Monday, January 2, 2017

The Rick Ro$$ Project: Boss of all Bosses


Yes loyal reader, you're reading this right, a Rick Ross Project. On Wayne's blog? Say it ain't so, lol!!! You're on the right blog. Now, I know I've talked about this on the blog before, so with that said, I'll go into the bit of backstory before we head into the project itself. When "Hustlin" and "Push It" were in heavy rotation on radio and TV back in 2006-2007, I wasn't too impressed with what I had heard honestly (I mean I thought those songs, and Ross specifically, were ok, nothing more). Then, the T-Pain featured "The Boss" came and it was right around that time when I heard the rumors that he was a Correctional Officer in Florida prior to his hip hop career. Now, this is where it started for me. At first, when the photos surfaced online, he denied it was him, but when the pressure got tight (usually it does in situations like this), he admitted that it was him. I did often say that had he admitted to everything without the denials, I would've felt a different type of way about him at this point, but for a long time, I had nothing positive to say about him because it took the pressure for him to admit the truth. Continuing on, as he continued to blow up over the next few years, I had what some would call a "love/hate relationship" with the guy, still calling him out on his past but at the same time acknowledging the good music when I heard it. It wasn't until last year when I finally eased up on him, so much so that I ended up copping his discography in one fell swoop. So, what changed? How could I go from being musically against this guy in every form to accepting him? Those questions and more will be answered throughout this project! I'll be covering all of his studio albums from 2006's "Port Of Miami" to 2015's "Black Market." As of this post, his 9th album, "Rather You Than Me", has yet to drop (it's slated for a release in 2017), however, if it comes out prior to completion of this project, it'll be added in real time. Also, one caveat: I will not be covering any of the "Self Made" compilations or his mixtapes. Speaking of the latter, I'll talk about those briefly, but they won't be a major part of the project. I'll also rank and rate each album throughout the project as well, which will begin after album number two. So, to begin, we head back to 2006 with Ross' debut, "Port Of Miami."






Release date: August 8, 2006


Before I begin the project with Ross' Def Jam debut, I got a brief story on this one. In 2010, I listened to this album twice and even though I liked a couple of songs, it wasn't impressive to me overall (and those were objective listens too). So, 6 years after the fact, will it hit me on the third listen or will my opinions remain the same? We shall see.



"PORT OF MIAMI" GUESTS
Dre
Akon
Mario Winans
Rodney
JRock
Lyfe Jennings
Lloyd
Jay-Z
Young Jeezy
Triple C's
Lil Wayne
Brisco


"PORT OF MIAMI" PRODUCTION
J.R. Rotem
Cool & Dre
The Runners
Akon
Giorgio Tuinfort
C. Fournier
Kenny "K. Luck" Luckett
Jazze Pha
Mario Winans
Miykal Snoody
DJ Toomp
JRock
Big Reese
Jasper Cameron
J. Venom
DJ Khaled





1. "Intro"
This K. Fox led intro leads us right into.....


2. "Push It"



First off, mad props to J.R. Rotem for the ill sampling of Paul Engemann's "Scarface (Push It to the Limit)" and of course with it being from "Scarface", my #1 favorite movie of all time, the connection is instant. This was the album's second single and in addition to the clear influence from "Scarface", as noted by genius.com, Ross "demonstrates his rise in wealth and position by doing what he has to do to make it to the top" and after putting in work for 12 years at this point, the term "push it" is more than applicable in Ross' case, definitely a rags to riches type story. Good song.
*4 out of 5*



3. "Blow"

When it comes to designer jeans, bottles of fine wine, nice cars, you know that means "more money to blow" for Ross and the crew, nothing more to it than that. And trust me, as we continue through this project, this will NOT be the last time we hear about money and ALL the things that come with it. Continue to stay tuned, lol.
*3.5 out of 5*


4. "Hustlin"



"Every day I'm hustlin!"


Not only was this the album's first single, it was also the song that led to Ross' huge deal with Def Jam. Back in 2006 going into 2007, you really couldn't go anywhere without hearing this song and I'm sure it was SUCH an anthem in Miami, and probably still is. Admittedly, some of what Ross says can be taken with a grain of salt, such as the claims of "dealing cocaine" and "knowing the real Noriega", but when you get past that, you can't deny the motivation this song provides in terms of "hustlin", especially when you put that motivation to work in a positive light. I also can't forget about The Runners' thumping, organ laden production that Ross simply excels on. Dope song here.
*4 out of 5*



5. "Cross That Line"

Ross, along with "hook assistance" from Akon (man, the latter had a knack for being featured on hard songs like this), comes off as one serious man with a recognizable gangster tone throughout. If you "cross that line", there will be consequences.
*4 out of 5*



6. "I'm Bad"

Just when I thought Ross was coming with a Miami style remake of LL Cool J's classic of the same name, he totally goes in a different direction almost as soon as the first verse begins. Ok, lol. A decent, apply titled song here, all things considered. (I must say that K. Luck's production was something that would've fit DMX more than Ross, respectively.)
*3.5 out of 5*



7. "Boss"

Everything that Ross does, and I do mean everything, lol, he does it like a boss, nothing more or less.
*2 out of 5*


8. "For Da Low"

Jazze Pha made some good tracks in his day, but had he NOT talked on any of his beats, EVER, I really would've been cool with that. Hey, I'm sure with all the paper Ross had at this point, he could cop whatever he wanted with the most ultimate of deals. 
*3 out of 5*


9. "Where My Money (I Need That)"

Everything about this particular song would suggest that it was somewhat of a prequel to "Hustlin", especially when it came to The Runners' production, which again came with the organs but a little less thumping than the aforementioned "Hustlin." 
*3.5 out of 5*


10. "Get Away"

Funny story: In an area I used to live in around the time this album dropped, my next door neighbor used to bump this often. With Mario Winans on the hook, this was a mellow joint for the ladies, not too soft for the fellas though. I like it.
*4 out of 5*



11. "Hit U From The Back"

Look at the TITLE of this and tell me you DON'T know who this song is specifically catered to and what it's about, I dare you, lol. EIther way, I didn't care too much for this one. Let's continue on.
*2 out of 5*


12. "White House"

Ross is in total control of the scene as he raps from the perspective of "callin the shots" in his own residence, a Miami White House that is. The underrated DJ Toomp comes through with a pretty good beat, but overall I feel this song could've been better than what we got, especially if Ross would've took the storytelling route.
*3 out of 5*


13. "Pots and Pans"

It seemed like Ross was taking a more introspective tone starting with the first verse, but the remainder of the song took the usual turn, incorporating the money/drug/cars/women talk. Had Ross continued with the introspection throughout this song (along with a better hook too), the results would've been different.
*3 out of 5*


14. "It's My Time"

Ok, The Runners came through with some more pretty good production and Lyfe Jennings brought a dose of soul to the hook. On the other hand, Ross' flow was so uninspired here that you'd have somewhat of a hard time believing him making a case that "it was his time", and while that may be true in some respects looking back and considering many songs before and since with the same theme, this one misses the mark.
*2.5 out of 5*


15. "Street Life"

"Ain't nothin' but the street life, that's money, cars, hoes, it's the only life I chose." These lines from the hook tells you all you need to know about this Lloyd assisted song, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*


16. "Hustlin' (Remix)
If you ask me, this remix should've closed the album. In addition, around this time in hip hop, usually you could tell how hot a song was if a remix came afterwards, and that's what we get here. Ross links up with Jeezy and Jay-Z for this one, with no shortage of braggadocios lines to be found.
*4 out of 5*



17. "It Ain't a Problem"

This one was more or less a showcase for Young Breed and Torch, representing Triple C's, whose verses were about what you would expect from them.
*2.5 out of 5*


18. "I'm a G"

Again, we have heard songs like this before (and in this case done better). Ross and guests Lil Wayne and Brisco bring nothing new or impressive to the table (and even though I'm not a Wayne fan, he's had better verses than this in his day). Forgettable.
*2 out of 5*


19. "Prayer"

12 years in the making, Ross, in his own way, not only stresses the importance of prayer, but also emphasizes how prayer itself is what led to the success for himself and others around him. A fairly good way to close the album (even if it may be deemed blasphemous by some), but I'm deducting .5. Why? Well, I feel in ANY song where you're talking to God or it's some form of a dedication to God, not matter what the case is, artists should never use curse words in these songs. 
*3.5 out of 5*




Well, six years later, I find myself liking this one SLIGHTLY more, but that's not saying much. You can listen to Ross here and tell that even though this was his debut and he already had two hit singles under his belt, there still was room for improvement across the board, specifically in terms of his delivery and the production. Would that be recognized and realized when we head into 2008's "Trilla?" That question will be answered. Overall when it comes to "Port Of Miami", the true highlights here are both version of "Hustlin", "Push It", "Prayer", "Get Away" and "Cross That Line", everything else was rather hit and miss for the most part. It has been Certified Platinum as of July 2016. 3 stars.





