(The Root) — “Old dude met mom it was on/Then he named me over a phone, prison term,” raps 2 Chainz in “My Moment,” referring to how his imprisoned father named him Tauheed Epps. The Georgia rapper’s dad cycled in and out of prison, leaving his mother to largely raise him alone. Despite doing well in high school and attending the University of Alabama on a basketball scholarship, a young 2 Chainz was also defined by his father’s criminal ways. “I’ve been a felon since I was 15,” the 36-year-old rapper told The Root.
But spitting rhymes for money eventually became his career path. His first taste of rap fame was as Tity Boi, part of the duo Playaz Circle, best known for the moderate 2007 hit “Duffle Bag Boy,” with Lil Wayne. The name change to 2 Chainz came when the duo split ways after their second album in 2009.
Now Rick Ross, Kanye West, Drake and Nicki Minaj are just a few of the artists who have sought 2 Chainz’s “swag” on their records. On the strength of monster party anthems “Birthday Song” and “I’m Different,” his album Based on a T.R.U. Story has shot up the charts. He’s nabbed three BET Hip Hop Awards and is also nominated for two Grammys, including best rap album. It seems that going solo was the right decision.
The Root recently caught up with 2 Chainz to discuss how he has advocated for felon voting rights. Plus he shared some parenting tips for anyone worried about how he, Elton John or even the Rolling Stones might be corrupting youths.
The Root: You’ve come a long way. How is Tity Boi different from 2 Chainz?
2 Chainz: Those are still the same people. I’ve been “Tity Boi” my whole life. That’s what my family calls me. As it relates to my music, that will always continue to evolve and change. I’m definitely a wiser businessman. At this level, I understand the nature of the business, and that helps me grow. Gives me the information I need to continue to build my brand.
TR: You’ve done some important work on social issues to encourage people to vote in the 2012 presidential elections. Can you explain your involvement?
2C: I’m very excited to see that the people’s voice has been heard. I campaigned all fall for Hip Hop Caucus’ “Respect My Vote” Campaign. My platform was focused around the felon vote and reversing the disenfranchisement of the vote of color, but the real point of it all was explaining to people how important it was to use their voice as a way to effect change in their communities. This was very important to me.