2 Chainz just dropped his highly anticipated album, Rap Or Go To The League. The album has gained a lot of traction as Complex reported the record is “2 Chainz’s Best Album,” and Pitchfork awarded the song “NCAA” as a Best New Track. In an exclusive interview with Apple Music before the album was released, 2 Chainz and LeBron James, who had been acting as the album’s A&R, broke down Rap Or Go To The League track by track.
Both LeBron and 2 Chainz agreed that the first track is the most important. “The first track of an album sets a mood for the whole album, but also captivates listeners,” said LeBron. “It sets the mood from an emotional standpoint.” The first track on Rap Or Go To The League, “Forgiven,” does just that. 2 Chainz said the song is a brief history of his “come up.” He’s had several friends and industry partners tragically lose their children to gun violence.
“I’m happy to be alive,” said 2 Chainz. The process of writing the first two tracks on the album had “become therapeutic,” the rapper said. “Father-son relationships [are] so needed right now. N***as [are] trying to make their sons grow up too fast.”
2 Chainz discussed his goal for the album. He wanted to “educate in a fun way.” He wanted to rap about substantive concepts, but in a way that will make people dance. “You’ve got a ton of substance,” LeBron told 2 Chainz. “You talk about your family, you talk about getting married, you talk about your boys.”
2 Chainz also talked about his influence for the album’s cover artwork. 2 Chainz used an image of a yellow milk crate on a post, which reminded him of the sort of milk crates his grandmother would use. The milk crate “symbolizes not having anything, but doing what you need to do,” said the rapper. “The milk crate symbolizes Rap Or Go To The League, but it also symbolizes the struggle where we came from.”
The concept for the album had been a vision which 2 Chainz had developed since the rapper and the basketball star had last met in person. “The message to me was about black excellence, ‘each one teach one’, and it’s about getting the African American community to know they can do something.” 2 Chainz wanted to create this album to tell his fans that “there’s so many other things that you can do” besides playing basketball or becoming a rapper.
“Everyone want to be a rapper so bad that they do so many drastic things,” said 2 Chainz. He went on to tell a story about a man he talked to in a grocery store. The man had tattoos all over his face and told 2 Chainz that he was “a rapper.” 2 Chainz looked at him and said, “No, you work in a store. You’re not a rapper yet.”
2 Chainz said Rap Or Go To The League is him “trying to encourage people to go that extra mile.”
“I think God hand picks who the stars are going to be. You can’t force yourself to be a star. It has to happen organically. Being a star is so much more than being a ‘good basketball player’ or being a ‘good rapper.’ It’s this whole package that is really hard to explain to people. You have to be good at interviews, you have to be a ‘people person’, you have to have a great personality, you have to be good at what you actually do. You have to be a role model. Whatever I talk about, I have to live it.”
During the interview, 2 Chainz and LeBron James discuss the important role they both play as celebrity influencers. “The reason why I pulled you in is because I think you’re the closest thing to our culture,” 2 Chainz told LeBron. “This isn’t to knock any of the other great basketball leaders that we have, but you’re so attainable, so accessible. I’m sure you know, you’re just a different breed in so many ways. You use your platform differently from any person who’s been on your level. It’s the same way in music.”
LeBron said he understands his role as a celebrity is important to the youth.
“My job, with this platform that I have, is to be able to empower the youth and have the youth understand and really believe that their dreams can become reality. I had mad dreams when I was a kid, and there were times when I thought ‘that sh*t impossible, it’s not going to work out.'”
LeBron thought that “everything” was impossible, starting at “getting out of the hood” because everyday he woke up he was still there.
You can stream the full interview on Apple Music.