Published May 25, 2017As one of rap music's most celebrated artists, Tauheed "2 Chainz" Epps is the embodiment of second chances — two lives, two names, two careers and perhaps more importantly, two eras of hip-hop where he made an impact. This year, the artist formerly known as Tity Boi — and not for the reasons you expect — celebrates 20 years in the game. Rapping wasn't necessarily something 2 Chainz aspired to do, but something he fell into as a means of escaping criminal activities, and ultimately, saving his life.
2 Chainz spent several years making music with his childhood friend Dolla Boy, and reached moderate success after signing to Ludacris's record label Disturbing Tha Peace. However, he didn't realized his potential as a solo artist until his early 30s, and since embarking on his solo career in 2011, has become one of hip-hop most valuable players. From features and albums to business ventures and politics, 2 Chainz has not only illuminated rap with his floating delivers and memorable hooks, but also a wealth of knowledge that can only be accredited to a longstanding career that shows no signs of slowing.
1977 to 1995
Tauheed Epps is born September 12, 1977 and raised in College Park, Georgia. He spends most of his childhood with his mother, while his father spends time in and out of the prison system. As an only child, Tauheed is nicknamed Tity Boi (or Tity Man), by his father — a Southern phrase to describe a spoiled brat.
Living in near-poverty with no heat, stolen electricity and cable, and little food, Tauheed starts stealing cars, clothing and other essentials. "I remember when we didn't have hot water and I didn't want my friends to know, so I told them it was something wrong with that bathroom and they couldn't use my mommas," he'll recall in a 2015 social media post. "I remember using the oven to heat the house — I would stand in the kitchen for hours to stay warm. I remember waiting until the water company to close at 5 p.m., so we could use a tool and turn the water back on until 6 a.m. I remember going to sleep hungry." At the age of 12, Tauheed's home is raided by police, and he's thrown to the ground with a gun to his head.
Tauheed attends North Clayton High School; where he sees his younger peer, R&B singer Monica, rise to fame. Tauheed becomes the star sixth man for North Clayton High School's basketball team in grade 10, but is arrested at 15 years old for felony possession of cocaine. Despite the charge, Tauheed attracts attention from Division I colleges, and becomes the division's number one basketball recruit at 17 years old. Unfortunately, on the morning of his SATs, Tauheed is arrested on weed charges, deterring multiple offers.
1995 to 1996
Tauheed attends Alabama State University (ASU) on the HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship, an athletic scholarship that requires a 3.4 GPA for qualification, and studies psychology while playing basketball. Although rumors will surface years later that 2 Chainz graduates with a 4.0 GPA from ASU, he transfers to Virginia State after freshman year, where he will go on to graduate.
Tauheed and high school friend Earl Conyers, otherwise known as Dolla Boy, form the Playaz Circle (Preparing Legal Assets for Years from A to Z). Their goal is to get away from the street life they've been subjected to, and strengthen their collective with J. Hard, local producer Jook and mentor Chi. At this time, Tauheed adopts his childhood nickname, Tity Boi, as his stage name.
1998 to 2001
Local radio DJ Chris Bridges, known as Chris Lova Lova, moves into the same College Park housing complex as Tity Boi and Dolla Boy. He's introduced to the Playaz Circle by mutual friend, rapper Lil Fate; Bridges will later be known as Ludacris.
Dolla Boy is arrested and sentenced to two years in prison on drug possession charges. Tity Boi is shot in the foot on his way to meet Sean "Puffy" Combs — a mysterious incident about which further details on why or how remain scarce.
While Dolla Boy is incarcerated, Ludacris, who has co-founded record label Disturbing Tha Peace (DTP) and is rapidly becoming one of the highest paid rappers in the South, gives Tity Boi the opportunity to get away from the street life and work strictly on music. "Chris basically sent Chaka Zulu [co-CEO of DTP] to my house and said man let's do [the rap thing] for real," he says of the offer.
Dolla Boy is released from prison in 2001, and sees a promising future with Disturbing Tha Peace when he sees that Tity Boi's partnership with the label is blossoming. They start making music together once again.
Tity Boi is asked to make a solo song for DTP's compilation album Golden Grain, but chooses to collaborate with Dolla Boy and Jook instead. As a group, Playaz Circle release "Play Pen to the State Pen" as their first official DTP / Def Jam release. However, Def Jam doesn't promote the group and so Playaz Circle independently promote their music throughout Atlanta via hand-to-hand sales and by pushing it in the strip club circuit — a commonplace route to breaking songs in Atlanta.
