Published on March 4th, 2014 | by Boman12l0
Rick Ross Mastermind [Review]
There has not been this much uncertainty surrounding a Rick Ross album since 2009’s Deeper Than Rap. Ross was embedded in a very public beef with 50 Cent and perhaps worst of all, was exposed as a former correctional officer. There were many questions about Ross viability at market and whether not his current struggles would cut his rising career short. In the end Deeper Than Rap would be a turning point for Ross. It would clement his status as a superstar and by the time Telfon Don release a year later, Ricky Rozey was arguably one of the top three guys in the game.
Five years later, Ross finds himself in a similar position. Instead of battling 50 Cent, Ross is fighting to recover from another PR fiasco, this time stemming from poor lyrical choices implying the use of a date rape drugs on females. Just as worrying, fans appear burnt out. After a lackluster solo effort and another disappointing MMG complication album; plus, none of Ross’ prerelease singles have gained any momentum on Billboard. Once again Ross’ marketability is being called into question. The untouchable Maybach empire is looking vulnerable. Mastermind need to succeed both financially and creativity or we might start to the crumbling of another Hip-hop empire.
It’s possible Ross knows this himself and in truth there are a lot of similarities between Mastermind and Deeper Than Rap. The first tracks on both albums open with slight jabs at 50 cent; more importantly, he approaches each album with a quality control unseen in the previous two efforts. His real world problems, he brushes off, taking selects parts of them and incorporating into his wild narrative. Yes its still Rick Ross, the fictional drug dealer and crime lord, but me add enough new elements of Mastermind it remove feeling of staleness that make God Forgives an uneventful listen.
Instead of trying to match or outdo the monstrous sounds of what was done previously, Ross and crew switch things up. The Sizzla and Mavado infused “Mafia Music III” filled with dance hall sirens, flex bombs and shots fired while the bass line sways to the beat. “BLK & WHT” sounds as if it was scooped right from Mannie Fresh’s Cash Money play book. “The Devil is a lie” features some trap tapping on top of explosive horn blowing like a siren. Everything still sound expensive as hell, maybe not as grandiose as Teflon Don, but Ross’ production is still reserved for people that lose six figures in taxes alone a year.
There has been much discussion surrounding “Nobody”, Ross’ tribute/imagining of Biggie Small’s Life After Death classic “Your Nobody (Till Someone Kills You)” featuring Diddy and French Montanta . Ross takes Biggie’s flow perfectly and put his own spin on the track by incorporating his own fiction and near death experience with last year’s gang shoot. Biggie isn’t the only one Ross is saluting, using ODB’s “shame on a nigga” on “What a Shame” shouting out J Dilla and flipping the same Billy Cobham “Heather” sample Souls of Mischief used for “93’ Till Infinity” on “Thug Cry” which also features Lil Wayne most coherent verse in years. Ross even finds time for some somber moments with The Weeknd on “In Vein.”
While there are still features on a majority of the track, Mastermind come across leaner than Ross’ previous effort. Is probably because the guest knew there was more at stake this time. The mumbling Jay that bored listeners on “3 Kings” is nowhere to be found on “The Devil is a Lie”. Instead Jay brought back much of the energy that made many of their previous collaborations so exciting. Jeezy has a monster of a verse on the thunderous Mill Will I Made It produced “War Ready.” However it is the heavenly, Betty Wright infused “Sanctified” feature Big Sean and Kanye West that seals the show. The whole track is structured around couplets that build to a expansive soulful number.
In the end Mastermind is a return to grace for Rick Ross. The stumbles of the last album have been ironed out the quality control has returns. Ross add something fresh with a variety of flows and switches up his soundscape enough that Mastermind can stand aside Ross’ best works. Only time will tell if audience has truly grown tire of Ross or is all his PR troubles are catching up to him.