Music

How Rick Ross’ ‘Albert Anastasia’ Vaulted Him To A New Level Of Rap Stardom

In May of 2010, Rick Ross declared his mission statement for the next decade: “It’s next level time, Elroy Jetson time,” he told online outlet 57thave. Artists use a rotating assortment of superfluous cliches to pump up new music, so the interview wasn’t exactly his “the souf got sum to say” moment. Ross, who fashioned himself as “the biggest boss,” was prone to self-mythologizing quotables like “I need $10 million a year just to function.”

And at the time, Ross was probably the last rapper that rap fans were taking at face value. In 2009, the then-34-year-old was getting needled by most of the rap world after being “exposed” as a correctional officer in 2008. That he survived universal ridicule and 50 Cent’s 2009 onslaught of viral disses to sustain a career was a miracle. But then “BMF” dropped, and even his detractors realized he was set for takeoff. His 2010 output began with the Albert Anastasia EP, the prequel to Teflon Don, which was released on mixtape site DatPiff 10 years ago today.

With the vaunting “BMF” and “MC Hammer,” as well as the silky “Super High,” Ross deafened the knocks on his credibility and entered a new tier of rap stardom by personifying a popular adage: “The bigger the lie, the more they believe.”

By 2010, Rick Ross was lucky to simply be treading water as a signed mainstream artist. He had gone through two years that would have torpedoed almost any artist. In 2008, late journalist Sam Ferguson divulged for Hip-Hop Weekly that Ross had worked as a corrections officer at the South Florida Reception Center for 18 months. Ross initially denied the allegations, but a photo then surfaced of Ross in uniform. The specter of a rapper ideating himself a drug kingpin while previously working as a CO was considered too far fetched for many consumers to suspend disbelief on, and his then-successful career was in jeopardy.

At the start of 2009, Ross seemingly sought to shift his narrative in one of the most dangerous ways possible: by dissing 50 Cent. On “Mafia Music,” he called the G-Unit boss a “jealous stupid motherf*cker” and accused him of burning his child’s mother’s house down. Ross has said that 50 gave him an odd look at the 2008 BET Awards (50 says he doesn’t even remember seeing Ross) which necessitated the shots. Regardless of the genesis, the two clashed online, with 50 Cent vowing to “f*ck (Ross’) life up for fun.” On top of dropping numerous diss records, 50 pulled numerous viral stunts, including dropping an “Officer Ricky” cartoon, taking Ross’ child’s mother out on a shopping spree, and releasing a sex tape of one of Ross’ other children’s mother. The onslaught was so vicious that even 50’s then-archenemy Game told Ross that “50 eatin’ you boy.

The double blow of two successive years of bad headlines would have made most MCs a mere footnote in rap history, but Ross’ talent prevailed. He had been in the rap game since the ‘90s, toiling through situations at several record labels before being signed by Def Jam in 2006. Between his skills and his determination, he wasn’t going to allow himself to be easily dismissed.

Deeper Than Rap went number one on the strength of singles like “Maybach Music 2,” “Magnificent,” and “Rich Off Cocaine.” Ross had defied 50 Cent’s assertion that his career would be dealt a death blow and exemplified the cognitive dissonance that’s become more normalized for most rap fans in 2020. It was possible to acknowledge Ross’ past job and note that 50’s volleys were pretty stinging while still enjoying Ross’ music. Hip-hop fans had long clung to a “keep it real” mantra, but once enough people had acknowledged that nothing was real but the feeling of the music, Ross felt creative liberation to push the fantasies further — and make them impossible to ignore.

Ross played to his late-aughts resilience by naming his next album Teflon Don. The album was set for a summer 2010 release, but Ross first sought to feed the streets with a suite of testers. He linked with in-demand producer Lex Luger after freestyling over his now-iconic “Hard In The Paint” instrumental, with a tenacious delivery and deflective lyrics like, “You think I give a f*ck what other n***s think? / Make another million every time a n***a blink.”

Lex’s spastic, booming drums and stirring synths were an ideal soundscape for Ross and both men knew it. Luger has said that he sent Ross approximately 210 beats in a week span, and was told not to give away two beats. One became “MC Hammer,” and the other was “BMF.” At the time, songs named after people had become a prevalent trend, and Ross had picked two of hip-hop’s most infamous brands to homage for his stories of consumption and corruption.

The tracks led off Albert Anastasia with a full speed ahead fury. “MC Hammer’s” urgent, escalating synths sounded like the leadup to a battle for the fate of the universe — and Ross met the gravity of the production with an undeniable vigor. If fans were going to give him the leeway to bend the truth with his boasts, then he’d contort it beyond recognition, galvanized by Luger’s skillful production. Ross pushed the braggadocio to the furthest end of the spectrum, going on a lyrical shopping spree to rival the man who blew a $30 million fortune by screaming to the top of the heavens that “I got 30 cars, whole lot of dancers / I take them everywhere, I’m MC Hammer.” The lyrics varied between were outrageous, funny, and downright crude at some junctures. It was thrilling throughout, but still didn’t quite compare to.

“BMF” retained the intensity of “MC Hammer,” but had a groove more fit for commercial consumption on his homage to Big Meech and the infamous Black Mafia Family drug organization. FBI prosecutors allege that BMF grossed $270 million in drug profits before being taken down by the FBI in 2005, and BMF members were indeed “blowin’ money fast.” Ross did his bombastic best to score their lifestyle, with decrees like “cocaine running through my big veins” and “stunt so hard make ‘em come indict me” that were obviously outrageous but also fit the Scarface redux vibe he was doing for.

The silky “Super High” with Neyo was another standout from Albert Anastasia. He visited the gold-adorned well of his luxurious “Maybach Music” singles, getting into “Ricky Rozay” player mode and declaring “if you lookin’ for me, you can find me in the Guinness Book.” Other standouts from the project include the jazzy “Gotti Family” with Yo Gotti, the “300 Soldiers” war cry, and a pair of lyrical exercises in “Knife Fight” and “White Sand Pt. 2,” featuring Kool G Rap, who Ross was once scouting to join Maybach Music.

Ross was always charismatic, but this moment showed him hitting a serious stride. He rhymed with relatively less intricacy than normal, taking his time to make sure every bar was a quotable and punctuating them with his now-iconic “UNGH” adlib. Like so many great adlibs, it was catchy and easily applicable to real-life situations. Lex Luger’s production to elevate himself from a successful rapper to a legitimate pop culture fixture.

It’s the charisma he first displayed here that paved the way for the Nike commercial, the since-nixed Reebok deal, and made brands like Wingstop and Checkers realize he was a natural pitchman. Those Albert Anastasia standouts are also core tracks from Teflon Don which helped push his career into a different stratosphere.

With “BMF” and “MC Hammer,” Ross proved that spectacle strips context. He has an all-time knack for grandiose lyricism which may have made him one of the best people to fight off the career trials he faced in 2008 and 2009 — however self-inflicted they were. Critics sought to push him out of the rap game, but with captivating music and over the top opulence, he towered over the pitfalls on the way to a legendary career.

Rick Ross is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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