When it comes to his career, 2 Chainz possesses Zen-like patience. After forming Playaz Circle with Dolla Boy in 1997, the rapper formerly known as Tity Boi scored success 10 years later when the duo's 2007 Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam debut, "Supply & Demand," reached No. 3 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart on the strength of the No. 4 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs single "Duffle Bag Boy," featuring Lil Wayne. But then the duo stalled with 2009 follow-up "Flight 360: The Takeoff." The album peaked at No. 11 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums but only reached No. 74 on the Billboard 200.
Two years and seven solo mixtapes later -- together with a new moniker -- the rapper is nearing critical mass. On Nov. 1, 2 Chainz will release his DJ Drama-hosted "Gangsta Grillz" mixtape "T.R.U. REALigion," a testament to his relentless touring regimen, self-financing and persistence. "My whole campaign is believing that I got this far by being independent and, at the same time, being true to myself," the 27 yr. old says.
Viral cuts like "Spend It" and the silky "Feeling You" have rocketed the College Park, Ga., native to the top of the hip-hop buzz chain, a position bolstered by appearances on Drama's "Oh My (Remix)" and French Montana's "Whip." Explaining the rapid rise in listener interest, 2 Chainz says, "It's definitely the realness. I can depict a story that you can just feel is real-whether checking the résumé or not."
His networking with Drama and Montana is paying off. "T.R.U." features Raekwon, Young Jeezy, Birdman and Kreayshawn. Also on tap are planned guest appearances on upcoming albums by Big K.R.I.T., B.o.B and Twista. Then 2 Chainz plans to release a commercial full-length album.
Although he's still not associated with a label, 2 Chainz is content for now. "I have to realize it's a revolving door as far as me investing in myself," he says. "That's the only reason I'm getting my buzz up. But I'm making enough to feed the machine. This is my eighth mixtape. I'm literally just getting started."