Playaz Circle pool their money to release independent album, United We Stand, United We Fall, which is released in October. "At this point in time, it was really a group, it was like maybe five or six MCs that put in their little trap money to put together a CD. [We were] trying to sell it out the trunk, the whole Master P thing," Tity Boi will tell hiphopdx.com ten years later.
2003 to 2006
Over the next five years, Playaz Circle continue working on music, but not as actively. They complete work on their debut, Supply & Demand but Def Jam isn't behind it.
In October, Playaz Circle releases "Duffle Bag Boy," featuring Lil Wayne. It peaks at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the U.S. Rap Chart. For the first time, the group receive mainstream notoriety. Two weeks after its release, Playaz Circle perform the single at the 2007 BET Awards.
Despite several label pushbacks, as well as a lack of cooperation from Def Jam, Playaz Circle finally release their debut Supply & Demand on October 30. The album debuts at #27 on the Billboard 200 and sells 26,000 copies in its first week. With features from fellow Southern artists like Juicy J, DJ Toomp, Mannie Fresh and the Heatmakers, Supply & Demand serves as a street album that sheds light on hustling. It's sold platinum by December.
Playaz Circle unofficially join Lil Wayne for his 2008/09 I Am Music tour, and start building a greater fan base. On July 26, Tity Boi's daughter with Nakesha Ward, Heaven Epps is born. ON October 27, Ludacris releases a Disturbing Tha Peace compilation tape that highlights its growing roster, and Playaz Circle contribute to four songs: "Wet Paint," "Look What I Got," "Late Nite" and "We Workin."
Tity Boi releases Trap-A-Velli, his first solo mixtape, on DatPiff on January 2. The 17-track mixtape, hosted by Southern veteran Bigga Rankin, features early production from Zaytoven, as well as a feature from Lil Wayne. It becomes the first of three installments of his Trap-A-Velli series that will include Trap-A-Velli 2 (2010) and Trap-A-Velli Tre (2015). He also releases All Ice On Me later this year, continuing a theme that plays homage to Tupac Shakur.
On September 29, Playaz Circle releases their sophomore album, Flight 360: The Takeoff. The album features fellow DTP members Ludacris and Bobby V, as well as Lil Wayne, Raekwon and CeeLo, and is spearheaded by the OJ Da Juiceman-featuring single, "Stupid." However, the album fails to match the success of Supply and Demand, and debuts at #74 on the Billboard 200. By December, the album has sold about 31,000 copies in North America.
In January, Tity Boi and Dolla Boy film their first video release for "Big Dawg," a single from Flight 360 featuring Lil Wayne and Birdman for a remix. The video is shot at Studio Space Atlanta.
With sluggish momentum behind Playaz Circle, and the desire to have a better career, Tity Boi expresses his concerns to DTP. Ludacris disagrees with Tity Boi's decision to leave. Tity Boi pays $100K to break his contract. "I been wanting to leave the label, when I left, I guess they knew or had some type of vision that I wasn't gonna stop there, because I was turnt up when I left and I told them, so yeah I had to pay to leave," he'll tell hiphopdx.com in 2013.
As a newly independent artist, Tity Boi decides to rebrand. After several accusations that his name was derogatory towards women, as well as not being "family friendly," he abandons his childhood nickname and re-surfaces as 2 Chainz. In an interview with Vibe, he explains; "I did a song called 'Dear Mr. LA Reid' and someone else said Tity / 2 Chainz and I had been saying it all the time, but I guess the stars lined up and then definitely the way I said the delivery, 2 Chainz made it lady- and kid-friendly. In my 8th grade yearbook picture I had on 2 chains. I had always been into jewelry so 2 Chainz just stuck." In addition to this clarification, 2 Chainz has also said that his name symbolizes a second chance.
Hosted by DJ Drama, 2 Chainz releases his seventh mixtape, T.R.U. REALigion. in November. The 63-minute mixtape features production from Mike WiLL Made-It, Lex Luger, M16 ("Duffle Bag Boy") and Drumma Boy, as well guest appearances from Big Sean, Raekwon and Meek Mill. "I spell it [that way] because people know religion is the study and belief of, and I just believe I'm one of the last true people left and being real is a minority and that's how I got to where I am today," he tells Vibe in October.
Upon its release, T.R.U. REALigion will be downloaded over 500,000,000 times on DatPiff and peaks at No. 58 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. With the success of the single, 2 Chainz becomes a sought-out artist for features, and appears on Kanye West's "Mercy," as well as Nicki Minaj's "Beez In the Trap."
