2 Chainz spent years as a regional celebrity before being airlifted to the worldwide stardom that followed standout features on songs like "Mercy." But outshining current greats like Kanye West (whom he easily bested on the aforementioned song) and releasing a stunning debut album ("Based on a T.R.U. Story," his first as 2 Chainz), is one thing. Keeping it all moving is another.
The 36-year-old rapper stopped by HuffPost Live on Friday as part of the promotional sprint for "B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time" and opened up about recent run-ins with police, his incredibly popular cookbook, label frustrations and what it's like when listeners who are removed from the experiences that inform rap embrace an album.
In a pre-segment interview with HuffPost Entertainment, 2 Chainz said he was shocked at how popular his cookbook, "Meal Time," had become. He also positioned the project -- which is included in purchases of the LP -- as a way to extend his moment in the spotlight. "I realized that I still have more work to do and I'm excited about it," he said. "Those two things make me have a certain passion toward the music. Involving things like a cookbook was just a different angle that I didn't expect to have this much exposure. But it's working in my favor, so I'm just trying to go back to the basics."
"I enjoy my pork chop meals, and have my recent love for couscous, which my chef put me on to," the rapper added. "I like purple cabbage as well."
The cookbook itself can almost be seen as an extension of the rapper's Instagram, which is littered with tasty and health-conscious meals. In an interview at Coachella, 2 Chainz told HuffPost Entertainment that he suffers from stomach ulcers and acid reflux, so the well-tailored meals aren't a simple affectation. "The reason I have a chef is so I don't have to go out to the restaurants," he said Friday. "But different areas have things that they're well-known for and noted for, so if we're by the beach, we'll some fresh seafood. When we're in Philadelphia, he might make me a chicken Philly. We keep it conceptual as to where we are."
Though there is certainly a healthy level of buzz around "B.O.A.T.S. II," it seems that excitement over pre-release singles like "I Do It" (which features Drake and Lil Wayne) and "Feds Watching" (with Pharrell Williams, and released before the NSA's widespread domestic surveillance efforts were unveiled by Edward Snowden) hasn't translated into equally epic sales. On HuffPost Live, 2 Chainz said that though he didn't "want to be the angry rapper," he couldn't help but wonder if "Def Jam dropped the ball on this one" and revealed that projections put first week sales under 100,000. (The clip is embedded below; his first album has been certified Gold.)
The sales haven't bothered anyone as much as 2 Chainz, who said the news ruined his Thursday birthday. But before hitting the air, he told us that he's not letting the disappointing returns stop him. "I definitely see two or three more albums on the "Based on a Tru Story" theme," he said. "Maybe we'll get it up to five or so. But these albums are just based on true stories and experiences that I go through from year to year, and I mingle in the different experiences whether they happen directly to me or someone close to me."
2 Chainz' work has thematically expanded to include some of his recent experiences, but the thrust of his music is rooted in his experiences coming up in Atlanta. As a result, there's quite vivid imagery of drugs and other trappings of poverty that sometimes take on different shades when they're rapped along to by clubgoers and partiers well outside of the situations that inspired him. 2 Chainz used a searing metaphor to illustrate the difference: "I make the music for everyone, but some people like the experience of going to the zoo. But they won't actually pet the animals."
"Some of the things I talk about are a zoo-like environment, as far as the block or the trap," he added. "So, some people might like to ride through, but they're not going to get out of the car. You can understand their curiosity and how interested they are in turning up to the music. But some people actually try to relate to it."
The artist himself is working to eliminate criminal activity from his life after a string of drug and gun charges that have simultaneously emboldened haters and caused critics to wonder why authorities in so many states are going out of their way to stalk and investigate a musician. 2 Chainz deferred speculating as to whether or not police in various states were actively targeting him in both pre-segment and live interviews at HuffPost, but admitted that it was "overwhelming."
"It's a waste of time and money," he added. "It's a waste of the taxpayers' money, and I'm a taxpayer."
Adjusting to the sudden burst of latter-day fame hasn't been without its difficulties for 2 Chainz, born Tauheed Epps. "There were definitely things I didn't expect I would have to deal with," he said during his visit. "There's no way you can prepare for the success that I have had in the past couple of years and how to handle it with your friends, and new money. There's just no way to prepare."
Tepid album sales and an overly vigilant police force aside, the almost always sunny rapper isn't going to let up. "I just don't want to be stagnant as far as all of the different things happening every year, from the law to the iPhone," he said backstage at HuffPost Live. "I just want to be hip to what's going on."