PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Maybach Music Group: Self Made Vol. 1

Rick Ross assembles some of the mixtape world's brightest stars to shine a light on his ongoing Maybach Music movement. Results may vary.

Maybach Music Group

Self Made Vol. 1

Label: Def Jam
US Release Date: 2011-05-23
UK Release Date: Import

I was actually pretty stoked for this release. In 2009, Pill seemed like he was going to become one of my favorite rappers before he released a bit of a dud in 2010 with The Overdose. Wale released an album, Attention Please, that a lot of people disliked for some reason, but I thought he came off really official, and most of his mixtapes were equally quality. Meek Millz uses that Philly flow that Peedi Crakk's been on for a while now and most of the Money Making Jam Boys use, so he just sounds hype whenever he gets on the microphone. And even though Rick Ross always comes across better if he's interpreted as a cartoon character rather than a real person, he does usually sound really proper as a guest artist these days, so I figured surrounding himself with some better rappers would allow him to finally sound like the background kingpin he's always imagined himself to be. Throw in features from J. Cole, Curren$y, Jadakiss, and CyHi da Prynce, plus production from Just Blaze, Lil' Lody, Lex Luger, and more, and it just seemed like Self Made Vol. 1 had the formula for success.

Unfotunately, Self Made Vol. 1's origins as a mixtape are clear throughout nearly everything here. The album's opening set is full of trunk rattling street jams, but the problem is all of the songs sound exactly the same, and the diverse array of talents on Maybach Music's roster don't find ways to make their styles mesh like, say, Wu-Tang Clan did. Not that those are the expected heights for this crew, but they never come across as a true group, just a bunch of goombas kicking verses for their godfather. Throughout the album, Pill is the particularly disappointing one -- he doesn't show many signs of the street conscious, Dungeon Family influence that seemed so evident on The Refill and The Prescription. He just continues down the path towards Generic Radio Gangster Rapper Z that he began to pave on The Overdose, his first tape for a major label. Meek Millz similarly says a whole lot of nothing throughout the tape, and anyone that's heard the Money Making Jam Boys mixtape is probably just going to want to flip over to that instead whenever he comes on.

Their failures can't rest entirely on their shoulders, since a lot of the production here -- save the mid-album tempo changer "Rise" (which is practically a Curren$y song since he takes center stage and the beat feels tailored to him) and closing number "Running Rebels" -- sound so uniform and unexciting. Just as the production feels formulaic and stale, so too do most of Ross's choruses, which follow the Albert Anastasia/Ashes to Ashes formula of repeating righteously ignorant phrases focused around a name or item at a hefty, slow pace. Honestly, the only person who seems to come out of this looking better than when he went in is the least likely guy to even be appearing here, Wale. His lyrical swagger continues to shine through the change-up from go-go and soul-based production he used to make a living with, and nearly every verse he raps here is a highlight, even if he does mention Rick Ross saving his career a little too often. But one guy's triumph is nowhere near enough to salvage the litany of disappointments most of Self Made Vol. 1 amounts to; if you're car's not outfitted with an outrageous stereo system that will maximize your pleasure, I can't really recommend this outside the curio of Wale rapping over production normally reserved for guys like Gucci Mane.

Well, that, or those hip-hop fans who are drawn to beats first, lyrics second. Because although the raps from Pill, Ross, and Meek are fairly weak compared to their pasts, their voices are all suited to the songs they perform here, and the sound of Self Made Vol. 1, as has become a Maybach Music trademark, is quite ear-catching. To my ears, it's an exhausting listen with all these guys trading the baton back and forth, but taking the songs out of context as individual numbers, most of them come off stronger than they do as part of a front-to-back listen. Ross definitely made a mistake by lifting "Pandemonium" and "Play Your Part" from his Ashes to Ashes mixtape to pad out the runtime here -- I've never understood the purpose of charging listeners for songs they've already been given for free on another, fairly recent project -- but at least they lend some diversity to the album's sound (and in the former's case, it comes off as one of the better posse cuts). I suppose in the end Self Made Vol. 1 is a pretty typical "pick your favorites and ditch the rest" sort of major label rap release, not really intended for straight forward listening. On that end, it succeeds about as well as it could given its rushed production schedule, but as the music stops one can't help but be worried about Pill's future, and whether these guys are going to continue trying this collaboration business or go back to doing solo projects. I'm hoping for the latter.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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