2 Chainz/Lil Wayne – Welcome 2 Collegrove

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With one continuing to drop a project nearly every year and the other gearing up to continue his legendary series with the anticipated The Carter VI, dropping his second side project album of the year, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne have 52 years of experience in the rap game combined and link up once again for a sequel to their 2016 collab album, Collegrove. Interlaced with stories and skits of the two starting out young and making it to the legendary status they have now, the actual tracks we get on this project don’t find either of the two at the top of their game, but there’s just enough classic Lil Wayne wordplay and eccentricity, combined with classic 2 Chainz court-jester attitude and percussive flows, to make their dynamic as engaging as ever on the album highlights. Surprisingly enough, if you had to pick a star of the project, it’s 2 Chainz – Wayne seems to be saving his best material for his big releases as of late. It’s too long and a little scattershot, but these two, on some level, have still got it.

Based on the history of the side projects where Lil Wayne is playing around, we can only be thankful that opener “G6” is not only not an interpolation of “Like a G6,” but one of the album’s better tracks. Over a plucked guitar loop and an energetic trap beat, Wayne taps into that feral-beast energy and extended rhyme schemes in his opening verse before Chainz drops in with some hard-hitting bars. The beat here adds a blown-out bassline, which perks up ears at first but eventually just kind of sounds like they’re playing 2 beats at the same time. “Big Diamonds” is one of those handclap-backed club tracks with a beat that sounds like its fresh out of 2007 – it’s produced by the now 54-year-old Mannie Fresh, after all – save for 21 Savage’s grounding voice on the hook. 2 Chainz gets like more aggressive vocally than you’ve ever heard him get on this hook, which seems like an odd fit. “Presha” was the album’s lead single, and it was a solid pick in that it gives the two a simple beat constructed out of a catchy whistle melody and they basically do what they’ve been doing for decades overtop – Chainz takes his time with some cheeky and outlandish bars, then Wayne doubles the pace. It’s old school charm. “Long Story Short,” however, goes past charm and reaches the closest thing the album gets to bliss. With a soul sample once used by Project Pat, the two sit back a little bit and let the beauty of the instrumental speak. Wayne offers some melodic warbling and Chainz kicks his feet up while remaining firmly in the pocket.

It’s becoming ever clearer that we’re reaching peak “triumphant horn section beat” – Kendrick and Baby Keem’s “family ties” revived it and retired it at the same time. Most people are also aware that although Lil Wayne is mostly hit or miss these days, when he misses, he misses hard – and “Millions From Now” is one of those tracks where he’s mostly just incomprehensible and sliding all over the scales. “Crazy Thick” is the most patently ridiculous track here, interlacing a sample from a Lil Wayne interview where he describes the proportions of a romantic interest, and it’s so over-the-top that you can’t help but smile. Lil Wayne never runs out of creative ways to explain the most basic rap concepts, and these kind of rubbery bass hits are where Chainz thrives. A couple songs here make it clear that a majority of this project has been in the works for a while, or were leftovers from elsewhere, and “Transparency” is one of them as it finds Usher singing the hook from a 2021 Chris Brown snippet that sampled Michael Jackson’s “The Lady in My Life,” which remains here. The verses on top are short, and feel a little unfinished. “Significant Other,” as well, has baffling mixing – it fades in on a muted sample, then it just stays muted. The entire song feels like an intro that goes nowhere, and the verses have no energy or support. Wayne comes in at the very end on a beat switch that’s too little too late, though “no cap like bottle service” is a bit of an inspired bar.

You really don’t want to know what the title of “P.P.A.” stands for. 2 Chainz reuses some X-rated bars here, sounding like he’s trying to make a joke again when it didn’t really land the first time. Fabolous is woken up from a deep sleep to appear on this track, adding to the proceedings with out-of-place references to fruit gushers and flushing toilets. The two pick it back up and tap into their Griselda bag with “Oprah & Gayle,” a 5-minute track that features Benny the Butcher himself. When it comes to the duo recruiting a variety of aging producers, the beat here from DJ Toomp proves that he’s one of the only ones evolving his skills with the times. The twinkling, futuristic and spacey atmosphere here is a perfect playground for these three to show off more technical skills – despite a COVID bit that goes on too long from Wayne. 2 Chainz tries out his best ODB impression on “Shame” – literally – he puts on a voice and raps one of his classic hooks. It’s fun and a little silly, which stands out on this project – despite Wayne dropping his second tired COVID bar in a row. Chainz proclaims that he and Wayne have a disease called bars on the hook of “Bars,” but Wayne backs it up by dropping what might be the best verse on the album – his rhyme schemes might be the greatest of all time.

The closing run continues to be just as much of a mixed bag as the rest of the album – Vory’s opening part on “Godzilla” comes from an entirely different song, and for a hook that references a monstrous clash of titans, the two sound oddly restrained. “Crown Snatcher” is the kind of song that you don’t realize wasn’t the song before until it’s nearly two minutes in, as it’s about as generic as most of the rest. The final two tracks leave a better impression – “Can’t Believe You” resides in guest star Rick Ross’ wheelhouse more than anything as a sax wails away in the back, but the duo rise to the occasion, while it’s nice to hear Marsha Ambrosius’ voice on “Moonlight,” an appropriately dramatic closer that finds Wayne and Chainz speaking about some of the struggles they had to overcome in their youth.

Sequels usually offer little more than diminishing returns, and while that’s true to an extent here, it’s hard to imagine a fan of either of these two artists being completely disappointed with what they received on their latest. The greatest ideas are behind them, but there’s still gas left in the tank.

Favourite Tracks: Long Story Short, Oprah & Gayle, Bars, Presha

Least Favourite Track: Significant Other

Score: 6/10

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