A music consultant named Torrey Cook files a civil lawsuit against Disturbing Tha Peace and Island Def Jam Music Group for trademarked infringement and trademark dilution over the Playaz Circle name and logo, which he says he trademarked in 1995 as a consultant to new artists. As a result, iTunes removes both Supply & Demand and Flight 360: The Takeoff.
2 Chainz and girlfriend Nakesha welcome their second daughter, Harmony Epps, on October 20th.
Chainz announces his debut album, Based on a T.R.U. Story in March; on May 8, he releases "No Lie" featuring Drake. Speculation arises of a G.O.O.D. Music label signing after Kanye West tweets "2 Chainz is charging 100K for a verse now cause he's G.O.O.D."
2 Chainz clarifies that it's just business advice he's following. "We was talking and I think I was jeopardizing my brand sometimes by doing the homeboy special," he tells hiphopdx.com. "So I think he felt like we should just put that out there that we ain't doing no more of that." 2 Chainz also tells Complex that he's now charging $100K for a feature, and by the end of the end of the year, tells Acclaim that he has done 98 features.
In July, 2 Chainz's father, whom he called his best friend, passes away. In an interview with Fuse News, he opens up about his loss, saying, "I definitely lost somebody that I could trust, confide in, and communicate with about a lot of different things. Even that experience of losing him made me stronger. Music is therapeutic in a way that it keeps my mind off my father." Based on a T.R.U. Story (B.O.A.T.S.) is released in August and 2 Chainz dedicates the bonus single, "Live And Learn It Will," to his father.
B.O.A.T.S debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling 147,000 copies in its first week, despite mixed reviews. 2 Chainz uses it as a launching pad for several endeavors, including collaborations with ADIDAS and Beats By Dre, securing the title of "Man of the Year" from Source magazine. He embarks on his first solo headlining tour and in November, announces a second installment, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time.
2 Chainz is nominated several times at the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards for his collaborative single "No Lie" with Drake, but more importantly, he wins "Rookie of the Year" at age 35. The win sparks conversation about aging in hip-hop culture, and how it defies the community's overall consensus that rap is "for the kids."
By the end of the ear, 2 Chainz participates in Hip-Hop Caucus's "Respect My Vote" campaign ahead of the U.S. election, and uses it as a platform to speak about voting as a felon, as well as the disenfranchisement of voting for communities of colour.
On February 13, 2 Chainz is stopped by police for speeding; his property is searched on "probable cause" for drugs. Police find a marijuana grinder, and 2 Chainz is arrested, but it's unclear whom it belongs to and charges are dropped in June. 2 Chainz earns 13 nominations at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Award, winning four trophies; he's also nominated for three Grammys, including for "Best Rap Album."
2 Chainz appears in an episode of NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in May, followed by an appearance on CBS's 2 Broke Girls. He announces a September date for B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time and drops its first single, "Feds Watching," at New York radio station Hot 97's annual Summer Jam festival. The single, which features Pharrell, was recorded on the night of the 2013 Grammy Awards.
2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa release "We Own It (Fast & Furious)" on the Fast & Furious 6 soundtrack; it becomes Chainz's most successful single yet.
On June 8, rumours surface that Chainz is robbed of his phone and wallet in Oakland outside a medial marijuana dispensary. Despite the police report, 2 Chainz denies it Twitter. Two days later, while boarding a flight at LAX, he is arrested and charged with felony narcotics possession when TSA agents find marijuana and promethazine in his checked bag. He posts a $10,000 bond and is released.
On August 22, 2 Chainz's tour bus is pulled over by police in Oklahoma City. After a nine-hour standoff, which includes a passenger holding a copy of the U.S. Constitution against the window, police obtain a search warrant. 2 Chainz and ten other individuals are arrested on misdemeanor complaints of obstruction for their refusal to leave the bus. Police also find two semi-automatic pistols, a 12-gauge shotgun, prescription painkillers and marijuana residue.
2014 to 2015
2 Chainz pleads guilty to a misdemeanor of obstructing a police officer in the performance of his official duties for the Oklahoma City incident. He pays a fine and victims' compensation assessment totaling $771 USD.
2 Chainz releases a new single titled "I'm A Dog," followed by the digital FreeBase EP, featuring Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky and Lil Boosie.
In 2015, 2 Chainz announces his new label, The Real University, aka The Real U or T.R.U, as well as signing frequent collaborators Cap.1 and Skooly as well as Fresh (fka Short Dawg). By the end of the month, the label releases debut mixtape, TRU Jack City.
