N****s is actors…n****s deserve Oscars – The Late, Great Christopher Wallace
That line encapsulated all you need to know about mainstream rappers. Don’t get wrapped up in whether rappers are “real” or not. Focus on their music. For my money there isn’t a better mainstream rapper this side of Drake than William Roberts. He has all the tools: vocabulary, persona, humor, self deprecation, arrogance, wordplay and a startling ability to communicate street shit to the masses, regardless of whether or not he was in the streets.
After the astounding release of Rich Forever, Ross is cast as Captain Ahab, in search of the Moby Dick of a classic record (with a barcode this time) and while he is releasing strong music, it has eluded him time and again, including last year’s stellar but insufficient God Forgives, I Don’t. Enter Mastermind. Rick Ross assembled a bevy of stars (including an uncredited Keith Sweat on Supreme) and got Diddy on board as Exec Producer for the stretch run to craft that 5 star album. He has come up short again, because it should be apparent by now that you can’t create a classic on purpose. That magic has to be present and Rozay has reached a ceiling with his subject matter and audience that will not allow this incarnation of his music to go any further.
There are some strong records on Mastermind. Sanctified is the musical apex, with a black-woman-with-Aretha Franklin-church-hat-and-MLK/Jesus/Obama-fan-sweating-and-shaking-her-head-in-testimonial emotional quotient and a Kanye spazz-out that steals the show. Nobody should have been a disaster, with people already claiming Ross to be a fake Biggie…only he nailed it. The weak link on the song is actually Diddy. The swagger on Drug Dealer’s Dream takes you back to the Rich Forever/Albert Anastasia era, complete with the asshole aspect of posting his bank balance and an extended but memorable chorus over a hard body beat.
What A Shame flaunts a dithering RZA undercurrent updated to this millennium and avoids trying to ape the energy of ODB’s classic Wu- chorus. Thankfully, French Montana refrains from rhyming. Supreme is a light, ambitious Scott Storch track that lifts the mood of the album. It’s dying for a remix with Drake. Blk & Wht brings the NO bounce flavor, vocally echoing Juvenile on the refrain while the beat is straight Beats by the Pound classic No Limit.
There is a ton of guests but Ross is never drowned out and it’s more of a statement of the length of the deluxe version than it is that he actually needed the guests. I have no desire to hear War Ready ever again, nor hear Rick Ross out rap Jay-Z yet again.
There is a couple of definite no no’s on here. Fuck his “Trayvon Martin, I’m never missing my target” lyric and his subliminal reference to the Jordan Davis case. Don’t excuse it, don’t be an apologist for it. If Mastermind was a five I would have snaked a star just for that. His arrogance obviously comes with the lack of a filter. I also hope he either owns a piece or is getting money from the champagne he keeps pushing on the album (no check no mention). I don’t support anything with the Weeknd on the hook.
It’s becoming painfully obvious Rick Ross has plateaued. To go higher he will have to go left. Maybe he should be making more music with Stalley and not with Meek Mill. Stalley’s compositions are exquisite and nuanced. Unfortunately, he’s a boring rapper. If they could combine Stalley’s musicality with Ross’ songwriting acumen and over the top personality, Ross could go higher. For now, Mastermind is just another strong album from Rick Ross and while individually dope, each one diminishes the mean by their proximity in quality. If you fuck with Ross you will like this, if you hate him, this won’t change your mind.
3.75 Out of 5
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