to the samples not created yet that may keep that legacy going for future generations to appreciate. Just like our queen.

Story by: Neima Abdulahi, instagram: @NeimerDreamer

 

NeimerDreamer’s #Top6 (sorta) new songs of the week

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1. Lil Uzi Vert – 20 Min
icetrey2. “Ice Tray” – Quavo & Lil Yachty
work in progress
3. Gucci Mane – “Work In Progress”
boosie
4. Lil Boosie – “Webbie I Remember”

zaytoven

5. Zaytoven Feat. Quavo & 2 Chainz – Wake Up & Cook Up 

juicyj
6. Juicy J Feat. ASAP Rocky & Project Pat – Feed These Streets

[VIDEO] Atlanta hip-hop artist CyHi The Prynce releases debut album

Atlanta’s very own Grammy-nominated rapper CyHi The Prynce, who was signed by Kanye West back in 2010, now has an early Christmas present for us.

The Stone Mountain native has released his debut album “No Dope on Sundays.”

CyHi sat down with me and tells me his project has a deep message for the youth and is meant to motivate his fans to not fall victim to peer pressure.

“A lot of times we don’t have that dialogue between one another, because we feel we have to live up to this certain kind of status or certain tough guy. A status where if we had communication in our neighborhoods, I think that would lower a lot of different crimes,” he explains.

The album features some of the industry’s most successful artists like Kanye West, 2 Chainz and Schoolboy Q.

11Alive’s Neima Abdulahi asked CyHi how he chose the album title. The Prynce says it came from the spiritual message woven into the tracks. He goes on to explain how growing up in a spiritual household kept him out of trouble. Now he wants to help others do the same.

CyHi says “No Dope On Sundays” represents his growth in the music industry over the last decade and how he lyrically stands out from other artists.

“I always made my name off being myself. So, I kind of wanted to stay myself. I never was that successful trying to be somebody else. I just never tried, he said.”

The album is now available online.