I am immune to a lot of things but self-doubt isn't one of them.
Unsure of what to expect and/or how to ingest this piece, and hearing people go as far as to compare him to the late, great Notorious B.I.G., I delved into Rick Ross's latest effort to explore just why he's been hyped up enough to become our rapper du jour. Borrowing the nickname of Italian mobster John Gotti (or stealing, if you ask the Gotti family), the self-proclaimed biggest boss that we've seen thus far remains linguistically stationary on Teflon Don
as he dishes out some of his best triumphant boasting and vainglorious prattle we've heard to date.
The laughably-titled opener "I'm Not a Star"
is what first impacts the ear when throwing on the album. Laughable because he denies being a paramount figure - all the while, he spews irony all over the track with lines such as, "If I died today, remember me like John Lennon/ bury the Louise, I'm talkin' all brown linen/ Make all bitches tattoo my logo on they titty/ Put a statue of a nigga in the middle of the city." Warning to Ross: Actually think before you spit.
On the follow-up Jay-Z
-assisted track, "Free Mason"
, where Jigga cleverly dodges possible ties to Freemasonry and Illuminati while reminding us that he's still one of the best to ever do it, Ross spits some of the most basic, Soulja Boy-esque couplets heard so far this year - "My top back like JFK/They wanna push my top back like JFK/So I JFK, joined forces with the kings and we ate all day"
, "I think I may need goggles/All my bottles sparkle"
, "I'm thinking money, every moment thinking money/I bust a nut and then i'm back to thinking money"
- so basic that one could easily mistake them for the nonsensical rambling of Mr. Crank Dat himself. Not quite sure if its that he knows his lane lyrically and is staying in it, or if he just fails at putting forth any vigorously real effort to substantially impress listeners due his kingly indolence. Whatever the case may be - the result is him coming off as a lyrical amateur in the rap world throughout the album.
The album's third cut, "Tears of Joy", shows Ross squandering the most painfully clear opportunity to astound us with deep lyrical prowess and substantial content. After the 60 second Huey P. Newton sample and after Cee-Lo Brown
, who caters to the song's chorus, appeases ears with his soulful aural assault, Ross then had a chance to put down the cigar and give us his point of view on some cartilaginous socio-political subjects -- nevertheless, surprise [heavy sarcasm], he transforms the song into a track full of him fucking hoes and swimmin' in ice, while subduing it around cheap name drops of Emmett Till and Bobby Seale, and his usual repetition of consecutive filler-lines; "But the way i'm getting this money niggas can't keep up/ You niggas can't keep up"
, "Ice skater a lil' later might let me fuck/ Damn, she might let me fuck"
. Redundancy of flow and 'content' becomes so much of a problem, that almost every one of his verses on every song is interchangeable and the aboveboard 'BOSS' gimmick, which seems to be his refuge from the foreseen debunked drug lord shtick, gets exhausting once the fifth track rolls in - only to be followed by the Ne-Yo
-laced "Magnificent" rehash, "Super High"
. Are you yawning yet?
At this point in my first play-through, I'm scanning the remaining songs in the queue to calculate how much longer I'd be sitting through this album when I noticed something - every single one of the remaining tracks contains guest features. As I scroll to the top of the playlist on my T-Mobile Android Google MyTouch 3G Slide, I notice that aside from the album opener, every single track has Ross alongside a guest. Rick Ross proves, for the fourth album in a row, that he is unable to convene an album together if he isn't filling the brim with an all-star cast(which includes Erykah Badu
, Trey Songz
on the roster this time around) that overshadows its host - that is, until the second half of the album where the featured guest roles seemingly become as lazy and anemic as Ross' (à la Drake
, where he refrains from rapping entirely), possibly either to match his molasses-type flowing style or to avoid outdoing him. The guest spots, though, are one of the main ingredients used to spice up the album. Without Kanye West
and his notable throwback Late Registration-styled verse on the album's third single "Live Fast, Die Young"
, not even the busy production provided by No I.D. and Kanyeezy himself could save the track from the varying degrees of dullness that haunted each one of Mr. Ross' bars. Actually, the beat outshining Ross is probably what makes his contribution to the song so insignificant.
On a lighter note, one of Ross' strong spots is when he takes his overtly kingpin-ish braggadocio and memorable one-liners over a heavy-hitting instrumental such as the one heard in "MC Hammer"
...or is to "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"
?? The production of both tracks, along with Ross' mundane flow, are too similar to tell apart - but Ross' witiness and uber-catchy phrases in the latter (as well as the absence of an uber-minimal Gucci Mane
verse) makes up for where its predecessor lacks. You can't listen to the Styles P
-assisted cut without the first set of bars getting stuck in your head - "I think i'm Big Meech; Larry Hoover!"
. Noticably, one of Ross's greatest tools is still his presence. Even when his lyrics can't get the job done, his persona is big enough to handle whichever(well, almost whichever) heavy beat is thrown his way. One his few saving graces throughout this album is his selection of cinematic production that makes each track feel like a power celebration - ones only a real boss can throw. The problem is - his presence overshadows his lyrics far too often.
Another area where Ross struggles is choruses - the part of a song in which Deputy Ross can never seem to successfully cuff to save his badge. Every time he does a hook, they're hard to differentiate from the verses, showing his dire lack of diversity. The one exception to this rule of thumb is in the chorus of the album closer, "All The Money In The World"
, where Ross has no business being. Here he sings - no, that wasn't a typo...he sings - line for line with Raphael Saadiq
, lead vocalist of the 90's favorite new jack swing/R&B group, Tony! Toni! Toné!. NEWFLASH: If you can't sing - don't. But I guess he makes up for his eardrum-wrenching singing vocals when he steps away from his bossy vaunt and dishes out two full verses of substantive and meaningful lyrics. Congrats, Rozay. It only took you the entire album.
Now, the issue is no longer whether he may or may not have touched some white in his lifetime. The current issue is whether or not he can bring forth a good album without hiding his apparent lyrical impairment behind a DJ Khaled-esque track listing or without riding his signature(I guess) Tony Montana/Miami Vice dynamic almost into the realm of provocativeness. We'll see what happens in the future. But as far as now - Rick Ross is one of the many rappers trapped behind their stereotypical regional rap-stamped tropes, unable to develop themselves into progressively transforming manifestations. As far as the album - there is too much repetition present. Its too predictable. Has too little substance. No real direction. There was a concept, but its one we've seen Ross run into the ground for years now. There is nothing deep about this album but his voice. As far as the Biggie comparisons - nothing about Rick Ross can be compared to rap's lyrical messiah other than being black and obese.
I'm immune to a lot of things but self-doubt isn't one of them. Unsure of what to expect and/or how to ingest this piece, I can now safely say it was exceeded by its own hype machine currently in transit; not dissimilar to any number of rap albums in recent years. 2.6/5
I think i'm Big Meech,