Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mastermind - Album Review

Rick Ross dropped a new album last Tuesday, 3/4/2014, titled Mastermind, suggesting...I guess, his opinion of his place in hip hop. I've got some thoughts I'll run through quickly, as well as an overall rating and the top five songs.

So, this is Rooooosay!'s 6th solo album, though he's got several mixtapes and compilations (like the MMG Presents... series) you could include in his overall body of work. So he's not a rookie. And he's not exactly switching things up. He's the same Rick Ross he's always been, bringing his exotic combination of unusually opulent descriptions and unbelievably cliche bravado. No one else really raps like him. Action Bronson matches the intoxicatingly fresh imagery, and the gangsterisms could be plucked from any Waka Flocka track, but who does both like this? It literally sounds a writing experiment where Chief Keef wrote every other line, only for (Black Album-era) Jay-Z to come along and say "fuck, what can I say to make this have some intellectual content?" For example, one representative combination includes the lines:
"All I ever wanted was to make scrilla
Have a recording session with J Dilla"
For those who don't know, scrilla is slang for money, and J Dilla is a legendary, underground producer who died a few years back. The kind of guy Rick Ross wouldn't ever record with! Sometimes it doesn't even take two lines. "Mafia bitch, silk underwear". I don't know about you, but that's certainly not the first thing that came to my mind when I hear about someone being in the Mafia. Dude just thinks a little differently than everyone else. That, along with that rumbling voice, are his defining traits as an artist. HWUH.
But the trouble with Ross' trichotomy approach comes in the album layout. We find intense, murderous tracks with trap beats, pop songs softer than Rosay's belly, and somber raps bringing out his introspective, reflective side. And, of course, every now and then he melds all these traits into one masterpiece (or mainstream appealing single). So here, even with a 19 song bonus edition, we don't see enough of any strategy. And let's be honest, those pop songs BLOW. I only deleted three songs off the album: Supreme, Blk & Wht, and the unbearably dull Dope Bitch Skit. Ross is so much better when he sounds like he's trying hard, either in terms of intimidating, bragging, or teaching. Luckily, he saves plenty of time for those, although some other filler tracks waste space on your iPhone: ignore Nobody and What a Shame, both old East Coast knock offs with French Montana, and make your own decisions on Rich is Gangsta and War Ready.
Curiously, this loveable MC finds his best form when he puts away his Heisenberg and rolls with Walter White, teaching life lessons to Walt Jr. and protecting his family. Ricky Ross is a lot, lot smarter than you think he is. He also isn't a thug, gangster, or drug dealer. It's a character he plays, one he acts well and one that pays well, but he's noticeably more comfortable on this album being goofy (Mafia Music III), recalling his past (Thug Cry), or offering warnings of the dangers of the underworld (Blessing in Disguise). He, as always, uses superb beat selection to create a mood for every song, every movement. With Ross, it's never a classic, but it's always solid, and there are always useful pieces to grab.


Best songs:
1. Thug Cry
2. Drug Dealer's Dream
3. Blessing in Disguise
4. The Devil is a Lie
5. Sanctified

Party bangers:
1. The Devil is a Lie
2. Sanctified
3. You Know I Got It

Get yolked/Ball Out/Run a marathon:
1. Drug Dealer's Dream
2.  Walkin on Air
3. Rich is Gangsta
 4. The Devil is a Lie
5. What a Shame

Reflective Jams:
1. Thug Cry
2. Blessing in Disguise
3. Paradise Lost

Love Making:
1. In Vein

Smoke to:
1. In Vein
2. Thug Cry
3. Paradise Lost

To Bump in the Car:
1. Drug Dealer's Dream
2. The Devil is a Lie
3. Mafia Music III
4. You Know I Got It
5. Sanctified

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