Thanks to a bit of good fortune and the stubbornness of a bull, Rick Ross has been able to navigate towards the upper echelon of today’s batch of rappers. The Bawse has created a persona that’s literally larger than life with a penchant for picking impeccable production and an ability for staying in character that would paint Kirk Lazarus with envy. The Miami emcee appears ready to sit at the head table, progressing from an ambitious hustler to a Teflon Don in a matter of four albums. The only question that remains is whether Ross’ music mirrors the lofty heights to which he claims.
Living the bawse life must be demanding because Teflon Don has more ebbs and flows than the Pacific Ocean. Going from 0-60 in a matter of pressing play with the energetic “I’m Not A Star,” Rawse sounds right at home between the frenzied keyboard stabs and pulsating bass. Confidently throwing out boasts (sometimes befuddling) and skating by on sheer bravado, it’s hard to argue against him when he’s clicking on all cylinders. The same weighs true for the fraternal twins that are “MC Hammer” and “B.M.F,” boisterous to their core; Ross again controls the beats with iron vocal chords.
It’s when the tempo slows down and a subtler tone is required that the corpsing occurs. All the nonsensical blurts stand out are highlighted when the beats take a back seat and the song’s content should be the main attraction. Starting with “Free Mason,” the album runs through a streak of songs where Ricky tries his hand at musing life’s mysteries and handling some weightier issues. The only problem is that he either has little-to-nothing to add or he can’t fully convey what he wants to say. On the aforementioned record, he throws together enough mythical, Illuminati and conspiracy theories together to form a semi-coherent verse. It’s all for naught though, as he eventually sets the stage for Jay-Z to lay wreck to the track, successfully dispelling rumors of his masonry ties.
Ricky Rozay fully experiences the gift and curse with his overdosing on guest appearances. Because for every Styles P. and Gucci Mane cameo, therein lies a T.I. or Kanye West waiting in the wings to steal the show. Mr. Harris does so convincingly on “Maybach Music III,” where his calm demeanor better exudes wealth and sophistication more than Ross’ faux luxurious spiel. Ditto for “Live Fast, Die Young,” where even though he displays an impressive flow from a technical standpoint, Mr. West’s stop-n-go inflections give his verse a more out of control feel. Wedging nepotistic fluff in between the melee or ending with forced introspection on songs like “No. 1” or “All The Money In The World” respectively, not only waste recording budgets but kill the album’s flow.
Having a golden ear when it comes to his beat selection (J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, No I.D. and DJ Clark Kent all submit audio jewels), Ross has developed an even better attribute over the span of his career in is his ability to string the production together in a way that the individual pieces come together like a puzzle, giving the album a cohesive feel both in sound and content. Not much of that is evident is this time around and it goes a long way to showcase the lyrical deficiencies Ross has outside of matching impressive flows to stellar production. See the soulful “Tears of Joy” where Ricky spews: “Not to dwell on the past/but to keep it real/I gotta represent for Emmitt Till.” Sure William. Whatever the good folks at The History Channel tell you.
Rick Ross has worked hard to craft his Mafioso don image that he actually believes any move he makes will succeed. He may be the Teflon Don, but this album shows that he’s far from impenetrable when in the booth.