Rap or Go to the League
(Def Jam ***)
In the mid-1990s when he was known as Tauheed Epps, 2 Chainz played two years of college basketball for Alabama State University. And although he never averaged more than three points per game, that does give him more legit hoop cred than most rappers who pepper verses with references to their NBA pals. That might explain his relationship with LeBron James, the Los Angeles Laker hip-hop fan and nascent entertainment mogul who executive-produced ROGTTL, 2 Chainz’s fifth and best album. “NCAA,” which argues college athletes deserve to get paid, is the only song that concerns itself chiefly with sports, but James was involved in song selection and seeing to it that the scene-stealing rapper put his best foot forward with consistency. Which he does, alongside an impressive list of collaborators. The album opens with 2 Chainz dispensing fatherly advice with the aid of Philadelphia soul singer Marsha Ambrosius on “Forgiven,” and other standout features come courtesy of Young Thug, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, and Travis Scott. — Dan DeLuca
Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3
(Aimless/Thirty Tigers ***½)
The title of Todd Snider’s new album comes from the recording location: Johnny Cash’s studio outside Nashville. Snider had recorded still-unreleased material there before, which apparently accounts for the "Vol. 3.”
Snider is capable of some pretty raucous rock, but this time, he’s in troubadour mode. It’s essentially just him and his guitar and harmonica, and in one instance a banjo, with Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires providing occasional background vocals.
It’s all quintessential Snider. He can be the topical folkie whose cutting observations are delivered with smart-aleck humor, as on “Talking Reality Television Blues” and “A Timeless Response to Current Events” (Refrain: “Ain’t that some bulls-.”) But like John Prine, for whose label he once recorded, he can also be poignant and empathetic and floor you with flashes of down-home profundity: “It seems like day after day goes by like nothing is ever going to change / And just like overnight it’s like it ain’t never going to be the same.”
On “Working on a Song,” a meta-meditation about the creative process, Snider muses, “Maybe you’ve been working on a song too long." It hints at the thought and craft that are behind the shaggy persona of the self-styled dope-smoking hippie. But it also reaffirms his sure instinct for when a song is ready — even one about being unable to finish said song. — Nick Cristiano
With Reed Foehl, 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. $22 in advance, $25 day of show, $35 seated. 610-649-8389, ardmoremusic.com
Still on My Mind
It’s been two decades since Dido released her best-selling debut, No Angel, and six years since her last album, but little has changed with Still on My Mind, the British singer’s fifth. Her voice is comforting, languid and ruminative, a burnished, slightly breathy alto that usually rides just behind the beats. And those beats — courtesy of her brother Rollo Armstrong of the band Faithless, with whom she produced the album — often recall the trip-hop that made her famous (but not the hip-hop that jump-started her career when Eminem sampled her on “Stan”).