Release date: March 11, 2008


"TRILLA" GUESTS
Mannie Fresh
T-Pain
R. Kelly
EbonyLove
Trey Songz
Nelly
Avery Storm
Jay-Z
Lil Wayne
Young Jeezy
Trick Daddy
Triple C
Brisco
Rodney


"TRILLA" PRODUCTION
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
Mannie Fresh
J.R. Rotem
The Runners
Bink!
Drumma Boy
Elvis "Blac Elvis" Williams
Toomp
Jean "J Rock" Borges
DJ Nasty & LVM



1. "Trilla Intro"

"I'm paranoid, it's too much paraphernalia/Public prosecutors got me preparin' for failure/Picture pimp, picture me pimpin' the pen/Wit all these pretty scriptures that I can pimp wit my pen"


Backed by some nice, thumping production by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. Leauge (referred to as the League from now on and we'll hear MUCH more from them during this project), Ross is a "made man" in true trilla form on this intro (and yes, musically, 2 years after "Port Of Miami", Ross is a made man here). Again, I normally don't rate intros, but I'm making an exception here. Very good start.
*4 out of 5*



2. "All I Have In This World"

Although Mannie was tolerable on the hook, I could've done without his words to start the song (and I had/have those same issues with Jazze Pha, DJ Paul & Juicy J, Lil Jon, etc, they DON'T need to talk on the songs they produce, just saying). Continuing on, this Scarface influenced track found Ross very energetic over Mannie's production and one song in, he sounds more inspired than anything on "Port Of Miami." 
*4 out of 5*



3. "The Boss"



If I was introducing someone to Ross for the first time, this J.R. Rotem produced banger is actually the song I would mention first, as opposed to "Hustlin" and "Push It", respectively. Complete with T-Pain on the hook, himself making noise at this point, I feel this is one of Ross' signatures songs (surprisingly the album's second single) and I remember it receiving heavy radio and TV play at the time. This song exemplified Ross' key status as a "boss" and you couldn't miss it if you tried. Tight song.
*5 out of 5*

"Cause it's just another day in the life of the goddamn boss!"



4. "Speedin"



The only reason I can see this being the album's lead single was the R. Kelly feature and looking back, I don't ever recall hearing this song on the radio. And another question: why did Kelly have to have a brief verse during his guest spots with hip hop artists when it clearly wasn't needed? Him being on the hook was enough and even then I would put someone else in that spot or just not have him featured at all. Whew, let me bring it back, almost went into a rant there, lol. Big cars, big cribs and the like would have you living a fast life considering how those things would mark their territory on your bank account(s), lol. Decent song, could've done without the Kelly feature though.
*3 out of 5*


5. "We Shinin"

Ross sends this one out to those shinin' just like him. And speaking of shinin', Ross indeed shines over the Tower of Power sampled ("Love Bug") production provided by the ever underrated Bink! Ross was feeling it on this one.
*4 out of 5*



6. "Money Make Me Come"

I'm not sure if the fellas would like this all that much, lol, because it's really catered to the ladies. I'll say this as well: the theme that "money makes the woman come" is two fold: the dollars will make them come, especially thousands and/or millions of them (Ross would allude to this a few times) and I do believe that the mere sight of lots of money would have a woman orgasm on the spot, just saying. When they say "money make me come", that's no exaggeration.
*3 out of 5*


7. "DJ Khaled Interlude"
Words from the man himself, in true DJ Khaled fashion.


8. "This Is The Life"

Genius.com put it best when they described this song as Ross "glorifying his exquisite lifestyle." That says it all right there.
*3 out of 5*


9. "This Me"

"Maybachs were a dream now it's all real/It's hard to get sleep layin' next to 5 mil"


Ross makes it clear that one of many things he does well is get money. Hey, you can't knock the hustle.
*3.5 out of 5*


10. "Here I Am"



Money talks and bull... well, you know the rest, lol, and the audience is the ladies for this one, complete with some mellow production from Drumma Boy (who usually comes with thumping beats) and Avery Storm on the hook (Nelly's verse didn't really add anything to this).
*3 out of 5*


11. "Maybach Music"

"Life's a bitch, so the whole world is mine" -Jay

"I'm like G Rap, wit better transportation/On the road to the riches, reach my final destination/And the lear, closer to Aaliyah/Say a prayer, hope to see her when I disappear from here" -Jay

"True story, my closet is like two stories/Straight to the happy ending cause I don't do stories/Shawn Corey, real rap/The Maybach is bananas, peel back" -Jay


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first installment of the dazzling, WELL produced series known as "Maybach Music!" I also believe this was the first time the "MMG girls", Jessica Gomes and Cheyenne Tozzi, were presented and gave birth to the familiar "Maybach Music" audio clip, which would become a familiar catchphrase, if you will, of Ross' crew (later named as the Maybach Music Group) and wpuld also follow Ross and his artists when they made guest appearances outside the crew. As for the song itself, it's smooth and incredible, definitely the best song on the album. Ross comes with some good lines of his own, but man, Jay simply owns this one in such a slick yet confident manner. GREAT stuff here, featuring some equally great chemistry on display with Ross and Jay, and I can only imagine how GOOD it does sound in a Maybach.
*5 out of 5*



12. "Billionaire"

"If it ain't 'bout cash, I don't really care/I'm straight 'bout cash, I'm a hood billionaire." Well, those lines from the hook tells the lavish story of this League produced joint. Speaking of which, Ross really excelled over the League's production and that continued to be highlighted as we proceed.
*4 out of 5*


13. "Luxury Tax"

"You gotta pay for this" is theme here featuring a collection of what some would perceive as high priced talent. Trick Daddy seemed a bit out of place alongside Ross, Jeezy and even Wayne, who did drop a good verse all things considered, but much to my surprise he didn't bring the song down. Also, much props to the League for the lush production, equipped with a sample courtesy of David Oliver's "I Wanna Write You A Love Song."
*4 out of 5*



14. "Reppin My City"

Ross, Triple C's and Brisco rep their city to the fullest over some decent J Rock production. Triple C's appearance here was much better than what they did on "It Ain't a Problem" from the "Port Of Miami" album.
*3.5 out of 5*


15. "I'm Only Human"

This was a good way to close the album, not anti-climatic at all. My issue is that in the first verse, Ross seems to be heading down the introspective route, reflecting on his past with mom and dad, however, he doesn't sustain that for the rest of the song and again, had he done that, the song would've been much better. 
*3.5 out of 5*



Ross' sophomore album was worlds better than "Port Of Miami" and if his first album was (to be) seen as his "rise to power", he emerged as a "made man" on album number two, powered by the force known as Def Jam and a hot hit single in 2008 ("The Boss"). He didn't reach his full potential as of yet, but man he was getting there. The production was indeed nicer and more crisp while lyrically it was more of the same from him (of course) but he was "comfortably inspired." The album moved 198,000 units in its first week, later becoming Certified Gold in excess of 700,000 units sold to date. Things would only proceed to get bigger (and better) for Ross as we head into album number three. Overall, a strong 3.5 star rating for "Trilla."



RICK ROSS ALBUM RATINGS AND RANKINGS
1. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
2. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)





Release date: April 21, 2009


"DEEPER THAN RAP" GUESTS
T-Pain
Lil Wayne
Kanye West
John Legend
Magazeen
Nas
K.C.
The-Dream
Avery Storm
Robin Thicke
Foxy Brown
Gunplay
Ne-Yo
Trina
Latonya "Tone Trezure" Givens


"DEEPER THAN RAP" PRODUCTION
The Inkredibles
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
C. "Tricky" Stewart
The Runners
BIGG D
Drumma Boy
Toomp
Kevin "Khao" Cates




1. "Mafia Music"

"Proof's in the pudding and that baking soda taken/Paper that I'm makin' got her takin' photos naked"


Man, as far as I'm concerned, this EXCELLENT opener is by far Ross' best song ever. Lyrically, he was on point here (all bars with no hook) and I feel even his detractors would give him props on this one, and please, PLEASE don't get me started on the production. The Inkredibles provided Ross with such a TIGHT, bass driven track, complete with SICK organs (I LOVE the organs here plus it sounds NICE in the ride at night). This song is also notable for apparently sparking his long standing feud with 50 Cent. Normally I would break this down, but considering HOW it started, I'll just move on and say Ross threw a not so subliminal shot and didn't back down either. (I never do this, but if you have some time on your hands, Google "50 Cent-Rick Ross beef" and make your own judgments.) I don't mean to overstate how dope this song is, but man, it sets the RIGHT tone for the album. 
*5 out of 5*

"Homicide is humor and nigga you lookin' funny/Women love to stare cause they know they see the money"



2. "Maybach Music 2"

Yes indeed, this is the second installment in the dazzling, WELL produced "Maybach Music" series, featuring T-Pain, Kanye West and Lil Wayne along for the elegant ride. All involved, and yes that includes Wayne, who drops a rather good verse, play their roles well. Nothing more to say outside of the song really speaks for itself and the "Maybach Music" series is "2 for 2."
*5 out of 5*



3. "Magnificent"



"I'm the magnificent wit a sensational style/Far from being shallow cause she caught me wit a smile/Try to figure out my style, baby that'll take a minute/But if all we got is time, you can't be actin' timid"


Props to Ross for the use of the "I'm the magnificent" line, courtesy of Special Ed's "I'm the Magnificent", and additional props to the League for how SMOOTH they reworked Angela Bofill's "Gotta Make It Up To You" and John Legend for an equally smooth hook. Even though you couldn't miss the the flaunting of Ross' riches if you tried, this joint here was really for the ladies at the end of the day, but the fellas could rock to it too.
*4 out of 5*

