Producers: Kanye West; No I.D.; Danja; J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League; The Inkredibles; Clark Kent & The Remedy; Lex Luger; The Olympicks
Akin to a Hollywood blockbuster in the center of the summertime, Rick Ross’ latest release begs more of a Michael Bay comparison rather than one to infamous crime lords such as John Gotti, Big Meech and Larry Hoover. With Teflon Don, Miami’s biggest boss is aiming to release the most complete project in his growing catalogue and he largely succeeds in some aspects. Producer-on-the-rise Lex Luger (Waka’s “Hard In Da Paint”) continues to provide music for the streets on the epic, yet similarly produced jingles “B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast)” and “MC Hammer”. The former finds Ricky seizing his cocaine dreams by the throat (with an assist from Styles P.) while the latter’s ode to the former entertainer depreciates in value, courtesy of an unnecessary cameo from Gucci Mane.
Rick Ross continues to thrive as his chemistry with the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League is put on full display, putting the industry on notice with “I’m Not a Star”, “Aston Martin Music” and of course, the final installment in the “Maybach Music” trilogy. The production crew provides cinematic film scores in the sonically urgent opener “I’m Not a Star” as well as the lush soundscapes on “Aston Martin Music”, which finds the self-proclaimed “bawse” cruising along with the likes of by Drake and Chrisette Michele. Furthermore, the former correctional officer is afforded an absolutely majestic canvas and it’s only right he bring along an all-star cluster of passengers for the ride: T.I., Jadakiss and Erykah Badu. Southern king T.I. turns in a silky, smooth verse while Jadakiss follows suit before a cinematic transition sets the stage for Rick Ross to bat cleanup, all as Badu mesmerizes as chauffeur of the luxury vehicle.
Accompanied by No I.D.’s spiritual production (and augmented by Cee-Lo’s sermon-like chorus), Ricky Rozay has delusions of grandeur (“Biggie Smalls in the flesh/ Living life after my death”) on the reflective “Tears Of Joy”. Even Kanye West hops on the Teflon Don’s latest release, continuing his gradual return from a self-imposed hiatus with more multi-faceted production on the club scene-aimed “Live Fast, Die Young”, a sample of the new direction in which he is headed production-wise. He and Ross are certainly in celebratory mode, but lyrically ‘Ye pillages like a looter in the center of chaos with his trademark wit: “And we bout to hit Jacob the Jeweler/ So I can be like Slick Rick and rule ya/ Dr. Martin Louis The King, Jr./ And I’ma never let the dream turn to Kreuger/ My outfit so disrespectful/ You can gon head sneeze cause my presence blessed you“.
Jay-Z arguably highlights the album, playing closer on the controversial “Free Mason” in delivering a masterful verse and quieting Hov-Illuminati rumors (at least for the near future) with a litany of Bible references: “Bitch, I said I was amazing…. not that I’m a Mason. It’s amazin’ that I made it through the maze that I was in/ Lord forgive me, I never woulda made it without sin/ Holy water, my face in the basin/ Diamonds in my rosary shows he forgave him”. At only eleven cuts, the album is wonderfully constructed, almost methodical at times, but still Ross is plagued by filler, unable to “cut the fat” so to speak. His newly hired manager Diddy as well as Trey Songz crash the party on the braggadocio cut “No. 1”, disrupting the album’s cohesiveness while the aforementioned Gucci Mane guest appearance on “MC Hammer” is a whimper in comparison to the original that found Ross rhyming solo on The Albert Anastasia EP. While his content remains repetitive and lacks little to no depth, the soulful production and Hollywood box office guest list will alone make for a number of repeated spins for Sergeant Murtaugh’s latest opus.
3.5 spins (out of 5)
Written by Rakeem Johnson (“Mr. Genius”)