When Drake released his last few albums in close precision to get out of his Cash Money contract, the quality of his albums left an impression in my mind about veteran rappers. It was subtle, but you could sense the rushed nature of post-production. There were diamonds in the rough; however, they have been predominantly forgettable. In the mid to late 2010s, 2 Chainz made two great albums in Pretty Girls Like Trap Music and Rap or Go to the League – since then, he has been turning out albums quickly, which has led him to regress into forgettability. It exhumes with the fumes of dark trap rap on his latest album, Dope Don’t Sell Itself. Most of the production doesn’t ignite flames with redundant percussion and bass; some features parallel it with poor energy and boring verses.
Dope Don’t Sell itself comes and goes swiftly that sometimes I forgot I played it from start to finish, but there were a few things to catch these big ears. Amongst the feature-heavy album, 2 Chainz shows up his solo tracks to balance out a lack of energy from others. It opens with such; “Bet It Back” takes the theme of grandeur and reflects it with the drug game. 2 Chainz steps up to the microphone and understands where it is going. However, the effort in content and style is barely evident. It adds to its forgetfulness, and unless there is some way to rework it to keep its strengths, it would be better than what we get.
After “Bet It Back,” the tracks that got replays were “Kingpen Ghostwriter,” “Neighbors Know My Name,” and “VladTV.” They each embody that energetic tone that 2 Chainz sets. Fortunately, the former and latter feature rappers known for robust determination to create riotous flows. Lil Baby takes the bulls by the horns and comes at the dark-tempo production with rapid-fire flexing. There is one thing that these tracks can do – create a parallel between the heartless nature of drug dealing and the lush lifestyle the money delivers. Unfortunately, most tracks left me bored and unwilling to give it much credit, even though it is a treat to hear the classic 2 Chainz-isms in his verses. On the lackluster “Outstanding,” he gives us this bar: “Flight attendant look like a snack and she keep askin’ me if I want snacks.” His fans will understand at a glance, but for others, 2 Chainz usually takes a slightly provocative opening and turns it on its head in a fun fashion*. It has a charming quality that boasts his rhyme schemes and flows.
*On “Poor Fool,” off Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, 2 Chainz raps: “Trappin’ up outta the college/I’m addicted to the rice at Benihana,” as another example.
Dope Don’t Sell Itself doesn’t have enough of its positives to keep your attention. It’s an album that sells itself short. The production takes conventional avenues that any attempt at elevating it becomes forgotten because they come in spurts. Despite being a solid track, “Kingpen Ghostwriter” doesn’t move the needle on the production end. Fortunately, 2 Chainz and Lil Baby carry it. Like 2 Chainz’s verses, the few beats to strike a chord didn’t have quality songwriting, giving me a feeling of wasted potential. There were a few times that delivered an urge to repeat the track because of the production, but then the reminder of its center deters you. “Million Dollar Worth of Game” is an example of this; the track has the energy, has a bold flute-heavy production, but 42 Dugg turns you away.
2 Chainz closes with the opposite of his opener, poorly. Unlike the opening, 2 Chainz closes with a dirty love track featuring Jacquees, who sounds like a carbon copy of Don Tolliver. It left me underwhelmed, considering I edged out a bit of hope that he’d follow up the fantastic “VladTV” with another solo endeavor. Unfortunately, I was wrong. “If You Want Me To” doesn’t have a distinct sound and comes across like most of these types of tracks in hip-hop. Like his last few albums, especially, So Help Me God, there is little reward on both sides that you don’t come out thinking it was a remarkable album from start to finish.
Seeing that Dope Don’t Sell Itself was running shorter than past albums, I was hoping for something tighter from 2 Chainz, and that isn’t what was delivered. The album is boring and offers nothing in return, outside of trying to highlight a lot of the new talent in the melodic rap game. If you’re a fan I’d recommend giving it a chance, but if not, you are better off going back and returning to Earl Sweatshirt’s album from a few weeks ago.