"Wear red all the time but really I'm color blind/Wanna catch my attention nigga? Throw up a dollar sign"



4. "Yacht Club"

The League comes through again with a nice sample, courtesy of Johnny Pate's "El Jardia." It's a party indeed and before you can even join, "you gotta get ya stocks up." And it's not just any party, the type of parties here are catered exclusively for fine locations such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Barbados, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, etc (hence the reggae style rhythm throughout the song), all before they head back to Florida to do it again. Good song (Ross and Magazeen were feeling it here).
*4 out of 5*



5. "Usual Suspects"

"We're the usual suspects, the real definition of success." This line accurately describes this dope song, equipped with another nice Inkredibles production, featuring the one and only Nas. I'm going to comment on this (and other guests) more as we proceed with the project, but Nas and Ross have such a strong chemistry with each other that's undeniable as much as it's scary, lol, and it took me a while to realize that (during my "love/hate" phase with Ross). Great stuff here.
*5 out of 5*



6. "All I Really Want"

For fairly obvious reasons, I'm sure even at this point in 2009, Ross could have any woman he wanted, so he comes with a "what you see is what you get" vibe here all in route to scooping "his type of chick." So yes, this is another joint for the ladies, with The-Dream along for the hook.
*3 out of 5*


7. "Rich Off Cocaine"

This song is about one thing and one thing only: livin' the life and livin' it fast, not slowing down while you're on top of the world. Naw, Ross is not telling a story here, however, he sort of paints the verbal picture that sees him enjoying his success by way of pushing cocaine, if you will. Check this out, I have an interesting take on what I feel he REALLY means in a case like this, but I'll save that for the end of the project.
*4 out of 5*



8. "Lay Back"

Assisted by Robin Thicke, who was hot in 2009 (much like The-Dream was), Ross sets a "laid back" scene for the ladies on this appropriately titled song.
*3 out of 5*


9. "Murder Mami"

Listening to this, I got the feeling that Ross and Foxy Brown were trying to channel the "Bonnie & Clyde" style that Foxy had with Jay-Z, circa 1996-1999. The song itself is decent, but they fell a little short here, plus I didn't care too much for the accent Foxy used. 
*3.5 out of 5*


10. "Gunplay"

You would think that the title of this song and its guest of the same name would be a showcase of sorts for him. We don't get that here and quite frankly, Gunplay's verse didn't set the world on fire. The attempts at keepin' it gangsta were realized here, just more could've been done with the concept.
*3 out of 5*


11. "Bossy Lady"

Whereas the prior song for the ladies ("All I Really Want") saw Ross trying to determine the type of chick he wanted/desired, this Ne-Yo assisted song has Ross describing what "that one lady" can expect if she's on his arm for the world to see.
*3.5 out of 5*


12. "Face"

Well loyal reader, you know what to expect when Trina is a guest on a song. It's ok, but we have heard songs like this before and it's the one true low point on this album.
*2 out of 5*


13. "Valley Of Death"

This is such a dope song, featuring top notch production on behalf of Toomp and Kevin "Khao" Cates along with a WELL timed sample courtesy of Barry White's "I'm So Blue and You Are Too." In addition to the production, there are a few other things I like about this song: 1) he continued to thank God for his success, 2) he pretty much knew which career path he wanted to take "when he bought his first Run-DMC vinyl and 2 Live Crew cassette", and 3) in the third verse, he essentially admits to his past career as a Correctional Officer, stating that he assumed that role as a means of supporting himself and his family. Another excellent song here.
*5 out of 5*



14. "In Cold Blood"

The album closes in a hard fashion, no doubt. If "Mafia Music" saw Ross throw a shot at 50, he came back with retaliatory strikes based on 50's actions (the "Officer Ricky" videos, exposing Ross' past, etc), even including a somewhat subliminal shot at Tony Yayo in the first verse. Anti-climatic closer? No, not quite.
*4.5 out of 5*





I was recently asked by a friend, who is probably reading this project right now, "what do you think Ross' best album is?" At that time, I did mention "Deeper Than Rap" and I still stand by that pick. Now, as we continue, that may be challenged by one or two albums, but I feel Ross' third album will be the superior album. Ross not only took everything that worked on the "Trilla" album, but lyrically he was a bit more focused (even as the majority of the content centered around his fame and fortune) and he continued to show his tremendous ear for beats with the outstanding production on this album. There are a few filler tracks, but make no mistake about it, "Mafia Music" (the best song on the album), "Maybach Music 2", "Usual Suspects" and "Valley Of Death" are the supreme highlights on this VERY good album. Surprisingly enough, the sales told a different story. Even though the album debuted at #1 on the "Billboard 200" chart, moving 158,000 units in its first week, to date is has only moved 439,000 units, short of Certified Gold. Heading into 2010, Ross' star power would only continue to grow.



1. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
2. "Trilla "(3.5 stars)
3. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)





Ross wasn't the first artist (and he certainly won't be the last) to release an EP/mixtape as a prequel to an upcoming studio album, and with the May 27, 2010 release of "The Albert Anastasia EP", a buzz was definitely created for Ross' fourth album, "Teflon Don." In addition to a few exclusives, there were a few songs that would end up being included on "Teflon Don", such as three hits in the Styles P assisted "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast), "MC Hammer" and "Aston Martin Music", and with "B.M.F." already showing a major presence on the radio, Ross had some momentum on his side heading into album number four.






Release date: July 20, 2010



"TEFLON DON" GUESTS
Jay-Z
John Legend
Cee-Lo
T.I.
Jadakiss
Erykah Badu
Kanye West
Ne-Yo
Trey Songz
Diddy
Gucci Mane
Styles P
Drake
Chrisette Michele
Raphael Saadiq


"TEFLON DON" PRODUCTION
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
The Inkredibles
NO ID
Kanye West
DJ Clark Kent
The Remedy
Nate "Danja" Hills
Lex Luger
The Olympicks



1. "I'm Not A Star"

I remember really liking this 3:00 opener when I first heard it and Ross continues to excel with tight ways to begin his albums. Now, what makes this song particularly interesting is that when this album was released, Ross was one of the hottest artists in hip hop, but to let him tell it here, lol, "he's not a star." In fact, he likely viewed himself, then and now, as an "anti-star", even taking into account his status. It almost sounds like a song that would make you think, but it's not deep like that. This is Ross in his lavish glory. (I also can't forget Ross channeling Master P a bit with the "Uhhhs" in the background.)
*4 out of 5*



2. "Free Mason"

Man, what an excellent song this is. Not only is the Inkredibles production almost epic in nature complimenting the song, but Ross and Jay show their strong chemistry again by emerging with one of the deepest songs you'll ever hear on a Rick Ross album. Ross comes with a historical perspective with his verse, however, Jay really steals the show here as he, in my humble opinion, further debunked and dismissed any and all claims that he "worships the devil as part of the Illuminati." I mean, Jay's verse, and this song in general, must be heard to be appreciated.
*5 out of 5*




3. "Tears Of Joy"

Genius.com described this song best when they said "Ross discusses his improbable rise from the depths of poverty to success." There's also a real hint of "musical humbleness" as you listen to this song, and with Cee-Lo providing such a soulful hook and NO ID's VERY good production (backed by a Willie Hutch sample, "Hospital Prelude of Love Theme"), this was a winner.
*4.5 out of 5*




4. "Maybach Music III"

And here we have the third installment of the dazzling, WELL produced "Maybach Music" series and yes, it's just as dope and smooth as the previous two. I don't think I've ever heard T.I. sound so smooth on a track, Jadakiss brought the D-Block style to the table, but still smooth with it, Ms. Erykah Badu laid down some nice vocals and when I say Ross closes this in a supreme fashion, he does just that. If there was a video made for this, when he says "um, cigar please", I pictured him sitting down in his office and delivering his verse the entire time from that sitting position. Also, I like how the League switched up the beat for Ross' verse, presenting such a "boss type" atmosphere, even as the song is coming to a close. Outstanding work here, 3 for 3 with the "Maybach Music" series.
*5 out of 5*



5. "Live Fast, Die Young"

The "live life to the fullest because you only have one to live" theme is ever so present on this Kanye West featured/produced joint. It's pretty good and it's no surprise to hear them talk about a full life of riches, even if said life of riches could lead to your untimely downfall if you're not careful (they don't explore the latter here, which would've added an interesting twist to the song). Speaking of Kanye (much props for his sampling of The Bar Keys' "If This World Were Mine"), I like his lines, "my outfit so disrespectful/you can go 'head and sneeze cause my presence blessed you." I could ask, like many others, what happened to Kanye, but that's a WHOLE 'nother story.
*4 out of 5*



6. "Super High"



"Fuck the marketing, look at what I'm accomplishing/I'm beatin' niggas by margins bigger than Fran Tarkenton" -Ross


The 3:46 certainly flows by when listening to this. DJ Clark Kent and The Remedy come through with SUCH a smooth sampling of Enchantment's "Silly Love Song", and again, one word to describe this song is smooth (it's also the album's first single, but I don't recall hearing this on the radio or seeing the video at all in 2010). Ross is not just high due to the stimulation of the mind, lol, he's high off "the life" and all the success and wealth that comes with it. I'm sure the materialistic talk can be cliched at times, but in Ross' case, he makes it work. The Ne-Yo feature works as well, however, this is a joint that the ladies and the fellas can vibe to with no problems. GOOD, good stuff here and I may be overrating it, but I'm going the full monty on this one.
*5 out of 5*



