How the Cover to 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne’s ‘ColleGrove’ Was Created

To see more from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, check out @hairweavekiller and @liltunechi on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Your eyes, as the old saying goes, give you away. A cursory glance at the striking, starkly beautiful cover of 2 Chainz’s (@hairweavekiller) new album, ColleGrove, seems to reveal a photo of the rapper. Look a little closer, however. The face is 2 Chainz’s, but the tattoos — notably, the command to “Fear God” etched in cursive over the delicate, paper-thin skin of the eyelids — are all Lil Wayne.

“When it hit me, I thought it was the dopest idea in the world!” 2 Chainz says, his voice rising with excitement. “I told a few people and was like, ‘That’s not lame, right, if I put his tats on my face?’ If you notice, the album cover doesn’t have the title on it. I thought that would just say everything.”

The cover, shot by Jonathan Mannion (@jonathanmannion), does just that. Though the album is the first full-length collaborative project of 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne (@liltunechi), it brings their relationship, which reaches back almost 15 years, full circle. In 2007, when 2 Chainz was known as Tity Boi and half of the group Playaz Circle, Wayne memorably appeared on and boosted the profile of their debut single, “Duffle Bag Boy.”

“Wayne is my brother, my friend, I got him on speed dial. I have to slap myself to realize that sometimes. So many things that took place in ‘07 and ’08 have really changed my family’s life. He’s one of the main reasons why I’m in the game,” he says. “It’s rare to get that kind of friendship out of your peers in this rap game today.”

It’s also rare to get two stars of 2 Chainz and Wayne’s magnitude physically together for a photo shoot, so Jonathan had to improvise a little. “I set up a portable studio behind [Wayne’s] trailer on the set of ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.’ With 2 Chainz, I shot him about two weeks before that, in a studio in Los Angeles,” he says. “It was me and a retoucher. I was like, it really has to look like these tattoos sink into his face as if they’re his own.”

The title ColleGrove is a nod to the two rapper’s humble beginnings — 2 Chainz’s College Park, Georgia, and Wayne’s Hollygrove neighborhood in New Orleans. It’s a bond, 2 Chainz says, that brings them together even more deeply than simply being Southerners.

“That’s ghetto to ghetto. That’s the common denominator,” he says. “I feel like everybody that comes from a certain area and reaches a certain goal has that little butterfly tingle in your stomach that, you know, we made it.”

Beyond that, he says, the album is about paying respect to one of his favorite rappers. It’s often endearing to witness adult male friendship, but hearing a famous rapper wax poetic about another is even more charming.

“Wayne actually moved the culture. I just felt like that had to be acknowledged. I just felt it was a cool thing for me to do,” he says. “We have a living legend on our hands. We should always try to give somebody their roses while they can smell them. It’s too late at the funeral.”

—Rebecca Haithcoat for Instagram @music