Tupac Shakur was formerly named MC New York. Had he kept that moniker, the East versus West beef would have probably been diffused within 10 seconds. Q-Tip was formerly MC Love Child, J. Cole was formerly Therapist, Young Jeezy was Lil J. These were all name changes early on in rappers’ careers that ultimately navigated their success stories. Had they kept their original names, who knows what would have developed, if anything at all. But as rapper 2 Chainz releases his debut album today (as 2 Chainz) Based On a T.R.U. Story, it’s indicative of the notion that a name change can affect an entire career. Just ask Tity Boi.
2007 was the year Hip-Hop officially met Tauheed Epps aka Tity Boi. As one half of Playaz Circle, Tity laced the hit single “Duffle Bag Boy,” while a Lil Wayne feature ushered the track to mid-level success. While Dolla Boy and Tity Boi had a two-album stint on DTP Records– coupled with a handful of singles – the success faded fairly quickly. Tity Boi resurfaced as a solo artist circa 2011, popping up on several tracks featuring the likes of Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Project Pat, Busta Rhymes, and former co-collaborator Lil Wayne. Nothing really stuck. The work ethic was there and the satisfactory skills were there, but the results weren’t.
Then 2 Chainz emerged, followed by the release of his mixtape/street album T.R.U. REALigion. While Epps maintained that Tity Boi was a childhood name given by his relatives, his decision to become 2 Chainz was in the interest of being “family friendly.” He told Shade 45 earlier this year that as soon as he switched to 2 Chainz, fans were shouting it out at the mall. Would they have been as comfortable shouting “Tity Boi” at the tops of their lungs? Probably not.
We’re now sitting in the midst of 2 Chainz mania. Based On a T.R.U. Story is out today, everyone is either yelling “2 Chainz!!!” or “Truuuuuu!!!” and Kanye West has 2 Chainz on speed dial, seesawing on Chainz’s G.O.O.D. Music ties. How did we get here so “quickly”? A name change is the most logical conclusion.
It’s not the same as Snoop Dogg becoming Snoop Lion or Mos Def becoming Yasiin Bey, or even Puff Daddy becoming a multitude of variations involving the word “Diddy.” This is a name swap moments before a career takes off, where no other factors contributed to the phenomenon. Much like K.Dot becoming Kendrick Lamar, there were few modifications made to the artist. 2 Chainz hasn’t changed much lyrically – his rhymes are still ad-lib heavy and punchy. With the exception of a crisp new fedora, there haven’t been any major fashion switches – maybe an extra chain to keep up with his nom de plume. That’s about it. While it’s true that with a name change came some new cosigns (Kendrick had Dre, 2 Chainz had Ye), there has to be more than that. So what are the perks, then, in going by 2 Chainz over Tity Boi? Well, there are many.
Epps was definitely onto something suggesting that 2 Chainz was more family friendly. However, it’s much more than that. Referring to yourself as “Tity Boi” could deter women by sounding misogynistic, deter younger audience members by sounding profane, and deter everyone else by being outright embarrassed saying his name out loud. Let’s not get into the fact that both “titty” and “boy” are spelled incorrectly, so anyone could also be phonetically calling him “Tidy Boy,” to which he’d then sound like a brand of detergent. 2 Chainz creates a balance of youthful poetic license and simplicity. What it lacks in previous vulgarity it makes up for in potential. While most rappers in the game rock one chain, 2 Chainz one-ups them all. It’s symbolic of the braggadocio that Hip-Hop is built upon – having more, being more, achieving more. It’s the greatest Rap reinvention in recent years. That name change was the gateway drug for much recent musical success – cameos on Kanye West’s “Mercy” and Nicki Minaj’s “Beez In the Trap,” plus hit singles including “No Lie,” “Birthday Song,” and “Yuck.”
That’s all Tauheed Epps can really ask for. While most rappers don’t even get an initial shot at fame, Epps is on his second – and it’s even more successful than his first. Who knew that leaving Tity Boi at the door would ensure 2 Chainz a seat in V.I.P.? Perhaps Epps did.
It’s a cautionary tale for aspiring rappers everywhere – be mindful of your designated name. It can be the difference between being MC New York and Tupac Shakur or even K.Dot and Kendrick Lamar. Most importantly right now, though, it’s going from a duffle bag boy to a chart-topping artist who can now afford to sport two chains instead of one.