7. "No. 1"

Well, Ross was #1 with this album in 2010 that's for sure. This song is ok, and even though I've long been a fan of Diddy (same with Trey Songz for obvious reasons), I could've done without their verses.
*3 out of 5*


8. "MC Hammer"

Before I talk about the song itself, let me start with its guest, Gucci Mane. I've never been a fan of this guy (outside of "Wasted", but that was MOSTLY for the production) and even listening to this objectively, his verse adds NOTHING to this and I still wonder why Ross even got him on this one in the first place, so with that said, minus .5 for Gucci's verse. On the flipside, the Lex Luger produced song (remember him) was good in that Ross was comparing himself to MC Hammer, in terms of his love for women, loads of cash, nice cars, homes, clothes, etc. We all know what happened to Hammer's career when he became wealthy, let's hope Ross doesn't travel down that same path. (I'd say if you're looking for a good laugh, check out Gucci's verse, otherwise, stop the song once Ross is done with his second verse.)
*3.5 out of 5*



9. "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"



"Self made, you just affiliated/I build it from the ground up, you bought it renovated" -Ross


And going back to Lex Luger, he was the man behind the boards for this thumping hit, the album's second single, and trust me, much like "Hustlin" a few years prior, this joint was everywhere in 2010 and to this day, it still bangs. Some did take issue with the fact that Ross sort of compared himself to Big Meech and Larry Hoover, but with hindsight being 20/20, that was taken a little too seriously (it was more of an ego thing for Ross considering how big he was, no pun intended). Continuing to look back, one issue I had with this song is that when it was played on the radio, it seemed like Styles P was all but ignored for some reason, as you got the impression that it was "all about Ross, who's the other guy", but like Jada did on "Maybach Music III", the Ghost held things down with Ross on one of his biggest singles. Tight stuff.
*5 out of 5*



10. "Aston Martin Music"



The album's third single, featuring Ms. Chrisette Michele, who provided such LOVELY vocals on the hook and Drake, whom I've made no secret that I'm not a fan, but hey, even his presence didn't take away from this song (glad he didn't drop a verse, lol). I feel this song is nice for any ride and it's another one the ladies and fellas can enjoy.
*4 out of 5*



11. "All the Money in the World"

Don't let the title fool you, this is not just another song, a closing one at that, about money. Even with all the money that Ross has accumulated, past, present, and future, he won't forget about his family ("Still all the money in the world still not big enough advance/For me to turn my back on me being the man that I am"). In addition, he also takes the time to talk about his father, wishing he could be here to see his son's success and "staying focused to remain his mother's little soldier." A slightly introspective song, featuring Raphael Saadiq, and it closes the album on a very good note.
*4.5 out of 5*




(Note: On the iTunes version of this album, there was a Runners produced bonus track featuring Raekwon titled "Audio Meth." Why it wasn't included on the physical version as well is beyond me, because it's not only dope, but it features quite an ill sample of the opening portion of Mobb Deep's classic "Shook Ones Pt. II.")



Man, wow, hands down, "Teflon Don" is a 4.5 star album, no doubt about that, and not too many artists can say their 4th album was better than their first. In the midst of listening to it, I kept saying it's going to give "Deeper Than Rap" a run for its money, and even though that album has a few of my favorite Ross songs, specifically "Mafia Music", "Usual Suspects", "Maybach Music II" and "Valley Of Death", I feel "Telfon Don" is a better album overall. Lyrically Ross was on point in a wealthy manner of speaking, plus he ventured into other territory as well, showing his growth as an artist (also displayed on "Deeper Than Rap") and he continued his superb track record with his ear for beats, as the production on this album is nothing short of amazing. It also may feature a guest on every song except the opener, but everyone contributed well and even with the one lowpoint, ironically "No. 1", is not that bad all things considered. With the "Albert Anastasia" EP serving as a prequel, the backing of Def Jam, the buzz with the "BMF" single, the top notch production AND a respectable list of guests, this exceeded expectations. It debuted at #2 on the "Billboard 200" chart, moving 176,300 units in its first week, en route to Certified Gold with 724,000 units sold as of May 2012. Great job on this one and I must say, THIS is Ross' best album right here.


1. "Teflon Don" (4.5 stars)
2. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
3. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
4. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)




A few months after the release of "Telfon Don", Ross dropped this mixtape a day before Christmas, and I remember instantly downloading this one that same day. With highlights such as "Made Men", the T.I. assisted "9 Piece", "John Doe" and "Black Man's Dream" (featuring Ludacris), this one almost picks up where "Telfon Don" left off, even in a mixtape form.





Much like he did with the "Teflon Don" album, heading into his 5th album, "God Forgives, I Don't", Ross dropped a very good mixtape in the form of "Rich Forever." If this was meant to build anticipation for album number five, it did that in spades with a slew of dope songs across, a couple of which turns up on the album we're about to head into now.





"IT TOOK ME 12 YEARS TO GET ON AND SIX YEARS TO TAKE OVER." -RICKY ROZAY



Release date: July 30, 2012



"GOD FORGIVES, I DON'T" GUESTS
Dr. Dre
Jay-Z
Ne-Yo
Andre 3000
Meek Mill
Elijah Blake
Omarion
Usher
Wale
Drake
Stalley
Nas
John Legend


"GOD FORGIVES, I DON'T" PRODUCTION
Kenoe
Got Koke
Jake One
Cool & Dre
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
Cardiak
G5Kid
Young Shun
The Beat Bully
Pharrell
Reefa
Rico Love
Pierre Medor
DVLP



1. "Pray For Us"
Omar Gooding's character from the movie "Baby Boy" sends us on our way.


2. "Pirates"

I'm honestly not sure why he titled this "Pirates", when it's clear it should've been the album title when you consider the hook. At 3:26, it makes its points, nothing more or less. And props to Kenoe and Got Koke for the Mad Lads sampled production, courtesy of "I Forgot To Be Your Lover." I don't agree with him comparing himself to The Notorious BIG, just thought I'd mention that as well.
*4 out of 5*




3. "3 Kings"



Oh man, THIS apply titled banger right here. Let's start with Jake One's production, which is incredible. His beat brings such an important sound to this, considering the caliber of the artists, plus a nice sample courtesy of Crown of Glory's "I'm So Grateful (Keep In Touch)." Dre was seemingly energized, even if his verse served ONE purpose: to promote his line of headphones (and yes I did listen to this in my own pair of Beats By Dre headphones, lol), and of course Ross and Jay come with their expected good verses. I recall hearing people say that Jay's verse was not that good, however, while it's nowhere near close to being one of his best, it was still relatively good for the occasion. Dope stuff here.
*5 out of 5*



4. "Ashamed"

We have heard songs like this before, where the artist(s) in question have to come to terms with their past and how their choice of the life they lived brought them to where they are today, both good and bad. Ross' take on it is no different from other songs like this, but what makes this one stand out a bit is Cool & Dre's sampling of Wilson Pickett's "Shameless."
*4 out of 5*



5. "Maybach Music IV"

"Never question mine, my mind is so inventive/Quadrupled my net worth and threw in a few incentives"


This is the fourth installment of the dazzling, WELL produced series "Maybach Music" series, and this one flows like fine ass wine. This time around, only Ne-Yo is featured on this version and I must say when it comes to R&B vocals on a Rick Ross record, he and John Legend, just to name two, have some very good chemistry with Ross. Another notable aspect of this song is how it seamlessly blends in with the upcoming song.
*5 out of 5*



6. "Sixteen"

Oh man, this is SUCH an epic, League produced classic, yes indeed. I could go into "16" reasons as to why this song is SO good, but in the interest of time, I'll limit it, lol. 1) Ross' opening verse was good and you could sort of tell he wanted to extend his words, but he graciously allowed Andre 3000 the rest of the song to flex his superb talents, 2) speaking of Andre 3000, what can I say? Not only did he steal the show here, he all but said "to hell with 16 bars" and just went IN with such an incredible verse, complete with NICE timing and delivery. Amazing and it MUST be heard to be appreciated, and 3) the guitar breakdown at the end, by Andre, was the icing on this proverbial cake, amounting to a standout song.
*5 out of 5*



7. "Amsterdam"

I'll let Ross describe this song:

"It's based on the red light district. I kinda flipped it where being a boss you gotta get approval for a green light. I'm one of those people you can't green light. As long as I've been in this game, there's been a lot of talk, but ain't nobody stepped on these 11 and a half's. The reason being: this is the red light district, you can't move on this side."


Words from a boss right there. Another good song here, featuring quality production from Cardiak and a brief but nice homage to the Fugees in the opening verse.
*4 out of 5*




8. "Hold Me Back"



Ross' take on this song:

"That's the struggle, the angle I wanted to take on that record, once again, from somebody who may not have much, but that don't determine where you end up in the game. From struggle to triumph, as long as you stay loyal with your click and your family, you can overcome whatever. That's how I feel."


