Collegrove: The Deep History of Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz' Friendship - DJBooth

Collegrove: The Deep History of Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz' Friendship

In a game full of backstabbers and shifting allegiances, Chainz and Wayne have been close friends for nearly a decade.
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“If it wasn’t for Wayne, it wouldn’t be a lot of dudes in the game, including me” - 2 Chainz

Lil Wayne signed a deal with Cash Money Records at the age of nine. It was a deal that changed his life at a time most kids were in middle school daydreaming about being the next Soulja Slim or Master P, for him it wasn’t a fantasy. It’s rarely discussed how Wayne's rise was a slow one, that his celebrity didn’t come overnight, he went from a boy to a man in the industry before breaking out big. He had to start at 9 to blow up by the time he was 24. Relationships have been a big part of his success, in this shady business, on one of the shadiest labels, he has more friends than foes.

He came into this game in a group and never lost the willingness to collaborate, features were done in bulk, he has more artists signed to him than the New Orleans Saints have players, rappers orbit him like the planets do the sun. When he finds a chemistry with another rapper it leads to a massive amount of music and occasionally the promise of an album.  

It happened with Juelz, it happened with T-Pain, it happened with Drake, it’s a surprise that Wayne and Birdman actually put out a joint album. A few years ago, when 2 Chainz hinted that he and Weezy would be doing a project together, it was easy to imagine the album would sit on the shelf between Detox and I Can’t Feel My Face. Another myth to drool over, awaiting the inevitable label interference that would push it back into Neveruary 32nd. Especially with Tha Carter V in the courtroom, Cash Money isn’t letting their imprisoned songbird sing for nobody but them. To my surprise, that’s not what happened. For once, the promise of a collaboration album with Wayne was kept. (Well, if you ask the label it’s a 2 Chainz album that features Lil Wayne on a bunch of songs, not a "Lil Wayne" album, the kind of legal loophole that uses the logic of a third grader, somewhere between ridiculous and genius.)

The title, ColleGrove,represents Atlanta’s College Park and New Orleans’ Hollygrove, where each rapper was raised. The album cover embodies Wayne’s presence on the album, it’s 2 Chainz face but covered with Wayne’s tattoo and piercings. All his distinguished facial features, for the sole feature that’s spread all across his album. Despite what the label may claim, there's no denying this album belongs to them both. What’s interesting is except for “100 Joints,” all the songs that don’t feature Wayne are recycled from various mixtapes. Additions made to fit their excuse. The album opens with “Dedication,” an ode to Wayne and a timeline of a friendship that dates back before 2003. The first time Wayne ever acknowledged Tity Boi on record is a shout out on 500 Degreez, “Tity baby put it in the air” snuck into the second verse of “Where You At.”

At the time, Tity Boi wasn’t a name listeners would recognize, he was unsigned but known locally in Atlanta. The line is recycled when the two collaborated over Ludacris’ “Grew Up A Screw Up,” Wayne uses it to introduce the young Tity before his verse. It’s one of the rare times when a Wayne remix didn’t completely overshadow the original but is very significant. The song was placed on the Lil Weezy Ana Volume 1 mixtape, a project that was used to promote Wayne and all the artists he had on Young Money at the time. So it only makes sense that “Dedication” begins with a conversation between the two, Wayne is trying to urge Tity to leave DTP and join him at Young Money. After his resurgence as 2 Chainz and Luda turning over his release papers, Wayne tried to snatch him up but he made the decision to sign under a major and not another artist, a business decision that didn’t hinder their friendship.

Like Wayne, 2 Chainz didn’t come into the game as a solo artist. He formed a group with his childhood friend Dolla Boy as Playaz Circle in 1997. The two independently released United We Stand, United We Fall in 2002, you can also hear them on DTP’s Golden Grain compilation and a few other Luda records that came out around that time. Due to a series of unfortunate events the duo would be on hiatus from a bigger project until 2007. The song that give them the exposure needed to be spotlighted is the Lil Wayne-featured “Duffle Bag Boys."

At the time Wayne was seen as the executioner, the emcee you called to bury beats, he made hits like an assassin but wasn’t an artist you would consider a hitmaker. Seeing “featuring Lil Wayne” you expected murder but “Duffle Bag Boys” was different, he was singing and only on the hook. It was a strange but effective choice, the song was huge, both in the streets and on radio. The kind of inescapable anthem that everyone knows. It didn’t come about because Wayne was hot at the time, Tity Boi told MTV that the shout out from “Where You At” is what made him take the song to Wayne. He wanted a feature from the man that put him in a song before he was anyone.

Even with the hit, Playaz Circle wasn’t next to blow from DTP. Their second album, Flight 360: The Takeoff, failed to deliver another hit and had a huge decline in sales compared to its predecessor, Supply & Demand. Wayne was on the album, delivering a verse on “Big Dawg,” but the trio couldn’t bring another anthem to the airwaves. Changing course, Tity went the mixtape route instead of trying to focus on hit singles and album sales. It took a slew of releases before he would catch fire, most notably on 2010's Me Against the World 2: Codeine Withdrawal. Wayne is featured on “Real As They Come,” a song produced by Kanye West that somehow was gifted to Tity. Pretty big deal to rap on a Kanye beat and then be inducted into G.O.O.D Music two years later.

