Album Review: Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don’t

Rick Ross

God Forgives, I Don’t (to be released July 31, 2012)

A funny thing happened in the two years since Rick Ross released his last album, Teflon Don. Somehow, he suddenly became the biggest rapper in hip hop.

And I’m not just talking about his waistline.

I’m not sure if it’s his knack for selecting superb production, his catalog of catchphrases (HUH) or just his willingness to work with every artist under the sun (which allowed him to appear on virtually every track on the radio) but Rawssssse has become omnipresent in hip hop. You can’t go 30 seconds without hearing that Maybach Music tag.

The Bawssssssse, now at the apex of his career, looks to solidify his reign at the top of mainstream hip hop with God Forgives, I Don’t, his most celebrated release.

There’s just one problem, one that’s plagued Rozay all his career – lyrically, he’s tends to fall short.

Don’t get me wrong, when motivated, Ross can be a force. But usually Ross just coasts, leaning on his amazing production while he randomly prattles on about making money, making babies and making dinner. Sadly, Ross doesn’t deviate from that formula this time around, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems in this collection.

Ross always seems to raise his game when he shares the mic, so it’s no surprise that the album is crammed with guest appearances. The much ballyhooed “3 Kings” isn’t as epic as it pretends to be, but with Dr. Dre and Jay-Z assisting, it’s still worth your time (even though Dre’s verse is so blatantly ghostwritten that it sounds like he’s doing karaoke). Jay even coins a new catchphrase — expect every rapper to proclaim “it feels different” for the next year.

Ross delivers his usual morsels (ahem) with “Diced Pineapples,” as he and Wale trade seductive raps. Drake phones it in on the hook but the real winner here is Cardiak’s production, making Ross’ job look easy. It works much better as a lady killer anthem than the lazy current single “Touch’N You.”

Ross’ MMG cohorts Stalley and Teedra Moses steal the show on “Ten Jesus Pieces” and “Amsterdam,” respectively, but it’s Andre 3000 who commits grand theft/larceny on “Sixteen.” 3 Stacks is an absolute beast on the track as he ponders life and leaves Ross eating his dust: “How’s he God if he lets Lucifer let loose on us/that noose on us won’t loosen up but loose enough to juice us up/making us think we do so much.” It’s so great I’ll even forgive his horrible guitar solo at the end of the track. Stick to the bars, Dre.

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Despite the greatness of “Sixteen,” it reinforces my main beef with Rawse – his lack of focus and structure. “Sixteen” is one of the few songs on the album that actually features a concept. In this case, Ross breaks away from the standard hip hop structure of sixteen bars of lyrics because he needs “more than 16” to express himself. But then he doesn’t SAY anything of substance. I don’t expect Ross to suddenly get all philosophical on us, but if he claims to have so much on his mind, he needs to do more than talk about waking up to “turkey bacon and his thick queen.” I mean, isn’t that what he ALWAYS talks about?

At its best, Ross’ stream-of-consciousness punchlines work when he’s backed by a decent hook and bangin’ beat, like “Presidential” and “Ashamed.” At its worst, you get songs like “So Sophisticated” and “Hold Me Back” with unfocused rhymes and repetitive hooks that you’ve heard 1,000 times from Rawse already. Like the rapper Skillz so poignantly said about an earlier Rick Ross song, “It’s not rap if you’re just saying the same thing twice.”

I think this line from the track “911” describes the best and worst of Ricky Ross:

“I remember picking watermelons/now the Porsche cost me a quarter million.”

Purists will balk at its absurdity (it doesn’t even rhyme!) but Rozay fans will quote it endlessly.

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It’s so fitting that this album dropped in the dead of summer – it’s the epitome of a summer movie blockbuster. It’s a flashy, occasionally fun thrill ride but besides a few key moments (ahem, Andre on “Sixteen”) it’ll be tough to remember six months from now.

God Forgives, I Don’t isn’t the tour de force we were promised but fans of the Bawsssse fans will eat it up. So to speak.

Best tracks: “Sixteen,” “Diced Pineapples,” “Ten Jesus Pieces”

3.5 stars out of 5

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