2 Chainz and the wink-flow

2 Chainz – Stunt feat. Meek Mill

2 Chainz emergence has always felt like a weird lateral move for Atlanta; the Biggest Rapper In Atlanta mantle shifting from T.I. -> Jeezy -> Gucci -> Waka to the gawkily charismatic wiseacre formerly known as Tity Boi definitely shows signs of Atlanta’s creative dominance down-pedaling, with audiences split between pop artist (Future) gangster (Alley Boy) and lyricist (2 Chainz). The above track (“Stunt”) was probably my favorite moment on the somewhat underwhelmingly consistent T.R.U. REALigion. It’s a solid record, but there’s definitely a sense that 2 Chainz just happened to be on the bench when they needed someone to play center. And although it’s a consistent album (ha, mixtape) I don’t think it’s touching last year’s Trap-A-Veli 2 (my introduction to him as a solo artist) or this year’s Codeine Cowboy.

So 2 Chainz is in this weird position where he’s punching above his weight based on what you expect if you’ve followed Playaz Circle, to under-performing relative to the last decade of Atlanta rap heroes. That said, I think his lyrical influence is definitely starting to show signs that it’s got a wide influence, with what I’ve coined the ‘wink-flow’ (I coin this with a meta wink, this is not intended to be the next ‘cloud rap’ — just trying to observe a temporal trend in lyrical approach) I’d say it’s a definite improvement over the ‘Grocery Bag’ style pioneered by Young Money, in that the punchlines aren’t so blatantly emphasized, and there’s probably a success rate that hits 60 or 70%, rather than the 30-40% during the “ball–chemo” era. I still can’t fuck with that naming-the-baby-Mercedes punchline, although “Spend It” is one of the most incessantly catchy rap songs of the year and T.I. really does destroy that verse on the remix.

The way I see it, the ‘wink-flow’ is basically about delivering a punchline with a sly, unconventional structure; they tend to be more ‘slow burner’-type punches than the straightforward Houston approach that Riff Raff’s been rolling with lately, or the UNDERLINING obviousness of Young Money #hashtag raps. In that sense, its more of an anti-style than a style; anytime you can’t qualify a clever line as having a particularly obvious precedent in Luda, Young Money, Swishahouse or Jadakiss; its an attempt to make the joke seem effortless & the listener cooler for having caught onto it (I recognize the paradox of breaking that kind of shit down, but that’s basically the crux of this site’s existence at this point so bear with me).

Where has the 2 Chainz wink-flow extended, you ask? The first example has to be Young Dolph, whose recent tape is worth checking out if you’ve been feeling the Zed Zilla / Yo Gotti / Don Trip axis.

Young Dolph – Long Money

“Went to sleep thinkin’ bout money / took a million-dollar-nap.” From Street Music 2: Hustler’s Paradise, which I haven’t been able to spend much time with because I’ve been buried under mixtapes long like Young Dolph’s money in an effort to get some kind of handle on hip-hop this year, but it seemed solid on a cursory listen.

The other artist in this realm I’ve noticed is aptly-named Mississippi rapper Tha Joker. Although he’s killing them on the YouTube views, I haven’t seen much chatter about his music in the press whatsoever. His recent tape Why So Serious 2 isn’t really all-that, mostly killed by bland fake Luger / KE production on about half the tracks and an occasional inconsistency in his rapping, but he is clearly still growing as an artist, and was only 17 when this freestyle dropped.

Tha Joker – We Do It For Fun Pt 2

There’s a bit of that Houston flow that Riff Raff’s been rocking lately on this freestyle. But his newer stuff has shifted towards more of a 2 Chainz punchline delivery. Although I don’t think he’s done anything great at this point, he’s built something like an audience & is at least a rapper to keep an eye on. He’s adapted 2 Chainz joke style to a more swag rap style.

Tha Joker – Blow Stacks