Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz is everywhere.
He signed with Def Jam this year, and will release his debut studio album, "Based on a T.R.U. Story," on Aug. 14. The first single off the album, "No Lie," featuring Drake, has already been released.
He's just recently been featured on collaborations with Kanye West, Ciara and even on a Justin Bieber remix.
"I'm just enjoying life right now," he said during a recent visit to ESPN. "I don't want to come down."
Known for his "2 Chaaaainz!" announcement on tracks, the rapper has been getting a few shout-outs of late from one very famous fan: LeBron James. He's done it during his introduction at the NBA All-Star Game and during other games.
This is heady stuff for the 35-year-old 2 Chainz, a former basketball player at Alabama State whose real name is Tauheed Epps. For a guy who raps for a living, whose trademark is shouting his name, he speaks quietly and in reverential tones when talking about James.
"This is LeBron James we're talking about. And he listens to my music sometime before he goes into the game," 2 Chainz said. "He's aware of songs when they come out. And he's like a super-icon. It just makes me feel good that I'm actually tapping into that. Just makes me feel like I'm winning right now."
2 Chainz spoke to Playbook about his sudden stardom, the ties between athletes and musicians, and the Atlanta home-court advantage.
On LeBron sending him his new shoes before they were released:
Yes, man. I get all the shoes first. I don't have to wait in line or pay this high price, or fight anybody. [Laughs] I'm not even knowledgeable about the fact that they're that hot commodity. I just don't know. He sends me boxes of shoes. And like, he'll comment on some verses or some lines that I may say in some of my raps. Like I say, it's LeBron James. LeBron James. Everybody knows who he is. And he knows who I am. Every time I write I know it's a possibility that he can listen to it, that he can hear it. I even put him in a song, but it's not out yet.
On his long road to "overnight success":
What I like to say is I'm like a gardener. I plant seeds. You never know when things are going to grow when you plant them. It deals with timing, really. The weather. Water. I apply that same thing with music. I plant a lot of little seeds in different places at different times. And you just never know when they're going to start growing or popping up. Sometimes when it just happens when everything starts happening at the same time, it's this effect, like you're just everywhere, when really it's just that whole irrigation effect of growth and maturation and prosperity. That's what I believe in. Everything I do, I plant seeds.
On the sports he follows:
I've been playing basketball since I was 7 years old. I've been playing all my life. My granddaddy did something with the Negro Leagues. He was a huge Braves fan back with Dale Murphy, before they moved the stadium. Like a huge, huge baseball fan. With my music, I've got [Zac] Rinaldo from the Flyers. Like from hockey! [Shakes head] I have like hockey players that listen to my music before they play hockey, before they beat each other.
All I do is watch ESPN, but of course, basketball is my life. Whether it's college -- March Madness -- or the NBA playoffs, I focus on that a lot.
On surprising people:
I don't write down any of my raps. I don't write. I have these brain exercises that I do. We go to the gym, work out physically, we eat right. But what can we do for our mind? I just remember to store information. I call it like a brain pull-up or a brain push-up.
I was raised by a single-parent mom. This is really my first job, this rapping stuff. I came from out there in the streets. I always had a good head on my shoulders. I just had a positive attitude. A lot of times I think that could change the energy of the room.
If I had time, I'd like to go to school online. There's so much stuff going on. Everything's moving so fast. Who wants to be dumb? Not to say dumb, but who wants to be behind? I used to know smart people who would play dumb. I found it was gratifying to be like this dude who looked dumb, but was smart. I wanted to read out loud in class. I wanted to read out loud. Like, I'm ready.
On the home-team advantage in Atlanta:
[Falcons wide receiver] Julio Jones is a friend of mine, so I'm a fan of him. I'm trying to keep him out of the clubs in Atlanta, you know what I mean? It's like, bro, you don't have to do that. Just get it done.
The thing about Atlanta is we have this club scene. We have this Atlanta nightlife, right? What we do is -- it actually backfires on us -- when the opposite team comes to town. We let them have parties. Get 'em drunk. Let 'em have girls. Then the next day, they can't even touch the backboard. [Laughs] But I think the actual players, we do it too. So it inhibits us sometimes. It's definitely the atmosphere in Atlanta. No disrespect to Denver, but it's like, certain places I feel like you can focus more. Atlanta, there's just something to do all the damn time. Like Julio, just coming from Alabama, and being kind of young -- he wasn't out in the club or anything -- but I'm just trying to give him a little game right there.
I just know how you meet a girl then y'all be staying together tomorrow. You don't even know how that happened. She left her shoes over here ... it's gradual.
On athletes and musicians and the ties between the two:
Let me tell you about that. I've broken it down psychologically. As an entertainer, as an artist, we have those moments where we're like "We could've made that shot. O.J. Mayo missed that? We could've made that." But then who wants to do two-a-days, who wants to practice? You know, you don't take in that part. Same thing happens with these athletes. They come to the concert, we walk out on stage, girls go crazy. They're like, "We could do that." But they don't know like the practice that we have to put in. It's just a strong parallel. At the end of the day, it's all entertainment. When I played basketball I always used to want the ball, because I felt like once you had the ball, all the eyes on the gym were on you. I just carried that on. I have the same correlation with the microphone. They have to watch you. Why would you watch anything else?
I especially feel bad for football players because they have to keep their helmet on. It's like, "Put your helmet back on so we know who you are." I bet that drives superstars crazy that they potentially could be sitting outside a club, looking at everybody, like, "Do you know who I am?"
I always said if I was a football player, I'd just have a budget for fines. Because I'm taking my helmet off. I'm not scoring a touchdown and you don't know ...
I just said a rap about Victor Cruz. The man was standing [pounds table] right ... next ... to me. He said, "What's up?" I said "What's up?" He said, "I'm Victor Cruz." I was like, "What up, fool?!" I didn't even recognize him. And I'm a fan of him. I couldn't even believe it. He's just like a little bitty dude. You're Victor Cruz and people are walking past you left and right. And I'm 2 Chainz and I need security ...