Even with the words above from Ross, we have come to a lowpoint in the album. This song is at best "ok", but it's nothing short of what we would've heard all over the radio in 2012 and even present day 2017. Let's move on.
*2.5 out of 5*


9. "911"

Ok, according to genius.com, this was Ross' ode to his favorite (red) Porsche, in that the "911 connection", if you will, was relating to the color, hence the firetruck sounds in the background. I get it, but barely. Could've done without this one.
*2 out of 5*


10. "So Sophisticated"



Ross and guest/fellow MMG member Meek Mill literally go in over some dope production provided by The Beat Bully, in such a gangstafied MMG way. And speaking of Meek, I've been back and forth about him over the years. At one point I thought he was rather hit and miss, and while he does have a song or two and a few verses here and there that I actually like, overall I'm not a fan, but I respect the hustle.
*4 out of 5*




11. "Presidential"

Two fold song here: on one end, it's Ross' ode to the Presidential Rolex watch, which I hope to own one day (lol) and equating the beauty of a fine woman to said watch. Decent song.
*3.5 out of 5*


12. "Ice Cold"

It seemed like this one was heading for a hard type sound, but with Omarion on the hook (he would later sign with MMG), it was clear that this one was aimed at the ladies. Not bad, but not great either.
*3 out of 5*


13. "Touch 'N You"



I can do without any sort of tough talk from Usher, but then again, this joint was not for me, it's for the ladies, plain and simple, and in that regard, it makes points that only the ladies would love. All things considered, this sounded more like something that would be found on an Usher album rather than a Rick Ross one, just saying.
*2 out of 5*


14. "Diced Pineapples"

Ross with a few words about this song:

"When I got out of the hospital, you know I had a seizure last year (2011), when I was leaving, the doctor told me, 'you gotta eat some more fruit, drink you some water, eat fruit and just relax for a little while.' My choice of fruit was pineapples. For the next three weeks, I woke up every morning and ate diced pineapples and I put the concept together. Drizzy (Drake) came in, as well as Wale, and it's kinda like, 'she could be my diced pineapple.' This special lady, she could be what I wake up to every morning and help me get by every day."


It's interesting to see how that unfortunate health scare led to this song, because without it, we're looking at just another song for the ladies. Even though this one is 100 percent for the ladies, I'm sure the fellas can appreciate how mellow this song is. Drake only provides the hook, visiting territory that's not foreign to him, and the same can be said about Wale. A word on Wale, if I may. He does rep the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) area, so props there, and while I do respect the hustle, I've always thought he was overrated a bit. It's like every time someone would tell me how dope he was, around that same time, one of the first things I would hear from him was a song for the ladies. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but still, it can be overkill at times. I know I shouldn't limit him like that, but it is what it is. 
*4 out of 5*




15. "Ten Pieces Pieces"

Stalley, who would also later sign with MMG, comes along with Ross for this jewelry infested song. It's all about the love of the gold chains with the all too familiar Jesus pieces in place. Ross even wants to be "buried a G" with the chains on. This wouldn't have been an anti-climatic closer on its own, but since this is the "deluxe version" I'm reviewing, now it's on to the two bonus tracks. (Ross also knew how to close an album much like he knew how to start one.)
*4 out of 5*




*16. "Triple Beam Dreams"

Genius.com described this one as a "titanic coke/cocaine narrative" and I do agree with that assessment. Backed by some truly epic production from the League, Ross and Nas bring their undeniable chemistry to the forefront on this hard hitting track. Nas' opening verse is TIGHT and when you further listen to his joints with Ross, it does seem like just by being on the same track with Nas it allows Ross to step his game up. Such an incredible song and in terms of Ross and Nas collaborations, thus far, when it comes to Ross' albums, they're 2 for 2.
*5 out of 5*




*17. "Rich Forever"

This John Legend assisted song finds Ross tracing his steps back to the beginning of his career, arriving in full circle to where he was in 2012 (and today for that matter) in terms of the accumulation of his wealth. When a man says "100 mil ain't enough", you know he has some serious chips at his disposal to play with. Also, it's a good song, but DVLP didn't need to switch the beat up mid-song and in fact, had Ross rapped the entire song with that way the beat started, it would've been that much more effective.
*4 out of 5*






Ross came through with another VERY good album that was heading into 4.5 star territory, but it doesn't quite make the mark. It could've under one condition: remove "Hold Me Back", "Touch 'N You" and "911" and replace those with three superior songs from the "Rich Forever" mixtape, whether you include them as bonus tracks or not, you have yourselves another 4.5 star album. The first half is great stuff, the second half has its share of filler (i.e. those three songs I mentioned), but overall I'll go with a solid 4 star rating for "God Forgives, I Don't." It debuted at #1 on the "Billboard 200" chart, moving 218,000 units in its first week (his highest first week sales to date), later achieving another Gold certification as of November 2013 with 555,000 units moved as we speak. 



1. "Teflon Don" (4.5 stars)
2. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
3. "God Forgives, I Don't" (4 stars)
4. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
5. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)




This mixtape was released on October 8, 2012. I bumped it once, but I honestly wasn't impressed with it, and compared to "Rich Forever", it was a disappointment to say the least. 





Release date: March 3, 2014


"MASTERMIND" GUESTS
Jay Z
Sizzla
Mavado
Jeezy
The Weeknd
Kanye West
Big Sean
Meek Mill
Lil Wayne
Scarface
Z-Ro


"MASTERMIND" PRODUCTION
Black Metaphor
J. Manifest
Sean Combs
Stevie J.
DJ Enuff
Jiv Pos
Omar Walker
LeShawn Rogers
Willie McNeal
Bink!
Mike WiLL Made It
A+
Sharif "Reefa" Slater
Scott Storch
D. Rich
The Weeknd
Jason "DaHeala" Quenneville
Kanye West
Dijon "DJ Mustard" McFarlane
Mike Dean #MWA
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
STREETRUNNER
DJ Khaled
Ben Billions
Brett "Beats" Bailey
David "Messy" Mescon
Boi-1da
Vinylz



1. "Intro"
This Napolean Hill led intro defining "mastermind", by way of Ross, leads us right into.....


2. "Rich Is Gangsta"

This appropriately titled, Black Metaphor produced banger, with a sample courtesy of the Average White Band's "Soul Searching", was a great choice as a song to not only set the tone for the rest of the album (even after the intro), but it's a great way of returning to the scene when you've taken somewhat of a hiatus. Oh, he even throws a shot at 50 Cent in the process by saying,  "for me to move forward from here on, I need 50, I ain't talkin' 50 Cent neither nigga, haha!", ultimately saying he needs "big money" and not "little money." A not-so-subliminal shot there.
*5 out of 5*




3. "Drug Dealers Dream"

Before I talk about this song, allow me to talk brief about its opening. I'm sure this is legit (can't be falsified), but Ross has a clip of his Bank Of America checking account balance, which said a whopping $92,153,183.28. Man, let me tell you something, I personally hope to see some figures like that one day and that clip does serve as a form of motivation for me personally and for this project. Continuing on, this song could probably be looked at in two ways: 1) Ross rapping from the perspective of a man looking to go straight after being incarcerated, or 2) Ross rapping on behalf of those incarcerated looking to make something of themselves when released. Either way, I like this one right here and you could tell Ross was feeling J. Manifest's production.
*4 out of 5*




4. "Shots Fired"
These were real news clips of an attempted drive by shooting on Ross in 2013. Thankfully he and his girlfriend survived.


5. "Nobody"



I gotta talk about this one for a bit and I'll start with the small things first. I'm not a fan of French Montana, so to have him singing a version of the hook from Biggie's masterful "You're Nobody (Til' Somebody Kills You)" was not a good choice, so .5 is deducted for that. As for the rest of the song, I can tell that Ross from afar has listened to and studied Biggie, and in this case, that would mean the his epic double album, "Life After Death", my #5 favorite album of all time as you know, and as mentioned before, I don't agree with any comparisons between Biggie and Ross. I'm sure he had Diddy's blessing all the way here, and it's far from biting in my opinion. Check this out, Ross pays homage to Biggie and really does a great job utilizing Biggie's flow and the content itself is something straight out of "Niggas Bleed" (it must be heard to be appreciated and even his detractors would likely be surprised here). Furthermore, I want to say this. Now, Biggie is my #4 favorite MC of all time, but I honestly do think that just ny listening to this, he likely would've had some good chemistry with Ross. Just listen to this and judge for yourself. It also segues into the next song nicely.
*4.5 out of 5*




6. "The Devil Is A Lie"



"Devil want these niggas hate they own kind/Gotta be Illuminati if a nigga shine" -Jay


The bars above really this song in a nutshell and I feel Ross and Jay revisits "Free Mason", but decides to go in a different direction, but still focusing on the subject at hand, great stuff here. Omar Walker, LeShawn Rogers and Willie McNeal really bring forth such a thumping beat to fit the occasion, along with sampling courtesy of Gene Williams' "Don't Let Your Love Fade Away." (I heard this song played on the radio once in 2014 and that was it.)
*5 out of 5*




7. "Mafia Music III"

This is interesting right here because prior to this moment as I type, I didn't know about the existence of "Mafia Music II." This version featured Chrisette Michele and for some reason, it didn't make the final cut of "Teflon Don" (WHY was that album denied one more excellent song). Well, compared to its two predecessors, this one is not on the level of those, but with it's heavy reggae/dancehall vibe (it features Movado and Sizzla and a sampling of the latter's "Soild As A Rock"), it's still good for the most part.
*4 out of 5*




8. "War Ready"



