Mastermind (to be released March 4, 2014)
A man’s gotta know his limits.
Rick Ross has never been a lyrical titan and he’d probably be the first to admit that. But despite those shortcomings, he’s practically build a hip-hop empire squarely from his charisma and some of the best production in the past 10 years.
Dude really is a mastermind.
His sixth solo effort, though, shows that Bawse Rawse is running out of steam. There’s nothing here we haven’t heard a million times before – and in most cases – we’ve heard it better, too.
The album is bookended by outstanding production. Black Metaphor’s “Rich Is Gangsta” and J.U.S.T.I.C.E League’s “Thug Cry” both are tailor-made for Rozay – they’re lush, triumphant and stick with you long after the record stops spinning. Rawse doesn’t even have to do any heavy lifting, just spit his usual gangsta fantasies and everyone goes home happy.
Most of the remaining tracks aren’t that lucky.
Rawse struggles to stay on beat on “Drug Dealers Dream” and “In Vein,” in which The Weeknd provides one of his typical moody scores, tries to be seductive but comes off mad sleepy. Kanye West’s gospel sample on “Sanctified” is awkward and choppy – the verses don’t flow well into it. It’s a waste of a solid beat.
Still, those don’t even compare to the album’s biggest offenses.
I have no idea who Tracy T is but he needs to have his tongue ripped out Hunger Games-style for that atrocious hook on “War Ready.” It takes a special brand of suck to not only scream a hook but to sound like you’re reading it from a dirty napkin:
CHOPPA — SHOOT A — THOUSAND — ROUNDS — WHEN YOU — WAR READY!!!!
I blame Future for the rise in these second-grade hooks.
And speaking of hooks, who crowned French Montana the new Nate Dogg? He not only ruins “What A Shame” (which has the gall to bite both ODB AND Camp Lo) but he is an accessory in the crime that is “Nobody.” Rawse swipes Biggie’s “You’re Nobody” beat and mismanages B.I.G.’s trademark flow while Diddy screams bloody murder in the background. Zombie Biggie needs to chokeslam Puff into an open grave for that tragedy.
If it seems like I’m being too hard on Rawse it’s because I know he can do better. “Mafia Music III” is an out-of-the-box reggae joint that works extremely well. Rozay rides the beat and gets out of the way while Sizzla and Mavado do their things. It’s different but it works. And, of course, the single “The Devil Is A Lie” is equally strong but all the credit goes to Jay Z. Jay puts the Illuminati conspiracy theorists and Internet prophets in their place with his best verse in YEARS: “Devil want these n***as hate they own kind/Gotta be Illuminati if a n***a shine/Oh we can’t be a n***a if a n***a rich?/Oh we gotta be the devil, that’s some n***a sh*t.”
Of course, Ricky can’t keep up with Jay lyrically but besides a few gems (“Lord knows I’m a sinner, it was cold in the winter/Eatin’ out of the trash, s**t would make you a killer” on “Drug Dealers Dream”) he’s in cruise control throughout the entire album, content with dropping Wing Stop references every other track. He’s just trolling us with the “lemon pepper wings” stuff at this point.
Mastermind is Rawse’s weakest album in recent memory, cluttered tracks that sound like mixtape leftovers (“BLK & WHT,” “Walkin’ On Air”), pointless skits about chickenheads bathing in champagne and an overall lack of effort.
I never thought I’d type this but it seems like Rawse has lost his hunger.
Best tracks: “Mafia Music III,” “The Devil is A Lie,” “Rich is Gangsta”
3 stars out of 5