“NCAA” (Rap or Go to the League)
Given his background as a D1 college basketball player, there may not be a rapper better suited to critique the flawed system of college athletics than 2 Chainz. “NCAA” has a pointed message, but it’s also an absolute blast, with a whooping chorus that has the energy of a team getting hyped in the huddle.
The opening verse is unremarkable, the equivalent of a pregame shootaround, but on the second, Chainz starts playing high above the rim. “Let me get this straight, if I drop 40 today/You don’t care if I eat, you don’t care if I ate?” he asks pointedly.
He even cites the ubiquity of Johnny Manziel during his Texas A&M days as an example of a wildly popular athlete who wasn’t able to profit off of his fame at the college level. Since June 2021, the NCAA has changed its rules to allow players to earn money off their name, image, and likeness. We’re not saying it’s all thanks to 2 Chainz, but he certainly made a compelling argument.
“Statute of Limitations” (Rap or Go to the League)
“Ex-drug dealer, ex-athlete,” 2 Chainz raps succinctly on this efficient summary of two key tenets of his identity. “Statute of Limitations”, easily one of the standout tracks from his fifth studio album, focuses primarily on the first role (it was even originally titled “Ex-Drug Dealer”).
Over a rattling Mike Will Made-It beat, Chainz recalls his hustling days with the candor–and the name-dropping–of a tell-all memoir. He talks about selling to Atlanta stalwarts (Lil Jon, Young Jeezy) and out-of-towners like Young Buck and Raekwon. Hell, even a few NBA players get mentioned as former customers–even though it’s worth taking all of that with a grain of salt. The vocal delivery is first-rate, too. 2 Chainz is nimble and dexterous but preternaturally calm, the way you’d expect someone who made a living selling drugs to celebrities would be.
“Tony” (So Help Me God!)
Like a lot of what he does, 2 Chainz adopting the moniker “Toni” seemed like another goofy, bombastic quirk, but held a deeper significance. “’Toni’ derives from the neighborhood I’m from, Old National: Everybody who sold powder or anything like that, their name was Tony. You would get called Tony: Black Tony, White Tony, Big Tony, Lil Tony—all the different likenesses. I’m just Big Toni at this particular point in my career. The biggest Toni,” he told Apple Music.
“Toni” is a real chest-pounder, right down to its brief inclusion of David Banner’s classic “Like a Pimp” beat. Chainz’s consistent cadence and the way both verses are entirely rapped in the third-person allows the listener to zero in on the lyrics and note the juxtaposition between outlandish boasts (“Toni used to buy the lean by the fuckin’ keg”) and the more nuanced (“Toni used the same stove for the turkey bacon”).
“Free BG” (Dope Don’t Sell Itself)
2 Chainz isn’t just a longtime friend of Lil Wayne’s, he’s a devout acolyte of the Hot Boys. They’ve inspired one of his most fun singles (“Used 2”) and are on the forefront of his mind on “Free BG,” one of the stronger tracks off Dope Don’t Sell Itself.
Atop a menacing, Mannie Fresh co-produced beat, Chainz sounds invigorated and in vintage form. He’s using a PPP loan to buy weight. He’s leaving his car parked in public, knowing no one would dare try to jack it. He’s taking his jewelry on vacation, which he says in a way that sounds more like he’s bringing the chains on a romantic getaway, and less like he’s just packing a suitcase. Clocking in under two minutes, “Free BG” isn’t a major addition to the 2 Chainz discography, but it can slot in on a playlist with any of his best solo tracks and keep the momentum going.