In about an hour, 2 Chainz will hit center court at State Farm Arena and roll through two of his biggest hits, “I’m Different” and “Watch Out.”
He’s wearing his specialty Peachtree Nike City Edition jersey, just as the Atlanta Hawks players are this night for the first of 11 “Peachtree Nights” events they’ll stage this season.
As he stands a few yards from the court, tucked into a stuffy dressing room packed with the artists on his T.R.U. record label roster and various assistants who help with things such as turning down the volume on the in-room monitor blaring basketball cacophony, 2 Chainz has a few minutes to talk.
He wants to make it to his seats for tip-off, but he’ll always make time to discuss his entrepreneurial efforts.
While the world knows 2 Chainz as a mega-selling rapper with a hit list that includes “Birthday Song” and “It’s a Vibe,” as well as a string of high-profile collaborations — Drake on “All Me,” Chance the Rapper on “No Problem” and YG on “Big Bank” among them — he’s also an astute businessman who continually diversifies his interests.
He’s as likely to be seen on the Viceland network with his show, “Most Expensivest” as he is selling ugly Santa sweaters online, which he did for several years.
Or maybe he’ll rile up a neighborhood by painting a house pink, calling it a Trap House as part of an album promotion and turning it into a tourist attraction (or haunted house, depending upon the season).
But 2 Chainz is also Tauheed Epps, a 42-year-old College Park native who loves his city so much, he earlier this year joined the ownership team of the Atlanta Hawks’ NBA G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, who play at the newly opened Gateway Arena in its own city.
“I enjoy basketball. I enjoy giving back. It kinda fit me as far as a job description,” 2 Chainz said. “I have a lot of responsibilities as far as the community, getting that community involved, a few things with the arena. I’m excited about it. Every time I’m (in town), I’ll go to a game,” he said.
The Skyhawks’ ownership group also includes principal owner Tony Ressler and vice chair of the board — and basketball hall of famer — Grant Hill.
The towering, lean slab of muscle that is 2 Chainz is also a legitimate basketball player. He played at North Clayton High School and at Alabama State University on a scholarship.
“I can shoot some shots if they need me to,” he said with a smile.
As if he would have time.
In October, 2 Chainz entered into a partnership with Atlantic Records and his T.R.U. (The Real University) record label. The T.R.U. brand has been with 2 Chainz since his 2011 mixtape, “T.R.U. REALigion” and his follow-up debut album the next year, “Based on a T.R.U. Story.”
While the T.R.U. label has existed under 2 Chainz’s direction for a couple of years, the alignment will provide an elevated experience for the rapper himself, as well as the artists on the roster: Skooly, WORL, Hott LockedN and Sleepy Rose.
“They were interested in what I had going on, and I was interested in what they had going on. So far so good,” 2 Chainz said succinctly about the new arrangement.
At the Atlanta Hawks game halftime performance, Sleepy Rose, in a peach poncho draped over his lanky frame and jeans, joined 2 Chainz to debut their new song, “Georgia,” a loping rap with a singsong chorus.
Artists such as Sleepy Rose, who grew up in the Godby Road-Old National College Park neighborhood and spent two years in jail, present 2 Chainz with the type of challenge he loves to tackle; he wants to not only cultivate new artists but mentor them as well.
“(The label) gives everybody a platform to express themselves. It feels good to give back that way,” 2 Chainz said.
In February, a compilation album called “Looking Like It Records,” will be released with songs from all of the artists on the T.RU. roster, which 2 Chainz plans to expand.
Also in October, 2 Chainz enrolled in another venture; he purchased a stake in Atlanta’s A3C Festival and Conference, which had already grown in its 15th year after Paul Judge Media Group and The Gathering Spot acquired A3C.
“Ever since I’ve known Chainz, his creativity, team and entrepreneurship skills have repeatedly proven to be world-class,” Judge said at the time of the announcement.
To solidify his commitment, 2 Chainz provided the closing keynote address on Oct. 12, where he chatted with renowned fashion designer Dapper Dan.
“I know everybody involved,” 2 Chainz said of his association with A3C, which spans 300 speakers, 150 sessions and about 500 music artists during its annual weeklong run. “I was looking forward to investing in something that we can have in the city as far as a festival…I wanted to do something different. When it came across my desk, everything checked out. I was all in.”
Being “all in” could accurately describe the way 2 Chainz approaches everything.
“I want to lead by example, be an inspiration,” he said. “I’m not one to talk people’s ear off. I lead by actions. Somebody will pay attention — whoever is supposed to.”
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