This joint right here is notable for a couple of reasons: 1) it's such a dope song featuring some equally dope production thanks to Mike WiLL Made It, and 2) Ross and Jeezy surprised a lot of people when they settled their previous differences. If you recall, several months prior to the release of this album, there was some sort of backstage confrontation between Ross and Jeezy's camps at a concert (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) and it almost turned violent until order was restored. It was also interesting in the sense that these two men had collaborated prior to this, but thankfully whatever beef they had was resolved and what we got as a result was song showing you what type of magic can be created when you resolve your differences.
*5 out of 5*


9. "What A Shame"

Props to Ross for the nod to Wu-Tang Clan's classic "Shame On A Nigga" and hey, French Montana couldn't possibly mess up a classic in the form of Camp Lo's "Luchini (This Is It)" and surprisingly he didn't (I hope Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba were compensated for the interpolations here). Good, 2:15 song.
*4 out of 5*



10. "Supreme"

You probably wouldn't have known it, but Keith Sweat was actually on the hook for this one, along with some rather pointless, unfunny vocals from Katt Williams, which causes a .5 deduction on an otherwise good song featuring what can now be called "vintage Rick Ross" over Scott Storch production.
*3.5 out of 5*



11. "Blk & Wht"

Ok, gotta speak on this one because I'm sure most, if not all, of you probably forgot this when it happened. I'm sure that Ross was going for something deep here, but more than anything he said in this song, I feel the most notable part of this song was when he said "Trayvon Martin I'm never missing my target." Now, for obvious reasons, I really didn't like this line in 2014 (I raised quite a fuss about it at the time on this very blog) and I still don't like it in 2017. Let's move on from this one shall we.
*2 out of 5*


12. "Dope Bitch (Skit)"


13. "In Vein"

Well, we have come to the part of the album where Ross presents another joint for the ladies, seemingly, with The Weeknd on the hook (and behind the boards along with Jason Quenneville. It almost seemed like a total showcase for Weeknd considering the first half of the song.
*2.5 out of 5*


14. "Sanctified"

Apparently Big Sean had a verse that wasn't included on the album for some reason, so the hook was the only contribution from him(he put out his verse a few days after this album's release). Some may call this one blasphemous and all things considered, this sounded like something straight from the mind of Kanye, being that this was after the atrocity known as the "Yeezus" album, however, something about this one works, can't quite put my finger on it. Ms. Betty Wright also steps in during each bridge with some "sanctified" words of her own.
*4 out of 5*



15. "Walkin' On Air"

Other than to show he was well versed in a biblical sense, I'm not sure where Ross was going with those references. Now when I think about it, change the title of this, keep Meek on as a guest, eliminate the religious undertones, possibly keep the same beat and call this one "Still Sophisticated", we'd have a much better outcome.
*3.5 out of 5*


16. "Thug Cry"



This closer notably samples Billy Cobham's "Heather", which was also sampled by Souls Of Mischief on their classic "93 'Til Infinity." Well, if you've heard the "even thugs cry" song once, you've probably heard them all. Ross and Wayne, who actually came with a coherent verse for once, bring nothing new to the table here, but it's relatively decent all the way through. At the end, Ross is humbled to have made it to his 6th album, thanking everyone that played a part it in, his engineer E-Mix and his fans/supporters. You're welcome.
*4 out of 5*



*17. "Blessing In Disguise"

This is the first of three bonus tracks on the "deluxe edition." Z-Ro and the legendary Scarface team up with Ross to talk about, as genius.com describes it, "the trials and tribulations of the dope life, but snitching takes a center stage." Now, some may say that what makes this song dope is STREETRUNNER and DJ Khaled's production, with a well timed sample courtesy of Smoke's "Don't Take Your Love" and Face's incredible opening verse, and while all of that is true, Ross holds his own with Face and again, on a song with an MC who has been in the game for years, the chemistry is on full display and you couldn't miss it if you tried.
*5 out of 5*



*18. "Paradise Lost"

Ross talks about the issues that have plagued our communities for years (girls having kids at very young ages, drug dealing, crime, etc) and if we don't come together as a whole, as well as being on top of our financial states of mind, all hope is lost as we head into the future, especially in the trying times of the world today. Enough to make you think right here.
*4 out of 5*



*19. "You Know I Got It (Reprise)"

The origins of this song are more interesting than the song itself. This was intended to be a solo spot for Ross, however, he and DJ Khaled played the instrumental for Jay Z, who liked it and it ended up being added to the "Magna Carta Holy Grail" album, which Ross was also featured on. This reprise is basically that aforementioned solo spot. It's decent, nothing more, and that's my view on both versions.
*2.5 out of 5*



Throughout this portion of the project, I kept asking myself, "is this album going to give Deeper Than Rap a run for its money too?" In certain aspects it does and even though "Mastermind" is a strong album on its own, it doesn't have any singles as strong as "Mafia Music", "Usual Suspects", "Valley Of Death" and "Maybach Music II." Speaking of the latter, I'm sure you noticed that there was no fifth installment of the dazzling, WELL produced series and its presence was sorely missed on this album. With all this being said, even with the attempt(s) on his life and his continued growth as an artist, you couldn't keep Ross down and that was the ultimate theme from here. I can imagine he took some time to work on this album, because in somewhat of a departure from previous albums, he works with multiple producers this time around, all of whom provided a very good selection of beat for Ross, plus the guest appearances largely worked with the exception of song #5. The album debuted at #1 on the "Billboard 200" chart, moving 179,000 units in its first week, currently sitting at a total of 397,000 units moved to date, short of Certified Gold. After "Mastermind", Ross would flex his muscles twice in one year with the "Hood Billionaire" follow up, an album I wasn't too impressed with when I first played it, but we'll see how it sounds now in the midst of this project.



1. "Teflon Don" (4.5 stars)
2. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
3. "God Forgives, I Don't" (4 stars)
4. "Mastermind" (4 stars)
5. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
6. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)





Release date: November 24, 2014


"HOOD BILLIONAIRE" GUESTS
Slab
Yo Gotti
Project Pat
Jay Z
K. Michelle
Snoop Dogg
R. Kelly
Boosie Badazz
Big K.R.I.T.
French Montana


"HOOD BILLIONAIRE" PRODUCTION
Lex Luger
Deedotwill
Beat Billionaire
Metro Boomin
Ben Billions
Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E.
DJ Toomp
Timbaland
Andre "HOTBOX" Brissett
V12 The Hitman
Tracy Tyler
Cardiak
Critacal
Big K.R.I.T.
Issac Flame
Bassivity



1. "Intro"
The "search/retrieval for the cash" leads us right into.....


2. "Hood Billionaire"

With all bars and no hook, backed by quite the thumping production provided by Lex Luger and Deedotwill, this is "vintage Rick Ross" right here, even down to the applicable title of the song (and album). Even though this is Ross all the way through, this joint sounds like it also could've been made by Jim Jones when you sit down and analyze the lines and delivery.
*4 out of 5*



3. "Coke Like The 80s"

Beat Billionaire's piano laden, bass driven production was tight as hell, however, the rest of the song is..... interesting to say the least. Genius.com describes it as Ross' "ode to the 80s crack epidemic", which is common American history (as KRS-One once put it) and either "a nod to Freeway Rick Ross or just really ironic." I'll leave you to make your own judgments on this song.
*3.5 out of 5*



4. "Heavyweight"

"Ross and Slab compare their efforts as street hustlers to that of boxing heavyweights" is how genius.com described this song and it's spot on. Slab rode the beat well, but overall I wasn't impressed with his verse and Ross was Ross. I feel the highlight here was another thumping beat provided by Beat Billionaire.
*3 out of 5*



5. "Neighborhood Drug Dealer"



The only thing I can say here, other than the production being on point thanks to Metro Boomin, is that Ross was likely rapping from the perspective of a "neighborhood drug dealer", because his legit status is all but clear.
*3 out of 5*


6. "Phone Tap"


"Everybody watchin', everybody tellin'/When your days numbered nigga, cherish every second"


No, this is not Ross' ode to The Firm's classic of the same name, nor is it a remake. Ross sort of goes the storytelling route here, stating that his phone is tapped and "they wanna give him time for his old raps" (and for the sake of the story, let's assume the old raps date back to his "Port Of Miami" days). It's a good song, but I really feel it would've been much better if he did more with the story aspect.
*4 out of 5*



7. "Trap Luv"

Um Ross, I don't think you (or any other Black man for that matter) should ever, EVER say he's "the Black Ronald Reagan", especially considering the "Coke Like The 80s" song, and it's no way any type of hip hop comparisons to that former President can be view as witty. Continuing on, this almost comes off as a prequel or even the continuation of the previous song. I know who Yo Gotti is (heard some of his material), he did ok alongside Ross here.
*3.5 out of 5*


8. "Elvis Presley Blvd."




