by A. Pierre
It’s the Summer of 2005, and for the first time ever I’m on my way to the airport without any of my family. Now who was with me? Well, a group of friends and a few associates headed down to Miami, FL, straight to South Beach for Memorial Day Weekend for roughly a 7-day stay. A lot of things were seen that week, and fun had, but one of the many things I distinctly remember about the environment outside the obvious, was the parade of cars circling Ocean Drive and Collins Ave, full of drop tops, candy paint, 20+ inch rims, and luxury to Old School souped-up cars that were surely way out of my “fresh out of college” budget. As I stepped out on the scene for the first day what did I hear, and not entirely to my surprise literally every 10 minutes ALL week long blasting throughout Ocean Drive? Rick Ross’s break out single , “Hustlin” off his debut album Port Of Miami, and sprinkled in there was Young Joc’s “Its Goin’ Down” (now where is that guy anyway?), but i digress. As far as “Hustlin” goes I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in an environment where I heard the same song repped so hard over and over and over again. However it’s not too hard to see why, when you factor in that “Hustlin” was arguably the hottest street anthem around that time, encompassing gritty production, with a to the point yet addictive hook, then on top of that we were actually in Miami where Rick Ross repped, it was to be expected.
Now move forward roughly 9 years to date, and it’s safe to say that Rick Ross has gone through his share of ups and downs personally and musically. What started as the new “hot” Southern artist churning out hits from his debut album, went to the negative controversy and backlash from his initial correction officer lies, which then consequently led to talk of fabrication in his rhymes to issues with the real convicted drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross, to now where Ross is an accomplished pillar in the game. Over the years it seems like somewhere along the line Rick Ross’s backlash from his eventual admitted CO days, along with all the other miscellaneous issues people were nitpicking with Ross about seemed to just go away so to speak. Why? Well, we’ll touch on that later.
On Rick Ross’ Latest offering “Mastermind”, his 6th studio LP it’s actually more of the same from the southern emcee. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, some artist produce their best material by staying in their lane and simply just continuing to do what they do best. Other artists learn how to show advanced progression in their music which can many times take them to another stratosphere musically and/or lyrically, pushing them to the top echelon of MC’s in rap. As far as Ross is concerned, on “Mastermind” he’s done what he usually does on most of his albums; trap music rhymes rapped over good production filtered with some street anthems, a few tracks for the ladies and multiple big name guest appearances.
The first big-name featured guest and stand out track on Mastermind is the Jay-Z assisted “Devil is a Lie”. Needless to say Hov takes over the track with his verse, touching on the shade he’s gotten for his long success as an artist and businessman. On the soulful trunk rattling track Hov raps…
“Is it truth or it’s fiction, is it truth or it’s fiction?
Is Hova atheist? I never fuck with True Religion
Am I down with the devil cuz my roof come up missin’?
Is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’?
That’s D’usse baby welcome to the dark side
Coulda got black list for the crack shit
White Jesus in my crock pot
I mix the shit with some soda
Now I’m black Jesus turn water to wine
And all I had to do was turn the stove up
Beast Coast, winnin’ at life, nigga, cheat code
The hatin’ is flagrant, hit your free throws
The devil try to hit me with the RICO, them black people
Devil want these niggas hate they own kind
Gotta be Illuminati if a nigga shine
Oh we can’t be a nigga if a nigga rich?
Oh we gotta be the devil that’s some nigga shit
You seen what I did to the stop and frisk
Brooklyn on the Barney’s like we own the bitch
Give the money to the hood, now we all win
Got that Barney’s floor lookin’ like a VIM
Black hoodie, black skully
Bravado like Mavado, boy I’m that gully
Gettin white money but I’m still black
All these niggas claiming king but I’m still that
King Hova, Mansa Musa
From a lie, the devil is a lie, I’m the truth, yeah”
On the track “War Ready” featuring Young Jeezy, Ross continues his long track record and extended string of hard hitting street anthems, this one produced by Mike Will Made It. Jeezy and Rick Ross picked the perfect song to bury their long standing personal issues. “War Ready” is the type of track that you CANNOT play on low volume and truly appreciate the energy. On the 5th track “Nobody” with French Montana on the hook and including additional P. Diddy ad-libs sprinkled throughout the song, Ross initially received a lot of negative feedback.
