Rick Ross is Danny Zucco from Grease. He’s out with the gang doing all the stupid shit they do, but somehow when no one was looking, he ended up lettering in track. Ross has come so far as an emcee since “Hustlin,’” leaving most of his contemporaries on some high school shit. Four top-notch albums and a classic mixtape, as well as holding down the crew of the moment, as well as beefs, seizures and drama have led us to great expectations for his latest work, God Forgives, I Don’t. While the disk is more strong Rick Ross music, it does not get him over the hump into classicville, it features a locked-in lyrically Rick Ross at probably the height of his songwriting power who didn’t have anyone with him to say, “Hey, that’s enough.”
The record features beautiful trackwork from The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League whose layered production provides a stadium cool and a base that few of today’s rappers could handle. He sticks to his d boy that made it shtick but his bars are so mature and confident that he just flat out nails it. There are moments of immense disrespect to his enemies (“Yo bitch next, no latex” and my personal fave “Nigga you a bitch, where your Honda Accord.”) there are flows and rhymes schemes on here that Ross hadn’t exhibited before and the record is light on that trap music with the notable exception of “Hold Me Back,” a track that adds just the right note of ignorance to the album.
Ross made brilliant guest appearance choices, featuring an inspired return to form for Jay-Z on “3 Kings,”over strong Jake One production and the resurrection of Andre 3000 on “Sixteen” which features extended verses from Ross and 3 Stacks, who also sings on the hook and plays guitar to close. Pharrell delivers musically on the inventive and lively “Presidential.” Ross also presents a very rhymable landscape for Stalley to close out the album on “Ten Jesus Pieces.” Stalley was out of his element on the hard-charging production of SelfMade 2, but here, he’s right at home and playing to his strengths. LA Reid appears at the end of Maybach Music IV in a show of brute force, as if to say “Look who I got in my corner.”
Unfortunately there are a few hiccups that stop this album from crossing over into that flawless territory. Meek Mill guested “So Sophisticated” is lowbrow musically and truly belonged on SelfMade rather than God Forgives. It’s not bad, it just isn’t’ in the same caliber musically or maturity wise as the bulk of this album. “Touch n You” isn’t great either, especially when you consider the superior Ross/Usher collaboration ended up on Usher’s dead album. The underbeat of “911” is too similar to “Hold Me Back,” and it’s not good enough to include both. Overkill.
Ross LOVES Hip-Hop and you can tell in the construction of this album and the individual records. There is painstaking care in creating balance on most of these records and his sense of theater precludes him from trying to steal shine from his guests. At no time is he out of his element or doing too much; rhyming with blessed assurance. Therein lies the problem. The distance between the pristine highs of this album and the doldrums of the missteps cost him that elusive classic.
In the end, God Forgives, I Don’t is missing the voice that says enough. When you have a hoagie and you ask for oil and vinegar and they put too much, or they add too much salt when you say salt and pepper it throws the whole thing off. The hand of a Dame Dash or someone who could serve as a counter in the studio is probably all that is standing between Rick Ross and real greatness as a rap artist. Here’s to hoping he adds it on the next go round. Those Maybach guys are too young and inexperienced to help him. God Forgives, but I can’t. Close but no cigar.
***deluxe version features two dope but totally out of place songs from the great Rich Forever tape. They are not considered for this review***
4.25 Out of 5
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