This may be "vintage Rick Ross" here, but honestly, we have heard songs like this before and in this case, done better, especially by Ross. I've never been a fan of Project Pat (the guest here) and his verse on this one did absolutely nothing to make me change my mind.
*2 out of 5*


9. "Movin' Bass"




Timbaland's bass driven production, pun intended, does set the scene for this one, with an assist from Jay Z (only on the hook). Not only does the bass drive the track, but the  "bass" moved here is the equivalent to "raw, dope hip hop" and we have heard this done before, even by Jay himself. I like this one.
*4 out of 5*



10. "If They Knew"



This song is a key example (or should I say another key example) of what it's like for the fairer sex to join Ross in all of his hustlin' endeavors and the rewards that could be reaped as a result.
*3 out of 5*


11. "Quintessential"

I'm not sure what expectations I had for Snoop's first ever collaboration with Ross (this is also Snoop's first time over DJ Toomp's production). This is decent, but circa 2014, I feel this one came a few years too late.
*3 out of 5*


12. "Keep Doin' That (Rich Bitch)"



Welcome to another one of those "bad bitch" songs and with songs like that, you won't find R. Kelly too far behind (this is no "Speedin" let me tell you). Ross was Ross here as expected, plus I have no love for R. Kelly. I honestly could've done without this one.
*1.5 out of 5*


13. "Nickel Rock"

A "$5 piece of hard" is what a "nickel rock" is. This one sounds like something that could've been made between 2006-2008, even down to the Boosie Badazz feature (I'm not a fan, but his verse was ok here). Ross and Boosie talk about what the "nickel rock" has done for them and others on their way up.
*3 out of 5*


14. "Burn"

Beat Billionaire is "3 for 3" in terms of production because he supplied Ross with another thumping beat and Ross was indeed feeling it here. It didn't matter if it was stacks of cash to go through or haters wanting to see his demise, you weren't touching Ross. 
*4 out of 5*



15. "Family Ties"

Cardiak and Critacal's production, as well as the sampling of Jackie Moore's "With Your Love" really complemented Ross' flow here and while it's a good song, he didn't really touch on the "family ties" aspect like he could've. I mean, he drops brief hints here and there throughout the song, but that was about it. 
*3.5 out of 5*



16. "Brimstone"

"Same rainy days but things never change/Praying to my maker just to take this pain away" -Ross


The lines above define this song in a nutshell, which also finds Ross talking to God in a much more humble tone than in the past. The talented Big K.R.I.T. provides the soulful vocals on the hook and the equally soulful production (I feel he should've dropped the third verse here). Again, Ross' streak continues with very good songs to close his albums.
*4 out of 5*



*17. "Wuzzup"

This is the first of two bonus tracks on the "deluxe edition" of the album. This is not a "call & response" type song as the title would suggest, however, Ross asks that one question to the killers looking for him, the sliders slidin' on him, the people asking questions and those who say "his numbers gettin' better."
*2.5 out of 5*


*18. "Headache"

So, what's one thing worse than having French Montana on ANY song? Having to listen to him on the hook using autotune for God's sake. Even in an objective sense, this one was rather forgettable and even though I'm an admitted sucker for "deluxe editions" of albums, I could've done without the bonus tracks.
*1.5 out of 5*



As the follow up to "Mastermind", I can't help but feel that this was a step down/slight disappointment considering how good its predecessor was. Ross really just had more to say and tried to capitalize on whatever buzz he had in 2014, and even though there are highlights here in the form of "Brimstone", the title track, "Movin' Bass", "Burn", and "Phone Tap", they end up saving would could've been a rather forgettable album. In addition, the album debuted at #6 on the "Billboard 200", which is decent considering he already dropped "Mastermind" months earlier, but it still was the lowest charting album of his career at this point, with low first week sales of 74,000 (to date it has moved 190,000, well short of the Certified Gold status). Will Ross regroup with a strong effort the next year with the "Black Market" album, his 8th, or will it be more of the same, so to speak? We shall see as we enter the final portion of this project. (And yes, I like it slightly more than I did when I first listened to it, but that's not saying much.)



1. "Teflon Don" (4.5 stars)
2. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
3. "God Forgives, I Don't" (4 stars)
4. "Mastermind" (4 stars)
5. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
6. "Hood Billionaire" (3 stars)
7. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)





Heading into the release of his 8th studio album, "Black Market", Ross dropped "Black Dollar" on September 3, 2015, his overall 6th mixtape. I recall listening to this once and that was it. I wasn't impressed overall and I wasn't looking forward to "Black Market" all that much after the fact. At this point, it's safe to say that the "Albert Anastasia" EP, "Rich Forever" and "Ashes To Ashes" are his quality mixtapes.





Release date: December 4, 2015


"BLACK MARKET" GUESTS
John Legend
CeeLo Green
Nas
DJ Premier
Mariah Carey
Mary J. Blige
Chris Brown
Future
The Dream


"BLACK MARKET" PRODUCTION
STREETRUNNER
DJ Khaled
Jake One
Calva Da Gr8
Ben Billions
D Rich
Jahlil Beats
Black Metaphor
JR Rotem
Dijon "DJ Mustard" McFarlane
JP Did This 1
Scott Storch
Diego Ave
DP Beats
Red Cafe
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
S1
Beat Billionaire
Dreek



1. "Free Enterprise"

Ross did a track by track breakdown of this album with Billboard and I'll be using some of the quotes from that very breakdown. With that said, Ross describes this song:

"Everything is a go, so I made the title 'Free Enterprise.' It costs you nothing to dream as you can. My feet are on the ground and I just wanted to take you through my timeline."



In addition, Ross also stated that he wrote this song while he was incarcerated and it was the first song he recorded when he was released in July 2015. It's never made clear as to what he was incarcerated for, but my guess it had something to do with the kidnapping and assault charges against him and his bodyguard that same year. In this very good, John Legend assisted opener, Ross opens up to the listener about the troubles and struggles he experienced on the legal side of things, about as introspective as Ross can get.
*4 out of 5*



2. "Smile Mama, Smile"

Considering my own relationship with my mother, loyal readers of mine know I like songs like this a lot, especially when they're done right. Ross is as reflective as we've ever seen, as he not only talks about the importance of family, but going forward, all he wants to do is see his mom smile ("she told me no more promethazine, that'll make her proud"). Then again, when you have been on the verge of death and incarcerated in your lifetime, just to use two extreme examples, it has you looking at life from a multitude of angles. CeeLo Green brings such a soulful hook to the table, much like he did on "Tears Of Joy" from the "Teflon Don" album, and much props to Ross for the brief interpolations of 2Pac's wonderful "Dear Mama" towards the end.
*4.5 out of 5*



3. "One Of Us"

"You gettin' money, got a body then you one of us!"


Well, make that "3 for 3" in terms of Ross and Nas collaborations, because this fast paced yet strong, precise intelligence of two masterminds is simply great. I know I've talked about it before (and I will touch on it again), but the chemistry these two men have is, say it with me, undeniable. They play off each so damn well and both seemingly step their games up when in each other's presence. The production also plays a large role here, because Calvo Da Gr8 creates such an epic track that both men flow to with such gusto. I LIKE this one right here and it's the best song on the album.
*5 out of 5*



4. "Silk Road"

"That's the black market trade, the hustle itself. I wanted the production to feel really out in the open. When you hear the rain drops, it's like you're really outside. I just thought about the past to the present, speaking on different hustles and money in the attic, the way it smells after being up there two years. Nobody ever told me it would smell like that."


Ross description of this song speaks volumes, all with three verses and no hook. Another good song here. 
*4 out of 5*



5. "Color Money"

Ross described "Silk Road" as "a great bridge" into this song. I'm not sure if I agree with him on that, but I do agree with him when he said "it's that fast, dope boy Miami lifestyle." D Rich's production reminds me something straight from No Limit (circa 1998), Beats By The Pound style, by way of Craig B.
*3 out of 5*


6. "Dope Dick"

This joint right here is more about Ross' play on the word "dope" and less a joint for the ladies in my opinion, plus he wasted no time in throwing another shot at 50 Cent for the hell of it ("Get rich or die tryin', yeah that was 50 plan/filed Chapter 11, guess the nigga kidneys failed"). Ross also continues to be at home over Jake One's production.
*3.5 out of 5*


7. "Crocodile Python"

"That was a record that I wrote while incarcerated on a small piece of paper with a small ink pen that was illegal at the time, but I had to have it. That's why the title was just so abstract and obnoxious. I was sitting in a pale room under light 23 hours a day and I just wanted to think most about the texture that I would love to see. That's the first thing that came to my mind. I'm trying to give them a real experience and give them some of this emotion that I'm feeling, so many thing running through my mind, me questioning what's really going on. Am I doing the right thing? I mention my son's mom, mention the district attorneys. I discuss social racism and a lot of things in a way that walk by you if you're not really paying attention."


