From the outset, it’s clear that the rapper formerly known as Tity Boi (calling him this should be a requirement of pretty much any feature about 2 Chainz from now until infinity, by the way), had one very clear goal in mind going into the concept and execution of this album: Make the best trap rap imaginable. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music delivers on the back half of its promise, delivering some of the most self-assured tracks of 2 Chainz resurgent career. He has created a collection of his most lyrical, resonant music to date, and really that’s all any of us really want out of most recording artists — including pretty girls.
Only one track out of the sixteen on Pretty Girls Like Trap Music really lands in the traditional “for the ladies” realm with, but guest singer Ty Dolla Sign does most of the heavy lifting on the mellow, guitar-driven beat of “It’s A Vibe.” While he does occasionally address pretty girls — usually in the context of sexual conquests — for the most part this album finds 2 Chainz runs through his other favorite topics: Working, trapping, flexing, spending, and aiming absurd amounts of artillery at theoretical haters.
Here’s how 2 Chainz himself described the album in a recent interview with John Kasich on The View:
“You can expect growth and maturation. It’s still edgy content, but trap music is kinda defined as low socioeconomic background music where you have to hustle to get out. And it’s a situation where a lot of good girls used to like the bad guys, and that’s what this album is about.”
The question then becomes, how does one stretch the lyrical subject matter of bricks, birds, sticks, and bandos beyond the limits of what’s already been done? 2 Chainz’ answer? Don’t. Instead, he folds the music into itself, working in clever references to the history and mythos of the genre throughout the album. An OJ Da Juiceman sample sets off “Sleep When U Die,” the stuttering snare and ominous piano on the beat to “Trap Check” morphs into the iconic, anthemic horns from T.I.’s “A.S.A.P.,” and the outro to “4 A.M.” features a monologue from an O.G. describing the surreal tableau from inside the trap house.
It’s 2 Chainz’ clever turns of phrase that both anchor and elevate the music; toeing the line between simplicity and the cerebral, he delivers bizarre, borderline silly non-sequiturs and braggadocios flexes with the same passionate conviction and off-the-cuff, almost freestyle cavalierness that makes it seem as easy and loose as shucking a sweater on a hot day.
When he spits lines like “I went to work and I made an abundance / Gucci flip flops with the corns and bunions,” his signature squawk smooths the roughness of the first bar, and buttresses the goofiness of the second. He sounds equally convincing reminiscing on broke days (“No hibachi, all we had is some tuna fish”) as he does boasting about his riches and current luxurious lifestyle (“Hibachi my menu, my bracelet on igloo.”)
And while there is plenty of bragging to be done, there are moments of genuine confession peeking out here and there, sprinkled in between the Gucci flip-flops and AR-15s are behind-the-music style anecdotes, like “I booked studio with the trap money, Lil Wayne used to come get the bags from me,” and “Luda charged me just to dip, was there when Chaka was swung on by Tip / I’m like ‘Oh sh*t, we gon’ tear up this b*tch, pull out a stick when u put up your fist.”
However, all of the lyrical acrobatics are nothing without beats to rap over, and in this respect is where Pretty Girls truly shines. Produced in large part by a series of up-and-comers and underground producers from Atlanta, including Mano, Mike Dean, Buddah Bless, and FKi 1st — with some additional big name support from trap stalwart Mike Will Made It — the musical range on Pretty Girls expands the palette of trap rap as a whole.
There are the skittering drums and ominous synths as per usual, as well as the stripped-down keys that have come to define modern trap rap, but there’s also woozy samples of existing trap, like the Travis Scott sample on “Sleep When U Die,” and the woodwind on “Big Amount” that is gaining popularity in the genre. “Rolls Royce B*tch” and “It’s A Vibe” are driven more by chilled out soft rock guitars than any of the instruments typical of the menacing subject matter, but still float with the barest of adjustments on 2 Chainz’ part.
2 Chainz’ success, both before Pretty Girls and with it, is the perfect example of sticking to your guns. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music isn’t just his best project yet, it’s the new blueprint for trap rap. While hip-hop, rap, and all the little subgenres within it do go through evolutions and upheavals, sometimes it’s best to know what your lane is and stay in it.
As Tity Boi, Chainz was in the first wave of what’s come to be known as trap rap. For what it’s worth, “Duffle Bag Boy” with Lil Wayne may have been Playaz Circle’s biggest hit, but no song better encapsulates the hustler’s creed than “Paper Chaser” with Phonte. But in 2017, 2 Chainz has become an elder statesman of the nascent genre as it explodes in all different directions. Newer rappers like Young Thug, Future, and Migos are pushing the boundaries of the genre and experimenting with new sounds and styles that have left stalwarts like T.I. and Jeezy out in the cold. Not 2 Chainz, though. He’s no stranger to the grind, which is why he remains is the reigning king of trap, long after his days working in the trap house have passed.