Even though Tity wasn’t a big name artist, Wayne never stopped supporting him. In ‘08, he brought him out on the first half of the I Am Music Tour. That’s where Tity met Drake and formed a relationship with Nicki. Two relationships that would prove to be instrumental in his resurgence after the name change. Without being under the same umbrella, Tity Boi and Young Money benefited from their many collaborations. Their bond didn’t need paperwork to keep their ties strong

2011 was the year all the stars aligned for the artist formally known as Tity Boi. A new name gave him new life, another chance to blow up bigger than before. While Wayne didn’t have anything to do with his second coming, 2 Chainz still considers Wayne the man who saved his career. He told XXL in 2013 during his cover story that there would be no magazine covers without Lil Dwayne Carter. Wayne has never admitted to being the one who brought 2 Chainz success, but after their performance together at the VMA’s he told an MTV reporter that it was like seeing his child up there. He admitted that it would seem crazy, especially since Chainz is much older, but it’s a testament to their friendship.

In another example of their closeness, Wayne told DJ Drama that he was delaying the release of Dedication 4 because it would be released the same day as 2 Chainz’s Based On A T.R.U. Story album. He wanted all attention to be on his friend. He's featured on the very first song “Yuck,” keeping up the tradition of appearing on every 2 Chainz commercial release.

“That’s my best friend, that’s my homie from back in the day,” Wayne said gushing about 2 Chainz after the performance. “It’s almost like — I don’t wanna say it, it seem crazy when I say it, but it’s like watching your child up there. It feels too good; it’s a weird feeling.” - Lil Wayne 2012 VMAs

It wasn’t until 2013's I Am Not A Human Being II that 2 Chainz got his chance to appear on a major Wayne release, not just once but twice. “Days and Days” is both rappers free flowing, it’s feels more like a mixtape than album cut which is perfect for two artists whose best material can be found on Datpiff and not iTunes. The second record was the popular “Rich As Fuck,” one of the biggest singles from the EP.

The magic of Wayne and Chainz rubbed off on others, artist wanted the Wayne and Chainz effect. David Banner grabbed both for “Yao Ming”, Shad Moss Lil Bow Wow tried to group himself with the duo on 2011's “Ima Stunt,” French Montana attached himself and Rick Ross to the Kobe and Shaq of rap with “Marble Floors” and Swizz Beatz probably thought he had a major hit on his hands by getting Nicki and Ross to join Wayne and Chainz on “Hands Up.” The only artist that really got a big record from the duo is Juicy J, “Bandz Can Make Her Dance” is the anthem that took his career to the next level. Wayne and Chainz were the perfect fits, there’s enough quotables to keep this one relevant for the next 10 years.

The two just never stopped working together, Lil Wayne and Drake both assist Chainz on “I Do It” from his sophomore album, the duo delivered the Christmas loosie “Twerk Season,” Young Dolph’s “Preach” is tag teamed on Sorry 4 The Wait 2 and Chainz grabbed the wild Weezy for “Back On The Bullshyt,” the only feature from his Felt Like Cappin EP.

Collegrove adds eight more songs to their growing catalog. Overall it’s a solid album, short with a handful of noteworthy records like “Bounce,” “Blue C-Notes,” “Bentley Truck” and “Rolls Royce Weather Every Day.” Wayne is far from his prime but sprinkled in the flurry of jabs there are some punches that will satisfy fans new and old alike. 2 Chainz adds his signature balance of humor, glamor, and boast that has made him one artist who never bores. Even though the title represents both of their homes, Collegrove’s production is solely based in Atlanta. It’s all of Chainz’s usual suspects - Mike WiLL, Southside, Honorable C.N.O.T.E, TM88, Metro Boomin, he has home court the way Future does on What A Time To Be Alive. The only New Orleans representative is Mannie Fresh, which is a big deal knowing his history with Wayne and Cash Money.  

Wayne isn’t the monster he once was and Chainz has simmered down a bit since the days of “Riot” and “Spend It.” He’s still churning out hit records but their effects are more aftershocks than earthquakes. Collegrove would have made a bigger splash a few years prior. The album is a monument for two artists who have grown together in this industry that tends to create riffs. Both Wayne and Tity Boi know how this game has the tendency to be a pattern of building and destroying relationships. It took 2 Chainz a lot longer to rise through the ranks, he blew up toward the end of Wayne’s reign. Yet, their relationship has never been about status or relevance, because it goes beyond the industry.

When he was still in Playaz Circle, an ongoing theme was the idea of full circle. Collegrove is the by-product of 10 years of friendship and collaborating, bringing full circle a relationship that is much deeper than rap. Real friends, the kind that Kanye dreams about.

By Yoh, aka Southside Yoh, aka @Yoh31.

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