2 Chainz tries not to laugh if the joke isn't funny. Meet the game-faced bastion of everything outrageous.
Standing at an almighty 6' 5'', with dreads down to his waist, 36-year-old Tauheed Epps, aka 2 Chainz, is a formidable man to behold. Paying his own way since day one – hustling through school and uni, and working as a pro-basketballer – the Georgian giant signed his first record deal as part of Playaz Circle on Ludacris’s label. Since landing his debut solo signing, via Def Jam in 2012, he has released two albums, the most recent of which, B.O.A.T.S II: Me Time, features the likes of Pharrell, Drake and Pusha T, and is produced in part by Mike Will Made it and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. The king of opulence opens up to i-D about what he collects; turns out he owns more than two chains.
“Rappers can't wait to look at my bag and go get everything in that motherfucker.”
How many times have you visited London?
I've been a few times actually. I love coming overseas, just to get a taste of a different culture, a different way of life. The accents, the women, the weather, everything is just different.
Did you travel a lot when you were a kid?
I travelled within the States but not outisde. I didn't have a passport until I became a grown-up.
What were you like as little 2 Chainz?
I've always been an only child; no brothers, no sisters, no best friends. l was a positive kid but I had a few issues going on at home - I was raised by a single parent, my father wasn't there that much - but I turned out to be a pretty good man. I did well in school and received good grades. I always liked putting on nice clothes. I stood beyond the black door doing my one two thang. It was part of my genetic make-up for me to be a hustler. My dad was a hustler and I felt like it was in my genes to really get out on the block and try and get me some money.
Did you give your mum much trouble?
What kind of mum was she? No, I didn't give my mum much trouble. Mama's very aggressive, very demanding, she gets mad at the drop of a dime and so, for me, it's always about trying to keep her happy.
What do you think she's most proud of, from what you have achieved so far?
That I'm doing this well in music because she knows how hard I've worked on it. She knows how ambitious I am. Her biggest story is that she carried me for nine months and she had me with no epidural, straight vaginal, and I had a big head.
Do you remember some of the earliest verses you used to write, how old you were?
I remember thinking of raps when I was seventeen or eighteen. I used to freestyle on school buses, coming back from basketball games. We just used to freestyle, beat on lunch tables, I was into freestyle. We had a car wash, that we used to stand outside of all day and hustle and all the older kids used to come by and be like 'hey slim, won't you buzz on me' those guys offered me an opportunity to go to a studio and I made my first two songs that we recorded. People thought I had ability and talent, so I just really started taking it serious.
When you look back on your early material, do you still identify with the person you were then, or does that feel like a whole other person?
Nah, it was a struggle then, dealing with stories from the trap. Of course, I'm far away from when I was trapping and hustling, selling any kind of drugs and narcotics, but my earlier compositions were about struggle, sex and coming up in an apartment style environment where you don't get the opportunity to be a certain type of man. When I came up I didn't have to cut the grass because I didn't have a yard, I never had to go check the mail because the mailbox was downstairs in my building, it was things that I didn't have to do because I was in a certain environment so when I got my own big ass crib and yard, I just hired somebody to do it. I grew up in an environment where you paid people to do those things, you paid the less fortunate, you paid somebody that has an addiction to wash your car, do your rims and so on. Many of those stories were in my earlier raps but I'm far removed from that life now, instead I talk about travelling and different cultures, women of course and just indulging in life, the nightlife and stuff.
Has the wealth that you have accumulated changed you?
I always felt wealthy. I wasn't a millionaire when I was on the streets, but I was in my own my way. I was making smart decisions and I had a smart clientele, even my last deal with my homies paid for my car, it was paid for before I got signed. With the wealth came responsibility, but I'm trying to handle it the best way I can.
Were you angry when you were younger?
Nah, I kept a smile on my face, I had issues going on internally, but I never let people see that. I tried to go to school everyday, I tried to learn as much as I could and I took the bitter with the sweet.
Was getting rich always important to you?
My daddy had money, I remember my daddy driving a Cadillac. He bought two brand new Cadillacs, I remember they had that new leather smell. I remember leather in the 80s being light yellow, he used to let me put my head out the sunroof, screaming out 'money ain't a thang!' I thought, 'when I get older I'm gonna earn me some cars with sunroofs!'
You mentioned that your Dad wasn't about when you were younger, when did you reconnect with him?
My dad left when I was seven and came back probably when I was twenty seven. And what happened when you reconnected? When he got home from prison, I brought him to my house and said 'you're staying with me man' and we'd been rocking ever since, until he passed.
You've had some altercations with the law yourself, so do you feel protected in terms of the way it operates, after everything you've experienced?
For me, I just try to stay out of the way. There are a lot of things that I can and can't say, just dealing with issues for the most part - I don't think I'm a threat to society at all, you know I may have some things I need to clean up, but for the most part I'm not a threat to society.
Where's your home now?
What's the most luxurious thing you got in your house?
I have an Armani Crocodile dining set, my interior designer bought that, I ain't gonna lie.
What's your wardrobe like?
Have you got a whole floor for that? I'm really, really blessed, I have probably the biggest walk-in closet that's ever been made and I don't even use it that much.
You wear a lot of Katie Eary...
Yeah Katie, that's my gurl.
How did you discover her?
Katie is a mutual friend, she knows Kanye, and that whole Virgil camp. She was in my first video, I shot a video in London that l put her in. She's got a great personality and I was coming over here just trying to get my shopping on and she didn't understand I wanted to buy everything. She came like 'I have this piece and I have another piece' and I was like 'Gimme all of that shit'.
Who designs the best chains?
Probably Chanel. I wear a lot of vintage.
How many chains do you own?
Over 30, maybe over 50 even.
What impression do you hope to give people with the way you express yourself?
I just want to be an inspiration to people. I want people to say 'Ya, he's really being him, he's really confident.' I just feel like people alter their personalities to try and please other people and so for me, I try not to laugh if the joke's not funny.