2 Chainz publicity photo

2 Chainz (Universal Music)

Atlanta emcee 2 Chainz's recently released debut album Based on a T.R.U. Story has been hip-hop's most patiently awaited summer release. While it may be "2 Chainz'" official solo debut, the man known as Tauheed Epps has been on the scene for quite some time as one of half of Playaz Circle and has snagged some hiphop behemoths including Kanye West, Drake and Lil Wayne to drop guest spots on the disc. Picking up the phone with a boisterous "What Up! What Up! What Up, man, what's going on?" MSN spoke to 2 Chainz while he was in Baltimore at a Cheesecake Factory enjoying several appetizers:

"Man, you got the lettuce wraps, you gotta get the fried zucchini. You know their appetizers are the f****** best. You got fried zucchini, you got stuffed mushrooms. They have 2 or 3 pages full of appetizers, too. I have to bring my entree to the crib every time."

MSN: Lettuce wraps are my jam, man, I love those. Let's talk about the album though. What does T.R.U. stand for?

2 Chainz: The acronym T. R.U. stands for The Real Universe. It's like a class I put together or a school of thought concerning individuals being comfortable in their own skin, a leader in their community, being confident, just being individuals period, man. It's about being true, true to it, true to yourself and essentially build everything around that.

How do you stay T.R.U., now that you, well 2 Chainz, is a product that is in high demand?

Basically, stay grounded. Luckily, I was blessed to have an awesome run on a mixtape run where I bought my car and my home. Basically, when I got my deal with DefJam, they were like, 'Do we have a deal? You haven't spent any of the money!' I took care of the priorities in my life a year ago to where now it's just about stacking up and preparing for my next best move.

You were born in 1976, about ten years before hip-hop really became a movement. How did hip-hop come into the picture?

Older cousins. You know how it goes in the family or in the household. Somebody older always puts you on something, somebody older with money, somebody older in the neighborhood. I made a song with Dolla Boy called 'Role Model' and it's true. I remember wanting to be fat when I was little. That symbolized money. You being fat with a big-ass chain on your stomach, hopping out of nice-ass rides, playing some Getto Boys, UGK, 8-Ball & MJG. That's the image. That's where I came from, [there were] people getting their cars painted and loud-ass music. That's what was surrounding me in my household. I didn't have a girlfriend in high school because of Too Short and other artists like that. You're not supposed to have a girlfriend, you had to be like 'cool'. [laughs]

Do you feel differently about that now?

I dunno man, I have too many lonely nights man, for real. [laughs]

While people are calling this record 2 Chainz' debut, your mixtape wasn't the typical mixtape. It was almost created with the framework of an actual record.

True Religion was definitely an album. There was a photo-shoot, it was mixed, it was mastered, great features, great productions. I just built on that. With me, if anybody's following me, I definitely show growth. I definitely show maturation. I want people to follow this whole journey with me. I don't think I peaked out on this project. I actually feel like I still have more room to go. But it's definitely showing growth from the mixtape.

Obviously you write all the lyrics. How involved are you with beat production?

I do my own A&R. I pick every beat. Actually, I don't pick beats, I pick sounds. I build off sounds that I pick. I'm a sound generator. I think this album should definitely introduce a few new sounds; I know for a fact, cause some people told me, and I just know. I've been a sound person forever. If I'm ever in a studio with someone that's good, then I can just be talking in my way. I need that. I need to build off that. I feel like sounds trigger people, it's not the actual beat. I've been studying sounds and beats for some time and I just feel like a sound actually has a reflex that makes you just move. That's what I look for in beats. I just try and find that one sound, of course it's five or six other sounds around it to make the complete beat but I pick sounds.

What is that sound on 'Dope Peddler,' the show-tune sample?

It's this really old sample this dude did back in the day. He was doing it to try to make it a joke, and people actually took it the wrong way. He was talking about drugs. He was a professor who was like 50 or 60 years old. It was just one these projects that he did that was taken the total wrong way. I know I've had stuff in my life that people have taken the wrong way, so I just connected with it in a couple of ways. It sounds like a Mr. Rogers-ass-tone-in-my-Neighborhood when it talks about actually being a hustler or a trapper, or what he calls a dope peddler. That was definitely a part of my resume before I became this full-time real emcee. It's based on a true story.

I've heard you say emcees are "reporters for the streets" what are you reporting on with this album?

Well, what we do is we give commentary for the people that are watching. What's going on in the 'hood, in the streets or wherever. So they don't actually have to go there for themselves, they can hear about it and chime in on it when they feel like it. It's almost like some sort of teaching; you teach them slang, you teach them how to dress, how to walk, things like that. If they want to be a part of your campaign or your environment. You always see that reporter, they're at the scene of the crime. [He goes into a reporter's voice,] "We are here now, a man shot up such and such". You don't want to go out there where they're shooting, you just listen to the lady, and say 'damn, it's crazy down there'.

What are you giving commentary on on T.R.U. Story?

A lot of it is current events and news. A lot of it is the whole confidence thing. A lot of things I'm doing are out of sheer confidence in me and my material and where I'm at in life. A lot of it is individuality based. [The album] talks about the things I talk about, being true, and it talks about the trap and us and talks about strippers to the point where somebody that hasn't been to a strip club might just wanna peak their head in there one time to see what the fuss is about. [laughs]

2 Chainz' Based on a T.R.U. Story was released August 14th and his lone Canadian tour stop is September 4th at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre.