Archive for the ‘rick ross’ tag
Chances are you’ve already heard the new Rick Ross album. In the thumping of the passing SUV, in the wild house party, in the too-loud iPod headphones sitting next to you on the train; if you’ve been in any of these places or situations between 2009 and today, you’ve heard the new Rick Ross album. Feel free to skip this one.
The rapper’s latest, God Forgives, I Don’t comes after a pair of successful and critically-lauded albums. (No less an authority than Rap Radar dubbed the rapper “#1 Hottest MC in the Game” earlier this year.) It continues the theme and persona Ross has worked so hard to cultivate: he is very rich, and who knows, that money could have come from being a multinational drug kingpin! He wears 10 Jesus pieces (as we learn in the song “Ten Jesus Pieces,”) and he runs the streets (as we learn in the song “Amsterdam,” when he says, “I’m Berry Gordy to the streets, with a kilo so that boy had been a beast.”)
The thing is, we all know this persona Ross has built around himself is false. We know, for example, that Ross was no kingpin; he was a low-level weed dealer, who was also, for a time, a corrections officer in a Florida penitentiary. And while this character was an interesting form of expression for Ross earlier in his career, there’s only so long you can listen to a rapper’s imaginary lifestyle before it becomes stale.
Nowhere is this more true than on the song “3 Kings,” where he’s joined by Dr. Dre and Jay-Z, two of the best and most popular rappers of their respective generations. In their heyday, the two men used imagery similar to, but more authentic than, Ross uses. Now they have other concerns. Dre, more of a professional salesman than a rapper these days, says twice, “Listen to this beat in my headphones!” Jay-Z, a father and upscale Manhattanite, raps about his daughter and name-drops Basquiat. Ross: “20-stack seats at the Heat game, and I’m still strapped with the heat man.”
Say what you will about Dre and Jay, at least they’re being honest. And that dichotomy opens you up to all kinds of examination. On “Maybach Music IV,” when Ross raps, “Money, hos and cars, every n***a’s fantasy,” you wonder if it really is all just a fantasy. And if it is, what are we really listening to? A nerd’s hip hop fan fiction?
In my most recent review, of Raekwon’s Unexpected Victory, I called the Chef “probably the most gangsta rapper in the history of gangsta rap.” I still stand by that statement, but if we refine our focus from “history of gangsta rap” to “group of the ten most influential rappers in hip-hop today,” we can apply the statement to Rick Ross and throw the “probably” into the Atlantic Ocean strapped to a pair of concrete blocks. Rich Forever, the most significant hip-hop release of 2012 so far (sorry, T.I.), reaffirms Rozay’s status as the master of the street album and sets the bar ridiculously high for any subsequent “pre-album” mixtapes from other rappers.
At 79 minutes plus, the tape definitely runs a little long. However, when someone’s giving away this many great tracks for free, a little filler can be tolerated. Ross starts the proceedings off with a bang(er), “Holy Ghost,” which besides featuring another standard-meaning-excellent hoarse, shouted-word chorus from the Bauce, proves that Ricky Rozay is still the master of rhyming a phrase with itself and still having it be awesome: “My teacher told me that I’m a piece of shit/Seen her the other day, driving a piece of shit.” On a side note, I cannot recall one rapper singlehandedly rendering another one completely obsolete the way Rick Ross has done Young Jeezy.
Even though Rich Forever is, as its master of ceremonies calls it, “the appetizer” for the upcoming-and-already-delayed God Forgives, I Don’t LP, it absolutely does not lack for quality guest spots. Among the highlights is John Legend on the title track, a track that stands out and functions in much the same way as MMG underling Wale’s “Ambition” did on Ambition.
Perhaps THE highlight of the tape is the duet on the very next track, “Triple Beam Dreams,” featuring “Best Rapper Alive,” “Comeback of the Year,” and “Greatest Lyricist of All Time” candidate Nas. In what may surprise some but can be denied by none (except the most passionate H8ers), Rozay holds his own with one of the G.O.A.T., snagging the “Most Hardcore Gangster Line of the Year” honors for now with, “Fucking bitches that be giving up your whereabouts.”
“Stay Schemin’,” the penultimate track, features guest appearances from Drake and French Montana. The Canadian emcee, who is apparently set to release an entire tape entitled YOLO sometime this year with Rozay WTT-style, might or might not but definitely does spend 28 bars adding fuel to the fire of his ridiculous beef with Common, which is apparently all over Serena Williams. Yeah.
Rich Forever is a mammoth tape that, despite some unavoidable filler, continues Rozay’s pattern of releasing free street albums chock full of bangers suitable for the radio. I doubt that none of them were good enough to make their way onto the upcoming LP’s tracklist (actually, I bet some will)., but as I said before in my review of TM103, I am now more than ever expecting God Forgives, I Don’t to be one of the highlights of 2012.
4 / 5 bars
Rick Ross- Holy Ghost (Feat. Diddy)
Rick Ross – Rich Forever (Feat. John Legend)
Rick Ross Triple Beam Dreams (Feat. Nas)
In 2004, Chris Rock released his brilliant stand-up DVD, Never Scared. During one particularly memorable seven-minute segment, he delivers an insightful (and hilariously obscene) evaluation of the evolution of hip-hop:
“In the old days, it was easy to defend rap music, intellectually… and I love all the rappers today, but it’s hard to defend ‘I got hoes in different area codes.’ It’s hard to defend ‘Move bitch, get out the way.’ ‘Well as you can see, there’s a bitch in his way that he needs to move, thus the term “move bitch, get out the way.” You need to open YOUR eyes so you can get the bitches out of YOUR way!’”
This is one of my favorite stand-up bits of all time in part because Twelve-Year-Old Me actually tried to defend these very songs when they came on Jam’n 94.5 as I rode in the passenger seat of my dad’s Jeep. “Do you really think you’ll still enjoy listening to this guy’s crap ten years from now?” he asked me back in 2002. At the time, I didn’t really give it much thought because I was, as I said, twelve, and ten years was simply an inconceivable amount of time for me. But now, with the release of Ludacris’ 1.21 Gigawatts: Back To The First Time, I can finally answer my dad’s question. Unfortunately the answer would make him smug as hell.
Before going in on Gigawatts (which is supposedly somehow based on Back To The Future), I want to start off by saying that the Ludacris I grew up with was one of the best comedic voices in hip-hop throughout most of the 00’s. “Roll Out,” “Stand Up,” “Get Back” and their accompanying videos still retain all of their laugh- and booty-shaking-inducing potency. Sadly, the Ludacris we have today is too pissed off to really try being funny or even likable, and rather than silence the personalities he uses the mixtape to take shots at, he may just provide them with more ammo.
I’ve reviewed enough crappy Atlanta mixtapes in the past few months that I’m not going to waste much space describing the poor quality of literally every beat on Gigawatts. What is worth mentioning, for example, is that on “Rich & Flexin’” (which starts with a clip of “Cry Me A River” and I don’t know why) Luda barely sounds the more coherent half of a duet with Waka Flocka Flame. I suppose he names the next track “Mothafucka Can U Buy That” just to make sure we get the message that he’s very rich. Big whoop Luda.
The climax of the tape, and probably the entire reason for its existence, are the tracks “Bada Boom” and “Say It To My Face.” On the former, he somewhat convincingly counters Big Sean’s claims (backed by Drake) that Luda stole the Detroit MC’s “Supadupa” flow, but I couldn’t hold it together when Luda claims he’s “got more styles than any rapper in the game.” It’s like calling Eddie Murphy the most versatile actor in Hollywood. As for the other diss track, its target (who I guess said something mean about Luda on Twitter) is literally so unknown that you want to tweet “YOU LIAR” @Ludacris for the previous song’s line about not “shooting a mosquito with a cannon.”
The rest of the tape is highlighted by:
- Gucci Mane unironically asking for “fries with that shake” about twenty-five times
- A song so un-funnily misogynistic that Luda actually uses the phrase “showing her my O-face,” and
- Wiz Khalifa rapping about weed.
Literally the only saving grace to be found on Gigawatts is the unchanged baritone of Luda’s voice, which harkens back to the days when he made us smile with lines about seeing “a big ol’ ass” instead of cringe with failed Office Space references. Or maybe we children of his generation have just matured. Either way, Gigawatts sucks.
2 / 5 bars
“Thank Me Later was a rushed album. I didn’t get to take the time that I wanted to on that record… that’s why my new album is called Take Care, because I get to take my time this go-round.”
This statement, made by Aubrey Drake Graham back in January 2011, finds the most successful rapper in the world since Kanye West expressing dissatisfaction with a disc that Rolling Stone and Complex named the second-best rap album of 2010 (#1 being Kanye West’s masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). By doing so, he did the impossible and actually raised expectations for his sophomore disc in comparison with those surrounding his debut album. And with 2011 seeing new releases from all of hip-hop’s heavyweights (Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, and “Next Big Thing” J. Cole), Drizzy couldn’t realistically expect to wait until all of them dropped, put out Take Care, and start accumulating Album of the Year accolades… could he?
Yes. Because he’s earned all of them, at least in the rap circle. Take Care defies traditional hip-hop conventions, blurring the line between rapper and R&B singer to create a truly beautiful, dark work that unashamedly shines the spotlight its creator’s insecurities. The record almost demands the creation of a new sub-genre name, perhaps “singer-songwriter rap.” Hip-hop purists may find this description disgusting, but personally I feel almost sacrilegious to single out “best moments” from such a cohesive compilation that takes you on an unrelenting 80-minute high like some type of superkush. But here goes:
- The lyrical tour de force on “Over My Dead Body” would literally make me cry if I were famous enough to possibly be one of its subjects. Though I guess I’d get over it “long as the outcome is income.”
- Check that, being one of the girls name-checked in “Shot For Me” would actually literally make me cry.
- You know “Headlines.” I ain’t even gotta say it.
- When TC officially drops and millions of teenagers without the capacity to access music blogs finally meet The Weeknd on “Crew Love,” his Twitter following will increase tenfold. Watch.
- The title track is the second collaboration between Drake and Rihanna. The first was a #1 single. This one is more mature, more memorable, and more lovingly crafted. In a word, better.
- You will love “Marvins Room” until your ex girl finds out about your next girl and ruins your night’s sleep by constantly drunk-texting you the lyrics.
- Ditto what I said about The Weeknd about Kendrick Lamar on “Buried Alive.”
- “Underground Kings” and “We’ll Be Fine” should shut up every critic that claims that Drake doesn’t go hard. And if they don’t, Birdman anointing them “Uptown gangsta shit” should do the trick.
- “Make Me Proud” makes me believe that Drake-Rihanna-Nicki Minaj has the potential to be the greatest love triangle in hip-hop history.
- Excerpt from “Lord Knows”: “I know that showin’ emotion don’t ever mean I’m a pussy/Know that I don’t make music for niggas who don’t get pussy/So those are the ones I count on to diss me or overlook me.” Suck it Big Ghost! Also, props to Rick Ross’ flows and Just Blaze’s beats for making this track a triple homicide when either of them could easily have been swallowed whole by Drizzy’s verse (well, obviously swallowing Rick Ross whole would not be easy…).
- “Cameras/Good Ones Go (Interlude)” makes the paparazzi sound like menacing cockblockers.
- Stevie Wonder harmonica solo on “Doing It Wrong.” Ironic because he’s not. (I apologize for that shit joke but someone had to make it).
- Andre’s verse on “The Real Her” is hands down the best guest spot of 2011 (discounting Drake on “I’m On One, but that’s not really a guest spot anyway).
- “Look What You’ve Done” is Real Talk 101 and I’m Too Rich To Be Called a Bitch (Honors Level).
- “HYFR” is a great track alone for the reason it gives us all the ability to confuse our parents with more secretly obscene text responses. Also Lil’ Wayne can still rap I guess.
- I think it’s fair to say that Drake’s version of “Back That Azz Up” is better than Wayne’s verse on the original, no?
- https://twitter.com/#!/drakkardnoir/status/66324328530190337 ‘Nuff said.
Oh wow, it seems like I’ve mentioned every track, haven’t I? And gone way over my word limit as well. Some people may be inspired by great art to create their own. I’m inspired to write about how awesome I think it is.
It’s obviously too early to say that this will be an immeasurably influential or a landmark album, but it’s also obvious that Drake is not just headed down a different path from the rest of his piers, he’s on a different plane. From the opening piano chord of “Over My Dead Body” to the last choral swirl of “The Ride,” there is not a moment when either genuine artistry or mainstream accessibility overwhelms the other and breaks the perfect balance struck between the pair in genius works of pop music.
It’s only once in a while that we are lucky enough to bare witness to an artist who naturally produces this equilibrium in his or her work until he or she realizes he or she’s doing it and promptly loses the ability (*cough* Eminem). Some will definitely describe the melancholy and darkness imbibing the disc as inappropriate for a rap record, but as Drake more powerfully alludes to on “Lord Knows,” such narrow-minded concerns are of no consequence to those of us interested in work that is simultaneously unprecedented and accessible. Obviously this isn’t technically official until January 1, 2012, but I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t immediately brand this my pick for RAP ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2011.
5 / 5 bars
If you were one of the people who followed Wale’s career before he was sucked inducted into Rick Ross’s layers of fat Maybach Music Group (like me!), you probably never expected the sensitive, poetic, fashion-conscious soul from Washington, D.C. to drop his most high profile release as a member of a record label owned by a morbidly obese man who once denied and then apologized for working as a corrections officer in a Florida prison. But unlike most of these old school Folarin fans, I didn’t panic when I heard the first ‘Le track branded with the robotic-lady “Maybach Music” opening. And after the release of The Eleven One Eleven Theory this past summer (previewing Ambition), any fears that Wale might undergo an MC Hammer-like image shift into a wannabe drug slinger should have been put to rest.
This is the same Wale that we’ve seen on every release since (insert the first Wale mixtape you downloaded). He has the same strengths (clever lyrics, confident flow, unique song topics) and the same weaknesses (repetitiveness, the occasionally uninspiring beats, people wanting to call him “Whale”). If anything, he’s hungrier than ever before, but at the same time, he’s finally found some rewards for his hard work. On the so-appropriately-titled-for-my-point-it’s-probably-a-terrible-cliché “Focused,” he embodies the sentiment with one of the best “I get more chicks than you” lines of the year: “Fuck rap, I’m getting pussy off of Haiku.” Is there another rapper in the world that would try to make you doubt your own skills with the opposite sex by telling you he writes Haikus? No, no there’s not (also, I would’ve loved to have been in the room when Rick Ross first heard that line).
Ambition (which by the way I tried very hard not to name check in the line about “Focused”) is the opposite of many traditional albums because it gets significantly better as it goes along. The disc doesn’t really spark the brain until “Chain Music,” which may sound familiar because it was already released as part of Eleven One Eleven Theory. Even for a while afterwards the album seems destined to disappoint, but things do a sharp 180 at track 10, “Slight Work.” It’s basically Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” hopping six feet off the ground on a pogo stick, tripping on acid. And Big Sean raps on it instead of Chris Brown. His verse makes me cackle like a hyena.
The peak of the album comes on the very next song, the title track. Featuring fellow MMG capo Meek Mill and of course the Biggest Boss himself, “Ambition” is a regal celebration of the ascension of MMG to the top of the hip-hop game. Most of Ambition blends perfectly with the rest of the MC’s catalogue in terms of both quality and content. It’s therefore going to be a hard pill for the O.G. Wale fans to swallow that the best moments on the disc come when he pushes himself into new territories at the urging of his MMG cohorts. “Beautiful music paintin’ pictures that be my vision/ They gon’ love me for my ambition” Wale raps in the chorus. No, Wale, they’re going to have to love you for tracks like this.
Last Saturday afternoon, tennis legend Roger Federer and eventual champion Novak Djokovic battled in perhaps the most entertaining match of the year in the US Open men’s semifinals. The momentum swung back and forth between the two, and Djokovic’s remarkable comeback was highlighted by one of the greatest (or luckiest) shots of all time. It was therefore fitting that every time CBS cut to a shot of the seats where Djokovic’s friends and family were taking in the action, the viewers at home were treated to the “there’s no way that’s actually him” image of Diddy cheering like a madman. Except for once, when the cameras caught him furiously typing away at his Blackberry keypad. What was Diddy texting? A tweet about the adrenaline rush of witnessing tennis’ match of the year up in close in person? No, better. A tweet advertising the availability of Bad Boy Presents: The Preview (Hosted By Diddy) for free on the Internet.
Just kidding. There’s nothing wrong with The Preview, really, but it certainly isn’t a classic in the vein of Federer-Djokovic. The free release is geared towards generating buzz for Bad Boy’s newest members, but also features some established stars to lend credibility to the proceedings. This strategy kind of works, but not really. For example, on the first track “Fly Together,” Red Café kicks things off by boasting “I’m a boss, so I need a boss chick… we can green up like Paul Pierce.” Someone should have told Mr. Café that when you’ve already secured guest spots from Rick Ross and Fabolous on your group’s mixtape, it’s probably best not to open the first verse by jacking a lyric from each of them.
The other two Bad Boys who take center stage at different points throughout the collection are actually a Bad Boy and a Bad Girl named Machine Gun Kelly and Cassie. MGK, a self-proclaimed “East side Cleveland wild boy,” spits at an impressively rapid-fire rate befitting his moniker. He may seem a bit hard to understand to unfamiliar listeners, until Waka Flocka Flame hops in on the action with him on “Wild Boy.” Then you realize, hey, MGK is pretty easy to understand.
The Bad Girl, Cassie, gets her first joint with “Radio,” a semi-mutilated update of Mobb Deep’s classic “Shook Ones Pt. II” that sees Fabolous quoting Drake (again) and the songstress paying homage to Mary J. Blige and TLC. One can’t help but wonder if Diddy truly sees her ever elevating to that level of stardom, however, as neither she nor MGK get a track to themselves on the (admittedly brief) collection. In contrast, Red Café, the most famous but least talented of the trio, gets two solo tracks sandwiching a predictably shameless Ciroc advertisement featuring Puffy comparing Grey Goose to piss. Diddy has always been a savvy businessman however, so perhaps it’s not an accident that the tape ODs on Red Café but leaves you wanting more MGK and Cassie (and Ciroc!).
2.5 / 5 bars
Tha Carter brand name has evolved into one of the most bulletproof in rap. Three-plus years, two forgettable albums and one eight-month prison sentence after the release of Tha Carter III, anticipation surrounding Lil’ Wayne’s fourth installation in the series rivals that of any other release in 2011. Tha Carter put Wayne on the map. C2 made him a superstar. And C3 solidified his place as “the best rapper alive” when it dropped. Does C4 see Weezy return to his 2008 Marshawn Lynch-type “beast mode” production?
The short answer is “not quite.” Everyone in the world will probably agree that C4 doesn’t fare well in a head-to-head matchup with its predecessor. But how many rap discs released since C3 actually do? Drake’s So Far Gone? Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? And… Bueller? Bueller? It may only be August, and Roc Nation fanboys will disagree, but Tha Carter IV stakes a legitimate claim to the title “Best Rap Album of 2011.”
Wayne starts the album with three straight bangers devoid of any guest spots to remind us who the hardest-working man in the rap game is, in case we forgot. And the fourth track, “6 Foot 7 Foot,” the lead single that’s been beating up the radio since shortly after Wayne’s release from Riker’s last winter, still sounds as massive as ever. At least until Cory Gunz hops into the action.
It would be borderline dishonest to mention C4’s lead single without also pointing out its similarities to C3. “6 Foot 7 Foot” is, as many have already observed, basically “A Milli” on steroids. “John,” the second single, is literally just Rick Ross’ “I’m Not A Star” on steroids. And the third single, “How To Love,” is exactly the song you’d expect the guy who wrote “Lollipop” to write after an eight-month prison bit and a return home to his girlfriend. Or the exact opposite. Either way, they’re the only two songs to ever hit the Top Five entirely on the strength of crazy-alien-voice charisma.
“She Will,” the fourth single and first Carter entry to feature the Vice President of the Young Money machine, Aubrey Drake Graham, makes a strong case for best cut on the album. The joint allegorizes hip-hop into a stripper submitting to the whims of “the realest niggas in the game right now.” If the line is too subtle a shot at Kings Carter and West of Watch The Throne fame, “It’s Good,” which features Drake’s other appearance, leaves no room for misinterpretation: “Talkin’ bout baby money? I got your baby money/Kidnap your bitch, get that ‘how much you love your lady’ money,” Wayne threatens, presumably in response to Jay’s “baby money” line in “H.A.M.”
Tha Carter IV is a great album with some admittedly strange missteps and decisions (like completely omitting Wayne from two tracks). But is it good enough to justify starting rap’s biggest beef in years? We’ll have to wait and see.
One might expect Wale’s first solo release on Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group label to bear more similarity to the Teflon Don’s make-the-earth-rumble exploding-bass bangers than the more laid-back pieces upon which Mr. Folarin has built his following. Many of his fans expressed their disgust at the possibility in the immediate aftermath of his signing to MMG, and Self Made Vol. 1 probably didn’t calm them too much. But rap’s most prolific Twitter user has apparently paid heed to the cries of his tweeps, as The Eleven One Eleven Theory is nothing if not at home in the Wale mixtape canon.
The Eleven One Eleven Theory refers to November 1, 2011, the release date of Wale’s first studio album on MMG. While Wale doesn’t sound any better or worse than on his past mixtapes, the upcoming release of his album has given him something new to focus on. Besides the drop date for his disc, however, the Washington D.C. emcee tackles plenty of topics that his piers choose not to address. On “Let’s Chill,” he makes the unique request not to have sex with a girl, because he would like to get to know her better first. “Varsity Blues” is a pledge of support to all of the college athletes that Wale Ovechkin declares are unfairly cheated out of wages by the NCAA or are otherwise unjustly treated by their own universities. Somewhere in Utah, BYU’s Brandon Davies has this record bumping on repeat as he drives along a lonely country road and contemplates whether or not to buy a Jimmer Fredette Sacramento Kings jersey.
While Eleven One Eleven for the most part has its eyes faced forward towards November, Wale still takes times to revisit his back catalogue, most notably on “Ambitious Girl 2,” which is a sequel to (you guessed it) “Ambitious Girl,” originally featured on 2010’s More About Nothing, the Seinfeld-theme sequel to 2008’s The Mixtape About Nothing (listening to Wale is a lot like watching an episode of The Wire. Lots of back story). One of the mixtape’s highlights, the track features Wale giving a “shout out to them 4.0’s and them 1.5’s that said fuck it I tried.” Say what you will about him as a showman, but there’s no doubting that he’s grown comfortable performing at campuses across the country.
Wale is no doubt a superior lyricist, but the small number of guest features and the similarity between the beats cause the mixtape to run more than a bit long at nearly 80 minutes. Adding a hidden track after the “hidden” track listed on the album’s artwork, however, is a clever way to end the tape. Especially pleased will be the Rozay fans who spend the first 19 tracks disappointed that the Boss hasn’t shown up to lend his flow to the proceedings. Not to spoil the surprise. Unless you’re one of those Wale fans who was appalled by Mr. Never Wear The Same Thing’s signing to MMG. Then, consider yourself warned.
3 / 5 bars