It’s nearly 2 a.m. on a cool Saturday night in Las Vegas at Drai’s Beachclub & Nightclub. Before towering rapper 2 Chainz—all 6’5” of him—takes the stage, the club is already in full revelry. But as soon as the hook drops from Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem,” which features the College Park, Georgia emcee, a flip is switched. Fans who were splashing their feet in the pool a moment ago now rush to the front of the stage, where 2 Chainz, who’s wearing a third chain tonight, casually saunters in his black Gucci tracksuit, signature bandana and sunglasses.
The rapper is a perfect fit for Drai’s. The resident performer’s endless catalog of trap-rap bangers matches the vibe of the club: fun, celebratory and unapologetically boastful. When he raps, “Look at you, now look at us—,” groups of friends huddle together before clamoring in unison: “All my n****s look rich as fuck!”
He’s also a match for the venue in another way. Drai’s’ roster of resident acts features some of the hottest names in hip-hop today, including 2 Chainz’s frequent collaborators Lil Wayne, Big Sean and Migos. The rapper says he’s “honored” to share the lineup with them.
“They’re like my brothers,” 2 Chainz says while lounging in a VIP cabana before his set. “It feels organic.”
And while 2 Chainz has performed at venues up and down the Strip, he says he feels most at home here, where he’s able to perform a 45-minute set complete with a live drummer and the Drai’s Dirty Dancers behind him.
“Drai’s is just an iconic spot. It’s synonymous with Vegas and synonymous with entertainment,” 2 Chainz says. “It feels good to have a place I can call home. It’s a great turnout every time and a great energy every time.”
He gives that energy right back. Though it may be a nightclub gig, he performs as if it were a sold out arena show.
“I’m one of the biggest entertainers in the world so I have to live up to that, by any means,” he says.
That last part—“by any means”—is no exaggeration. After breaking his leg last year in an ATV accident, rather than following his doctor’s recommendation to cancel his then-upcoming national tour, he commissioned a tricked-out pink wheelchair and hit the road. Stubbornly committed to his fans, 2 Chainz performed on two wheels for two and a half months. Talk about resilience. Though, anyone who’s followed his career closely knows 2 Chainz is the very definition of the word.
2 Chainz’s career started long before his “Birthday Song” became a ceremonious anthem six years ago. He began in the ’90s as Tity Boi, his childhood nickname, and scored a hit in the late 2000s as a one half of Playaz Circle with “Duffle Bag Boy.” Though the follow-ups weren’t quite as successful, 2 Chainz remained optimistic and persistent. He re-emerged in 2011 with a new moniker and mixtape, T.R.U. REALigion, and the rest—guest spots on Kanye West’s “Mercy,” besting Drake on “All Me,” adding “It’s a vibe” to the contemporary lexicon—is history. Where others would have caved, 2 Chainz prevailed.
“I’m just wired a little different,” he says. This shows in his work ethic.
These days he keeps his Vegas trips lowkey. He’s all business, he says, though he does hit the craps tables on occasion. Of course, the star of Viceland’s “Most Expensivest” series lavishes in the city’s culinary delights, frequenting Mr Chow and Nobu (he enjoyed black cod at the latter restaurant on this particular night). But for the most part, “I’m just here working, staying out of trouble,” he says.
When 2 Chainz says he’s working, he means it. He’s got a cannabis line, Gas, coming soon, and his imaginative sneaker collaboration with Versace just dropped. Plus, Rap or Go to the League, his highly anticipated full-length follow-up to last year’s Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, is slated to release in June, according to the man himself.
If what he’s promising is true, the new album will be yet another reason 2 Chainz stands apart from his peers.
“It’s my version of black excellence—luxury music,” he says. “There’s a lot more substance than my previous work. It just shows growth. You should do that every time you get a chance.”
2 Chainz performs at Drai’s on May 26.