On November 7, as young America celebrated the re-election of Barack Obama with gifs and tweets, one of the more memorable commemorative images passed around the internet was a Photoshopped picture of 2 Chainz, the loud, bawdy rapper who became one of 2012’s breakout stars despite being old enough to run for president himself. In the doctored photo, Obama’s face is superimposed on the necklace-adorned body of the MC formerly known as Tity Boi, with the caption “#2TERMZ.”
Two months later, Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps looks dapper in a tuxedo, with untinted eyeglasses and his long dreads neatly pulled back, as he stands onstage at Sidney Harman Hall, the home of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. “Doing my thing on the charts is one thing, but to be getting honored on another avenue, it just feels like a blessing,” he says onstage, after receiving an award for his work with the voter-mobilization campaign Respect My Vote. This is the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball, one of the dozens of balls being held before Obama’s inauguration ceremony the next morning. Tickets are $500 a head, or twice as much for VIP access; dress code is strict black tie.
Inaugural balls are the essence of presidential aristocracy, one of the moments when our young democracy nods to the pomp and circumstance of the monarchies this nation was built on rebelling against. [...]