Music

Rick Ross: Trilla

Jordan Sargent

Rick Ross is, quietly, one of the most important emcees in rap. His second album succeeds on the back of great beats and guests, while he deftly manages not to ruin it all.


Rick Ross

Trilla

Label: Def Jam
US Release Date: 2008-03-11
UK Release Date: 2008-03-17
Amazon
iTunes

Rick Ross, though you may not be aware of it, is one of the most successful rappers in music right now. That said, he’s an odd case. Unlike with Jay-Z, Kanye West or T.I., you won’t see any of Ross’ albums appearing on a year-end list in this website, Rolling Stone or probably even XXL. And unlike 50 Cent, another hugely popular but critically reviled rapper, Ross has neither a unanimously acclaimed album nor single in his past. Yet, Trilla, his second album, sold 198,000 copies in its first week out, despite the fact that the album’s big lead single peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #87, and that his face showed up on as many magazine covers as mine did.

Not only does all this make Ross a confounding presence, but also a pretty important one. If middle-schoolers aren’t buying Ross’ albums with their birthday money -- and all indications are that they aren’t -- than who exactly is vaulting this dude over chart mainstays like Snoop Dogg and the Now collection? The answer has to be rap fans, meaning Rick Ross -- the rapper who will forever remain infamous for rhyming “Atlantic” with “Atlantic” -- is galvanizing rap’s core fan base like only its most visible pop stars can. Common and UGK, two rap acts whose last albums also went #1 despite minimal pop crossover, share peer boosterism with Ross, but they’ve been around. Their number ones felt owed to them. Ross on the other hand, hasn’t influenced a whole generation of successful rappers (and even though I like Trilla, and him in general, I hope he never does).

What’s Ross’ appeal. then? With regards to his avid listeners, it’s obvious: his willing omission of details. He presents a life, and an album, unencumbered with the pitfalls of celebrity, the struggle of coming up, or the emptiness that can creep in when one actually owns 18 cars. When people think of being rich enough to own a Maybach, a yacht, and four houses, they think of the utopian life Ross raps about. It’s the strongest form of escapism, one that eschews both the realities of one’s actual life and one’s fantasy life. Trilla is for when listening to, say, Bun B, is all too real, for when one realizes how to get from point A to point B, but wishes to bypass the line in-between altogether. For Ross’ buyers, be it a corner hustler, a valet, or even an investment banker looking to double his six figure salary, Trilla provides the same type of utopian escapism as would a James Bond film.

And when you get caught up in all of that, Trilla is sometimes captivating. First single “Speedin’” reaches epic heights when R. Kelly launches into its chorus (“Fast life / I live / Big cars, big cribs / Speeeeeeeedin’”), encapsulating the album’s themes of freedom and kingdom in both lyric and mood. Follow-up single “The Boss” isn’t meant for playing chicken with cops on I-95, and its droopy-eyed T-Pain hook is decidedly understated, but the J.R. Rotem beat is (surprisingly) sly, its female coos slowly unfurling around the booming Ross like a twisted version of the mythological Furies. And on “We Shinin’”, the solidly consistent producer Bink! provides Ross with a lush, blue-soul beat, giving the rapper a blush of humanity that he’d be hard-pressed to conjure up himself.

For his part, Ross isn’t as awful as he’s been or could be. He still thinks he is way more clever than he actually is (“Caesar salad / Caesar’s Palace” etc.), but he manages well from a technical standpoint and he even gets out his fair share of great to passable hooks. His best asset is his persona, which he doesn’t stray from until the last track, allowing the album to come together more fluidly and coherently than you might expect.

And when it comes down to it, Trilla was supposed to be at least as good as it is. Def Jam needed to break the bank here -- with regards to both beats and guests -- and it paid off. Both producers and rappers turn in performances befitting of the type of event album Trilla tries to be; (hell, we got a banger out of J.R. Rotem), and it turns a song like “Luxury Tax”, which would have been (and probably was in some incarnation) a deep-cut snoozer on the last DJ Khaled album, into one of the best and most luxuriant rap songs of the year.

It’s all very calculated, and some would say empty, but albums that are good because the rappers do just enough not to ruin a great collection of beats and guests verses is not a foreign concept to us. Why Trilla especially is catching so much shit for it, I’m not sure. I mean, we all heard American Gangster, right?

7

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image