Music

Rick Ross: Mastermind

Album number six from Rick Ross doesn't stray too far from the sound of his previous work, but a high level of polish just might make this his best album yet.


Rick Ross

Mastermind

Label: Maybach / Def Jam
US Release Date: 2014-03-03
UK Release Date: 2014-03-03
Amazon
iTunes

“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. It all starts with the name. As you likely know by now, William Leonard Roberts II borrows his stage name from the renowned drug trafficker "Freeway" Rick Ross, and with it, his kingpin persona. This character is elevated by a number of producers, guests, and connections. Ross even borrows the flow of other successful rappers from time to time (though not nearly to the extent of The Game), as seen on “Nobody” where he does his best Biggie impression. Rick Ross the artist is the culmination of all these variables coming together as one to make the best possible product, and fully committing to this idea is ultimately what helps lift Mastermind to the top of his discography.

Looking like a promo poster for Miami Vice, the cover art for Mastermind does a fantastic job of capturing the mood of the album. Ross plays up the cocaine kingpin lifestyle from "Rich Is Gangsta" all the way through “Thug Cry”. Hard white, Maybachs, Belaire Rosé, thousand dollar stacks, and palm trees set the backdrop for Mastermind, as Ross paints the scene with lines like “Versace slippers, 20 chains, bitch I'm Dana Dane / Put a patch over your eye, fuck with my petty change." There are a couple of skits that play into this theme as well, providing some annoyingly unforgettable quotes. “Dope Bitch” in particular -- ugh. The album’s subject matter can grow tiresome after a while as Ross never attempts to take it anywhere deeper, but he’s content with making mafioso rap and it’s a demographic that will always supply customers.

Mastermind deserves credit in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ross’s only aim is to make music that is fun to listen to, and for the most part, he succeeds at that. He isn’t afraid to show a sense of humor, at one point saying “Nigga vision the clearest, I get shooters on clearance / Barely fit in a Lambo but did it for the appearance." Ross will never be known as one of the best lyricists, but he always manages to come up with some great one-liners that are made even more memorable thanks to his commanding delivery. The beat selection on Mastermind is top notch, with cinematic beats that build up the rich drug dealer image. There were a lot of different producers involved, from big names to lesser knowns, but the beat selection and sequencing are good enough that it still maintains a cohesive sound.

The “Master Mind Principle” is in full effect when it comes to guest appearances on Mastermind. Rick Ross is the commander-in-chief for this show, but he isn't afraid to step aside and let a guest steal the spotlight every once in a while. This is never more evident than on “In Vein”, which ends up being one of the best songs on the whole album, but it totally sounds like a Weeknd song with a Rick Ross verse thrown on it. And there’s nothing wrong with that because at the end of the day it leads to Ross having a better album. Big Sean, Young Jeezy, and Jay-Z all supply great guest verses, and again, Ross isn’t afraid of being outshined on his own track if it amounts to a better song. If I have one complaint about guest appearances it’s that French Montana is given hook duty on two separate occasions and fails both times. Tracy T’s rambunctious hook on “War Ready” also detracts from what was otherwise a good song.

Six albums deep and not a lot has changed. What you see is what you get with Rick Ross. The good news is that he continues to learn and refine the style that he is known for. There aren’t many rappers clogging the lane for Rick Ross with mafioso gangsta rap that is accessible to the mainstream audience. Mastermind may be lacking in substance, but it accomplishes what it set out to. It’s a well-produced and carefully assembled album with solid rapping and satisfying guest appearances. The pieces tie together, and at the end of the day, there’s no denying that Mastermind is a fun album.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.