It wasn’t easy for Ross to make it even to where he is now. Sounding somewhat like a cigar-smoking Kermit, his flow is more chunky than smooth and his topical content doesn’t extend much beyond that same ole-money rap variety. There’s also the whole thing about being a correctional officer, which doesn’t really help when your telling stories about being in the crack game. Nevertheless, Ross is a hard-working man who continually comes up with some absurdly memorable lines to supplement the lack of thematic inventiveness. Not to mention the dude is just kind of ridiculous. After all, when was the last time you saw Rick Ross with a shirt on and no sunglasses?
With Weezy in the slammer and T.I. still in the hip-hop halfway house back to mainstream radio, the time may never be better for Rick Ross to fill the vacancy spot on the 20-song rotation of your local party station reserved for rappers with G-experience on their CV and stories about making millions off cocaine to supplement their Louis Vuitton-fetish. Fortunately for Da Big Boss, he came prepared, peppering his fourth full-length, Teflon Don, with guest spots that include but are not limited to Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Drake, Kayne West, Gucci Mane, Diddy and even T.I. Despite the all-star roster of guest spots, Ross seems interested in something greater than a just hits, he’s trying to solidify his reputation as a rapper to be reckoned with. Take the first 20 seconds of Teflon Don when Ross gives us his last wishes with Caesar-like grandeur: “If I died today remember me like John Lennon/ bury me in Louie, I’m talkin’ all brown linen/make all of the bitches tattoo my logo on their titties/ put a statue of a nigger in the middle of the city.” Listen, Ross is definitely trying to make a buck off this rap-game, but at this point he’s is done trying to earn your respect, he’s trying to create a legacy.
Does Teflon Don do that? That answer probably depends on where you stand with Rick Ross. If you come to him for epically catchy rap tunes, Teflon Don offers that. The Jay-Z featured “Free Mason” is full of orchestrated strings and tales of success after making it out of the streets. While the first single “Super High” might be the funkiest thing Ross has ever rapped over. Plastered with a sexy beat sampled from the ‘70s Detroit R&B group Enchantment, Ross trades off verses with Ne-Yo doing his best Maurice White impression that could makes some waves in the hot tub between you and your boo. On “Live Fast, Die Young”, Kanye and Ross meet up to bring some ridiculous, champagne-drenched charisma over a solid effort by Kanye behind the boards. Ross pulls out his book of outrageous lines for K-Weezy, closing verse one with this ridiculous gem: “She came to party like it’s 1999 / If she’d died on my dick/she’d live through my rhymes.”
Despite the chuckle it might induce between your friends, Ross’ wet-dream fantastical lyrics can also be his biggest turn-off. Teflon Don, like all his albums, is kind of like a blaxploitation cum Broadway musical: a pastiche of emotions, villain, heroes, drugs, scantily-clad chicks (lots of them) and choruses you’ll have stuck in your head for weeks to come. The problem comes in that Ross can’t seem to pen anything else. He rarely gets personal and almost never delves into the dirty-dirty of what it took him to make all that drug money. Towing the same cocaine-line with the rest of Ross’ work in the past, it focuses on the flash and fun in sacrifice of all those bullet-dodging, Pyrex-stirring details.
Fuck it, though. Ross is good at what he does and rap needs guys like him to liven up the party and get us hyped. On Teflon Don, Ross perfectly picks choice beats from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League that work with his hefty flow, fills guest-spots with rappers of the moment (Gucci Mane) and established stars (Jadakiss, Raphael Saddiq) while throwing all that glamour and glitz at you with an impressively confident soulful, thug-swagger. He even spends a rare second getting personal to eulogize his father on “All the Money in the World” with: “I can hear my daddy sayin’, ‘Lil nigga, go get him’ /Passed in ’99, cancer all in his liver” and then, “I would never rap again if I can tell him that I miss him.” It’s not much, but it’s new territory for Ross that allows him to still maintain the leather-lined comfort of his Maybach-driving rhymes while breaking out of his money/chicks/cars shtick for a hot second.
Don’t be fooled, its still the same money-hungry, Yacht Club card-carrying Rick Ross on Teflon Don. And while his fourth full-length may not garner him any best-rapper-alive awards, Ricky is sure making a run for being recognized as who the rap world can turn to in the late Y2K’s for some rousing, anthemic tales of success and all the riches it yields for better or worse. At some point, this money-rap game is going to grow stale, but with Rick Ross around, it has rarely sounded so good.
// Notes from the Road
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