Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Rap, Gangsta Rap, Southern Rap
Rick Ross's visceral rhymes about gangster grandiosity often focus on the spoils of success, but a sadness and greater emphasis on costs pervade the Floridian's sixth LP. Clearly, the drive-by attempt on Ross's life a year ago weighs heavily. A tighter track list homing in on its sombre (and stoner) moods would've been bolder, but to his credit Ross avoids commercial trendiness in favour of more personal - if familiar - forays into Philly soul, funk, 90s hip-hop and South Beach glam (courtesy of producer Scott Storch on the stellar Supreme).
Quick show of hands: who here has seen The Wolf Of Wall Street? Chances are that most of you have, and also that you heartily enjoyed it – it was, after all, such a hot ticket for a while that cinemas throughout the land were unable to meet the demand for tickets. However, there’s also a slight chance that some of you may have shared the view that it wasn’t actually that good. That, with all the elements of the film turned up to 11, the drug-taking, the flaunting of material goods, the profanity, the loveless sex and nudity, the film was actually quite tedious.
Not one to evolve at any rate above a snail's pace, Miami rapper Rick Ross is gloriously stuck on gangsta rap, having found a simple yet seemingly secret formula that no other hip-hopper has been able to steal, at least not for more than a single or two. Mastermind -- Ross' annual stomp-and-swagger album, 2014 edition -- could be swapped out with 2009's Deeper Than Rap and only those burnt out on the album would know the difference, but when being stuck in a rut means you grind your wheels and all that spews out is gold, you only need to look to successful artists like the always funky James Brown, the always rockin' AC/DC, and the always stoned Devin the Dude for guidance. Always the same and always awesome is how Ross plays it, although to be fair, these clever street rhymes, the raspy and forceful delivery, plus the million-dollar beats are now allowed a little more room to roam as many Mastermind cuts pound past the five-minute mark.
“First of all, it is the principal through which you may borrow and use the education, the experience, the influence and perhaps the capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life. It is the principle through which you can accomplish in one year more than you could accomplish without it in the lifetime if you depend entirely upon your own efforts for success.” Napoleon Hill’s “Master Mind Principle” serves as more than just an inspiration for the title of the latest album from Rick Ross. Lesson number one in The Law of Success can be applied to the success Ross has had in his career thus far.
Rick Ross continues his gilded reign of terror on Mastermind, another appropriately massive chronicle of attaining ridiculous wealth and flaunting fiscal irresponsibility. Full of thundering beats and equally gargantuan self-regard, it's more of the same from the ever-cartoonish Miami rapper, who continues pioneering the art of sounding as relaxed as possible while still putting out paranoid, pounding coke-chic jams. As with his previous efforts, the album thrives on the fun dissonance between Ross's supposed laidback boss status and his sweaty, overeager gaucheness in establishing those bona fides.
Over Rick Ross' new album, Mastermind, Jay spits, "Is it truth or fiction?" In truth, it's a question that has followed Ross' drug trafficking persona since his debut. However, the gravelly voiced boss of all bosses has always hidden under a veil of theatrics, and his sixth album is no different. For a brief instant, there's a glimmer of hope in the Notorious B.
Rick Ross :: MastermindMaybach Music/Def JamAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania"Mastermind" is an incredibly apt name for the sixth Rick Ross album. It's the name of a famous and long-running British quiz show where a brainy contestant sits on a black leather chair for a couple of minutes and is interrogated by the host on their chosen subject of knowledge. Once you've listened to this album a few times, you start to see that Ross, rather than create anything new, is effectively talking about his "chosen subject" for over an hour and dragging in anything/anyone within earshot to help him.
Miami boastmaster Rick Ross got to where he is by playing a hustler, a don, a master of outsize fantasies of golden-toilet luxury. But the seemingly untouchable king of self-invention – the man who once rapped, "The rumors turn me on, I'm masturbatin' at the top" – uses his sixth album to attempt the near-impossible: becoming a serious artist. All the cues that point to "important rap album" are here, from a famous visual artist doing the deluxe cover art (Banksy pal Mr.
Listening to any Rick Ross record requires an overwhelmingly prodigious imagination. It also requires an innate appreciation of harmless deception; it’s a lot like being an adult at a magic show: you know it’s not really magic, but there’s something wondrous about having your perception of reality challenged. Few dare to so blatantly test the murky waters of Rap surrealism.
Think back on all we’ve learned about Rick Ross since his 2006 debut album Port of Miami. He sells dope off the iPhone. His girls look like money bags. He wakes up to lobster bisque and reclines to the finest crab meats. Ross has pushed pomp at the expense of disclosure ever since he teased a ….
People love to talk about Rick Ross, and now more than ever, they’re disapproving. There have been a string of incidents — some Ross’s fault, others magnified because of the way the music press works — that have vilified the man born William Roberts to the point that he was a tragic omission in Chuck Klosterman’s I Wear the Black Hat, which covered the various ways we’re both attracted and repelled by villainy in our artists, politicians, and sports franchises. The seminal debacle was The Smoking Gun’s largely meaningless exposing of Ross as a former corrections officer.
When Rick Ross’ car was riddled with 18 bullets in a drive-by shooting last January, it affected the rapper more than he let on at the time. And that brush with death—which caused Ross to veer off the road and collide with an apartment building, luckily leaving no one injured—informs Ross’ sixth album, Mastermind, more than most might have thought; the lushly produced project dwells early and often on the subjects of mortality, violence and the costs of being The Bawse. Mastermind also comes at a critical point in Ross’ career, with younger artists hot on his tail in terms of relevance and many wondering what, after all the albums, collaborations and guest verses he’s put out since his 2006 debut Port Of Miami, he still has left to say.
Rick Ross remained a fixture on rap radio in 2013 thanks to guest spots on gangbuster singles from Ace Hood, DJ Khaled, Jay Z, and Rocko—hits so big they masked the fact that Ross didn’t have one of his own. Ross has never been one to let inconvenient realities get in the way of awesome myths, however, so although his sixth album, Mastermind, arrives tailed by several flopped singles, he still carries himself like the biggest star in the world. He opens “Drug Dealer’s Dream” with a recorded bank statement ($92,153,183.28, and that’s just his checking account), and dedicates an entire track to news coverage of a drive-by shooting that targeted him last January as if it were a headline heard around the world.
Skrillex, Recess Man, I feel old. Is this what the kids are listening to these days? (I’m 22.) There’s something tremendously uninspiring about so-called “brostep,” even distasteful – its desecration of the U.K. bass cultures to which it owes its existence, maybe, or a lack of subtlety so pronounced it’s almost aggressive. I’ve read eloquent defenses of the big “drop” as the postmodern EDM equivalent of a classic rock guitar solo, which makes sense but doesn’t really redeem decades of bad guitar solos, if you know what I mean.
On his sixth record it seems Rick Ross assumes he can sell the same old champagne in a different bottle without it going stale. Following a string of recent stillborn singles, this overlong record feels labored and bereft of new ideas. There’s a hermetic quality to the songs; it’s clear Ross needs new stimuli beyond Bentleys, bottles, and bullets.
Perhaps Rick Ross simply took his drug-lord act as far as it could go with 2012's "God Forgives, I Don't," in which the portly Miami rapper somehow made a seizure he'd suffered on a private jet sound like the mark of a true player. But for the first time in a career that's gotten only more interesting since his background as a corrections officer was revealed, Ross has run out of imaginative ways to describe his power on his latest. "Before the crib you gotta clear the guard's gate," he brags of his home in "Rich Is Gangsta," "Elevators like Frank's on 'Scarface.'" Snooze.