Hood Billionaire (to be released Nov. 24, 2014)
Two Rick Rawse albums in one calendar year? It’s truly a Christmas miracle.
I remember stopping in Walgreens a couple of days after Rozay’s most recent album, Mastermind, leaked online. Here’s the convo I had with the cashier, whom I had never spoken to before:
Turnt Up MMG Fan: “Yo, do you like music?”
Turnt Up MMG Fan: “Yo, you gotta get this Mastermind album! It’s a classic!”
Me: “Wait, wait, wait — you mean that Rawse album that just leaked?”
Turnt Up MMG Fan: “YESSS Rozay killed it! MMG all day!!!! You heard it?”
Me: “Yeah. Wasn’t that great to me.”
Turnt Up MMG Fan: *gives me the side-eye* “Oh. Here’s your bag. Have a good day.”
Lesson — MMG fans are gonna like what they like, no review from me or anyone else will convince them otherwise.
Here’s the good news for Turnt Up MMG Fan at Walgreens and his friends — if you liked Mastermind, chances are you’ll find a lot to love with Hood Billionaire, Rawse’s seventh album.
But if you weren’t a fan of Mastermind, Hood Billionaire certainly won’t win you over.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its pluses. Rick Ross’s fairy tales of drug billions and hordes strippers often play out like those low-budget gangsta flicks you’ll find on Netflix. No matter how ridiculous and unrealistic the plot seems, it’s hard to turn away — it’s just so entertaining.
Credit Rawse’s charisma and fantastic ear for production.
“Coke Like the 80s” is all that’s right and all that’s wrong about a Rick Ross track — the repetitive grade-school hook is absolutely GRATING but the production, featuring sparse, tinkling piano keys straight out of a horror flick,will capture your attention. Rawse is usually more about presence than wordplay anyway. Anyone who has the audacity to say “ding ding” over and over again without a hint of irony — like on “Heavyweight” — is either totally deluded or supremely confident. Rawse truly believes he’s a bawse, so he, somehow, makes it work.
Instead of fashioning himself as lyrical titan, he’d rather just ride his magnificent beats. “Neighborhood Drug Dealer” sounds like the graveyard level on some old Nintendo game, while Timbaland fashions another anthem fit for midnight marauding on”Movin’ Bass.” On “Trap Luv,” a throwback to Kanye West’s old “soul beat” sound, Ross is actually upstaged by the ever-improving Yo Gotti: “F*** that iPhone 6, they be trackin’ n***as/I’m bout to get beeper, fade to black on n***as.” Boosie also outshines Ricky on “Nickel Rock” — which was pretty easy, since Rawse was more concerned with repeating the words “nickel rock” over and over AND OVER.
Believe it or not, every so often Rawse does move away from his tired money/hoes/clothes tropes. The paranoid “Phone Tap” is nowhere near as memorable as the Firm’s hit of the same name, but it’s still a great tale of how ill-gotten gains breed suspicion. And on “Family Ties,” the MMG mastermind finally addresses his lingering health issues (remember all those seizures he suffered?) and even shouts out the family: “Electric Slide, I still see the sparks/now I think about my mom when I jot these songs.” Of course, we’re back to business as usual by the next bar, but it’s still a refreshing look at the man behind the persona.
Hood Billionaire has a few bright spots but sometimes it’s hard to find them when they’re scattered among 16 tracks and more than 60 minutes of music. They’re way too many throwaway attempts at radio play (“If They Knew,” “Keep Doin’ That”) and too many songs that sound like remixes of earlier hits (I liked “Burn” better when it was called “BMF.”) This album needs to get on Rawse’s diet plan.
But y’all MMG fans ain’t hearing me. My boy at Walgreens is probably running up and down the aisles now screaming “I GOT PRISCILLA! I GOT PRISCILLA!” like his hero on “Elvis Presley Blvd.” I’m sure he’s hyped.
For the rest of us, it’s just the same ol’ Rawse. Nothing new here.
Best tracks: “Movin’ Bass,” “Phone Tap,” “Neighborhood Drug Dealer”
3 stars out of 5