A week later, 2 Chainz debates Headline News pundit Nancy Grace on TV about the legalization of marijuana. To the surprise of her audience, 2 Chainz speaks about the psychology of drug abuses, studies regarding medical marijuana and the economic benefits of legalization.
Partnering with Street Execs Management, 2 Chainz opens a studio in Atlanta, which becomes his "home," as well as Travis Porter, Young Dolph, Cap. 1 and rising artist, Bankroll Fresh.
In August, Oklahoma City attorney Kent Bridge sues 2 Chainz "in excess of $10,000" for unpaid legal bills stemming from a 2013 arrest. The lawsuit will be dismissed three years later following a settlement.
On October 14th, he and fiancée Nakesha welcome son Halo Epps.
In November, after nearly a decade of working together, 2 Chainz announces that he's working with Lil Wayne on a collaborative album titled ColleGrove.
Through his T.R.U. Foundation, 2 Chainz starts selling "Dabbin' Santa" sweaters for the holidays; proceeds of over two million dollars are used to help families in need, including paying rent for Deidre Plater, a disabled veteran and single mother.
Following the release of the Lil Wayne-assisted single "Back On That Bullshit," 2 Chainz release digital EP Felt Like Cappin. He follows up with ColleGrove in March. Ironically, due to Lil Wayne's legal issues with label Cash Money, 2 Chainz is listed as the primary artist. It debuts at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. 2 Chainz will release two more this year, including Daniel Son; Necklace Don in August, and Hibachi for Lunch in October.
A shooting outside the Street Executives studio claims the life of Bankroll Fresh on March 4. Days later, 2 Chainz appears on The Wendy Williams Show, saying, "It was super unfortunate, super unnecessary, super senseless. And it just made me want to step up and use my platform for more positivity."
Buys the home of legendary guitarist Steve Vai for $2.45 million in October, which includes a 1,400-square-foot studio that's been used by artists like Ozzy Osourne, Eddie Van Halen and Slash.
In November, 2 Chainz launches a fashion line called CEO (Create Every Opportunity) Millionaires, and re-launches the Dabbing Santa sweater. He sells a diamond-encrusted sweater for $90,000, and uses proceeds to gift a family in need with a wheelchair-accessible van; he also donates an undisclosed amount to the United Negro College Fund.
2 Chainz and Atlanta entrepreneur Mychel "Snoop" Dillard open a restaurant called Escobar Restaurant and Tapas in Castlberry HIll, GA in December.
2 Chainz reveals on Instagram that he's been invited to perform at the inauguration of President Trump, but declined. "I had to say 'nah,'" he writes, "no matter how much money it was." Instead, he shifts his focus to a new album titled, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. He starts asking several women (and a few men), including Erykah Badu and Nicki Minaj, to share their favorite singles for a weekly playlist. Despite his efforts to release Pretty Girls Love Trap Music on April 7, at the end of March, 2 Chainz calls out Def Jam on Instagram and states that there's no longer a set release date.
After six nominations, 2 Chainz wins his first Grammy in February for "Best Rap Performance" with Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne. Shortly after, he reveals a collaboration with Ewing Athletics for his own limited edition of the "33 Hi" signature shoe.
Five years after the release of "No Lie" and a year after "Big Amount," 2 Chainz appears on Drake's More Life for "Sacrifices" with Young Thug and announces a collaboration with 50 Cent. Pretty Girls Like Trap Music is expected on June 16.
Essential 2 Chainz
United We Stand, United We Fall (Independent, 2002)
2 Chainz was known as Tity Boi, and making music with childhood friend Dolla Boy as Playaz Circle, who used United We Stand, United We Fall to escape the dangers of street life. The album spawned Playaz Circle's first major hit, "Duffle Bag Boy," featuring Lil Wayne, which propelled them into a mainstream spotlight.
Based on a T.R.U. Story (Def Jam, 2012)
Based On A T.R.U. Story had three massive hits, including "No Lie" featuring Drake, "I'm Different" and the infamous "Birthday Song" featuring Kanye West. The album boasts a flurry of catchy hooks, luxury raps and memorable one-liners, highlighting 2 Chainz's wit more than skill.
Hibachi For Lunch EP (Independent, 2016)
Hibachi for Lunch was one of four different 2016 projects, all of which had high highs and low lows. Hibachi for Lunch pulled the highest highs together for the six-track EP; this is a snack leading to a full course 2017 meal.