The inspiration for this song is interesting to say the least. I've never been incarcerated, so I can't relate to that, however, what I can relate to is the sense of feeling (and emotion) Ross projects, even if the context provided is different from things I'm accustomed to. I often tell people I always have something on my mind, a reflective person, the thinking man, as well as questioning what's going on. Decent stuff here.
*4 out of 5*



8. "Ghostwriter"

Until this song, I had no idea Ross was a ghostwriter in the past, nor did I know that he wasn't compensated for his work by previous label Slip-N-Slide, which is why he severed ties with them (as alluded to in this song). I also don't think anyone has ever accused Ross of having ghostwriters to pen his material, then again, when you consider his lifestyle since the "Hustlin" days, why would he?
*3 out of 5*


9. "Black Opium"

Allow me to clear up a little something before I proceed. DJ Premier is not on this song in a literal fashion. In what was a respectable form of homage being paid to a legendary producer (one of my top 3 favorite producers of all time), Ross not only owns Black Metaphor's production, but the "scratched hook", using Busta Rhymes' "I Know What You Want", was perfected and effectively used by Premo over the years to usually great results. And with this said, I do feel this was a missed opportunity for Ross to link up with Premo for the first time ever, and as shown by his work with the likes of The Game, Ludacris, Bun B, just to name three, Premo has a good track record when working with artists outside of the East Coast. I personally don't think it's too late and hopefully we'll get this on Ross' next album.
*4 out of 5*



10. "Can't Say No"

The most notable thing about this song was how much love Ross showed Mariah Carey for her contribution to this one. It's truly one for the ladies, but it's quite possibly the "softest" song in Ross' discography.
*3 out of 5*


11. "Peace Sign"

"Lay you on your back , got your legs wide open like a peace sign"


Well, the line above certainly tells the story here don't it?? I find it slightly interesting that Ross was probably the only one who could pull the underrated Red Cafe out of relative obscurity to participate on this album, on a joint for the ladies no less. Ross described this song as "real sexy", which is admittedly true and it's only for ONE audience, but when he said "it's a well needed addition to the album", I respectively disagree with that.
*2 out of 5*


12. "Very Best"

This was the first ever collaboration between Ross and Ms. Mary J. Blige and Ross was very appreciative of this. It's good in its own way, but I think the ladies would like this more than the fellas would.
*3 out of 5*


13. "Sorry"





"That's me and all my compadres speaking for all the males and the guys around the world apologizing for all our fuck ups, lies and mistakes to all you beautiful women out there. We just made it look fly while we was doing it."


Is it just me or does it seem like when the R&B cats get on certain songs with hip hop artists, especially the joints for the ladies, they almost seem to make the song their own in some form? I definitely got that impression here when it came to Chris Brown. Now, I appreciate what the men were going for here, but realistically speaking, we've heard songs like this before and at times it seems like the song's content runs contrary to Ross' description above. And can we PLEASE retire the autotune??
*3 out of 5*


14. "D.O.P.E."

Well, I'm no fan of Future and in my opinion, he brings down ANY song he's on and the use of (smh+facepalm) autotune did him no favors here. Even Ross seem to be lyrically sleepwalking through this one. This is the clear cut low point of the album and the streak of very good closers comes to an abrupt end here because it's SUCH an anti-climatic way to close this album, or any album for that matter. Good thing there was a "deluxe edition."
*1.5 out of 5*


*15. "Foreclosures"

This is the first of three bonus tracks and the first of two that were included on the "Black Dollar" mixtape. This is another song that was written during Ross' incarceration. Not saying that he ever took his status for granted, but his line "success is a precious tool" comes off like he's fully at peace with said status and at the same time bidding farewell to his past life. We'll see where he stands when the next album drops.
*4 out of 5*



*16. "Money Dance"



When the money is speaking the right tones and rhythm, I'm sure it'll make you dance that's for sure. This is all money talk, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*


*17. "Carol City"

Ross seemed like he was going for a storytelling vibe here, but it was a bit all over the place lyrically, not much else to say here. I know this is where he's from, but still.
*2.5 out of 5*



Man, the quality certainly dipped quite a bit during the second half of the album didn't it? Even if most, if not all, of these songs were written during Ross' incarceration, I feel he could've continued to use that motivation, so to speak, to create the most personal album of his career with "Black Market." It seemed like he was on the way there, but not quite. The standout song here without a doubt is "One Of Us", with other very good songs such as the opening "Free Enterprise", "Black Opium", "Foreclosure" and the heartfelt "Smile Mama, Smile", "Silk Road" and to somewhat of a lesser extent, "Crocodile Python." Everything else was rather hit and miss. The album debuted at #6 on the "Billboard 200" chart, with about 54,000 units moved in its first week to date. Either Ross has peaked creatively or this is just a sign of the times when it comes to album sales, for some artists. We'll see if the next album, "Rather You Than Me", slated for a release this year, will spark a creative resurgence (and hopefully the 5th installment of the dazzling, WELL produced "Maybach Music" series).


The final ratings and rankings will be posted at the very end of the project.




Well loyal reader, another project is in the books and before I close it, allows me to further break things down with five extended points.



**THE IMAGE
I'll start with the image, because during my "love/hate" of Ross, this was the number one issue. I recall taking Ross to task for denying his past as a Correctional Officer, then when the pressure got tight, he finally revealed that it was him on the leaked photos, and that right there caused me to look at him a very different light (and trust me it took a lot to get past the "image" part). In addition to that, myself and others weren't too crazy about the adopting (some would say pillaging) of Freeway Rick Ross' name, therefore creating his own persona as a former drug kingpin who has went straight, by way of hip hop music. A lot of people didn't agree with that, then and now, especially when Ross didn't fully live the life he rapped about 75-85 percent of the time. Looking back on this now, hey, Ross wasn't the first hip hop artist to take the name of a real life figure and cultivate it into his own image, and quite frankly he won't be the last. At this point, it shouldn't be hard to separate the life(style) and image of Rick Ross/Ricky Rozay and that of William Roberts II.


**THE LYRICAL CONTENT
If you ask most people, "what does Ross mainly rap about?" The instant answer would be money, along with women, nice cars, nice shoes and clothes, expensive trips and vacations, elegant wine, you name it. This does make up a bulk of his lyrical content, and again, he's not the first nor will he be the last hip hop artist to mostly rap about materialistic possessions, and when you come from nothing to something, this is going to make up a large portion of your content, let's be honest with each other (and he has shown a tendency to step out of the box every now and throw some witty lines at you and be introspective, even if the latter is brief at times). Remember Willie D from the Geto Boys famously said, "I can't rap about shit I don't know." And continuing to keep it real with you, who are we to judge rappers on what they rap about? If you got it and can back it up with a "wealth" of facts, do your thing, and I'm sure most of you reading this would likely rap about the same things and more if you were in Ross' position. I also feel that any lines referencing pushing cocaine is really Ross using that as a metaphor for his music, in other words, "this is what I'm pushing, DOPE music."


**THE PRODUCTION
It has often been said, and I agree 100 percent, that Ross has one of the best ears for beats in the game and in succession, that was truly the case during the stretch of "Deeper Than Rap" to "God Forgives, I Don't." J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Jake One, Bink!, Boi-1da, Lex Luger, Timbaland, Beat Billionaire, DJ Toomp, The Inkredibles, STREETRUNNER and various other respectable producers played a very key role in creating such lush, refined, thumping, bass driven production for Ross.


**THE BOTTOM LINE
At the end of the day, this very project has all but confirmed that I am a Rick Ross fan and I'm not ashamed to admit that (and in NO way does this revoke my "hip hop card"). I can't point to a particular moment in time when I decided to become a "full fledged fan", but it had to have been around the time when I heard one of guest appearances several months back and decided to cop his discography. Image issues aside, I have no problem recognizing his strong work ethic (the man's videos look like honest to God movies most of the time), staying in his lane and the supreme ear for beats. Ross is certainly not one of the greatest of all time, but he's far from wack and he's better than a good number of artists who are clogging up the mainstream these days, not that it's hard to do with any stretch of the imagination. Also, in a RARE instance, I will say that this is a case where the argument "as long as he makes good music, that's all that matters" is acceptable, because as this project has shown, the man can make GOOD music. I refuse to use that same argument to ALL music because not everyone can make good music and I also refuse to cosign, give a pass to and/or defend wack shit and you shouldn't either.


**THE BOTTOM LINE PART 2
I wanted to talk about this in its own section. This project has also shown that Ross has great chemistry with the majority of the artists he has worked with over the years. Some may dismiss this as, "well, look who he's on the song with, they make him tight by association just like the beats do." Hold on now, this is notlike Roman Reigns in the WWE, when he's clearly in the ring with much superior wrestlers and they're in place to make him look good. Ross has collaborated with not only rappers that grace my top 10 and I've been supporting for years, but also artists that most people I talk to and who support this blog have also been supporting for years. Nas, Jay-Z, Scarface, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Andre 3000, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Jadakiss, Styles P, Snoop Dogg, Big K.R.I.T., T.I., Jeezy, (even Lil Wayne to a much lesser extent), and a host of others, all come to mind. Does this make any of those artists "sellouts" by collaborating with Ross? Absolutely not. It's clear they see something in Ross on the artistic side of things and in no way do I see all of these artists linking up with him just to collect a check. Money is important, but come on now, that's not the only motivation, especially when it comes to those who have collaborated with him on more than one occasion. In addition to hip hop, he has good chemistry with those on the R&B side of things as well, namely John Legend, Ne-Yo, Chrisette Michele, Erykah Badu, just to name a few. As we speak, I'm anticipating his 9th album and for the first time, a Rick Ross album will be purchased by me on its release date.

(And Ross, if you're reading this, keep delivering the good music man.) 


And of course to all the loyal readers, until next time, thanks for the continued support!!!!!!



THE FINAL RICK ROSS RATINGS AND RANKINGS
1. "Teflon Don" (4.5 stars)
2. "Deeper Than Rap" (4.5 stars)
3. "God Forgives, I Don't" (4 stars)
4. "Mastermind" (4 stars)
5. "Trilla" (3.5 stars)
6. "Black Market" (3.5 stars)
7. "Hood Billionaire" (3 stars)
8. "Port Of Miami" (3 stars)

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