One thing I’ve noticed in Hip-Hop is whenever one artist touches even the essence of a beloved artist like a 2Pac or in this case an old Biggie Smalls track and attempts to sample, remix, reprise or however you would like to describe it, fans of that artist love to get all up in arms about how blasphemous it is to touch their classic track. Well when you bring some objectivity into the discussion and just relax and enjoy the music, Ross’ “Nobody” is a dope track. The addition of French Montana’s sing-song vocal tone on the hook compliment the track perfectly, and to be quite honest I’m not sure this track could have been done right with anyone else on the hook outside of Ross literally sampling Biggie’s voice from the “Life After Death” original.
Rick Ross does an admirable job mimicking Biggie’s legendary flow on the track in question, rapping…
“I’m from where the streets test you
Niggas mix business and pleasure where the cocaine measure
The narcotics is our product
The by-product, you walk up on me, I cock it
New Mercedes as it peels off
Nothing penetrates the steel doors, gang signs, see ‘em all
I said my prayer as I’m countin’ sheep
Never really athletic, but I play for keeps, do you feel me?
The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches
We kill ‘em and taking their bitches, R.I.P
Chinchillas on a winter night
Black bottles when I’m feelin’ like, you wanna know what winners like
And I’m never on that tour bus
Just a decoy for niggas, the PJ’s for two of us
Ciroc boys down to die for Diddy
My niggas ride for less, keep it real, homie, made me filthy
Touch mine, until it’s even: kill
Like I’m knowing every heathen will, closed the deal with Steven Hill
We Magic City of the networks
Cut a nigga cast off, how my nigga net worths”
If the intention of this track was to pay homage while attempting to make a dope rendition all in one, Ross did a solid job.
Another one of the stand-out tracks is “Thug Cry” featuring Lil Wayne, unfortunately for Ross this is another circumstance of him being out-rapped on his own song. On the 2nd verse Wayne raps…
“Well, let me light one for my problems
Smokin’ on that loud, pumpin’ up that volume
Get it crackin’ like an eggshell
In this mothafucka make omelettes
Get a bad bitch that posts up like comments
They don’t know what I been through
Don’t know what I’m goin’ through
As long as I get through, that’s what I look forward to
Richer than a bitch but still I can’t afford to
Let these niggas play with me; need to be remorseful
I swear I got that silencer on that Mac 9
And I kill these niggas with silence
My head stay in the clouds, I really feel like a giant
Can’t trust none of these niggas, I murk one of these niggas
Then bury one of these niggas, still got dirt under my fingers
That ain’t a threat, that’s a bet, cause they coming at my neck
Like the best a man can get, but to make a long story short
I need a shoulder cause the devil on one
The other one, I’m lookin’ over
Ross is not flawless on “Mastermind” and far from being considered a lyrical giant on this album; for every “Drug Dealers Dream”, “Devil is a Lie” or “Blk & Wht” banger there’s a “Walking On Air” featuring Meek Mill that sounds like a bland filler track from any number of MMG mixtapes, or “Supreme” which has nice production but is also easily a skipper. Throughout “Mastermind” Ross continues to give what has kept him successful and relevant on the Hip-Hop scene, which is plain ole consistency. There is something to be said for being consistent; you may not break any new ground by creating only consistent solid to good albums with similar content. However there are plenty of artists over the years that have talked about the same topics they have rapped about out since their debuts that have fallen off or consequently began making increasingly stale music while doing a poor of job of keeping old stories fresh to the listener.
So whether we are talking about sports, entertainment, business, or in this case music, when you create product the masses of people enjoy over and over again, they will conveniently “forget” about your past transgressions. Hey it’s life! When you win, the people give you a pass, when your losing in your chosen field they love to pile on all your negative past until you fall off the scene. All in all no one would confuse “Mastermind” as anything transcendent, however it’s still another win for the Rick Ross catalog, and the continuation of Rick Ross’ overall career theme, which is simply being…… Mr. Consistent. #HaitianJack
Rick Ross – “Mastemind” (Released March 2014)
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A. Pierre of HipHop Bars 2 Beats 4 Reviews, for War Room Sports