Port of Miami 2 (released August 9, 2019)
It’s been almost 13 years to the day since rap’s ultimate hustler Rick Ross introduced fans to the Port of Miami, quickly establishing himself as one of the game’s most identifiable voices.
And I’ll give Bawse Rawse credit for one thing – he hasn’t slowed down.
Rick Ross’ 10th studio album Port of Miami 2 is both a nod to his beginnings and a further attempt to cement himself as rap’s elite.
I mean, didn’t you hear they’re gonna remake the Home Alone movie now too? What’s old is new again in 2019.
Soul In Stereo heads have spent the past decade listening to me rehash the same ol’ criticisms of Rozay, a man who has an immaculate ear for beat selection but whose actual lyrics are like a revolving door of non sequiturs – great for sporadic witty punchlines but quickly get tuned out in favor of the superior instrumentals.
The result is a catalog of occasionally great songs spread thinly across a collection of so-so albums.
Port of Miami 2, to its credit, does a great job of reversing that trend.
One thing you’re GUARANTEED to get with every Rawse album is production so good you’ll want to shoot your own season of Power and live out your own glitzy, drug-dealing fantasies. “Turnpike Ike” drips with Ross’ usual brand of decadence, sounding like on the rooftop of the bougiest penthouse on Pluto. One minute he “tossed the pistol on the car chase,” “then walked into the church just like the boy Mase.” Life of Rawse, I guess.
Then, one track later, he goes into the opposite direction with the threatening “Nobody’s Favorite,” featuring a tolling bell that sounds like Rawse is sliding through a haunted cathedral while Walking Dead zombies shoot dice on the corner.
“Big Tyme” is classic Just Blaze production, screaming with the pompous elegance that Mr. Wing Stop loves to flaunt. Lyrically, though, Rawse doesn’t bring much to the table outside his usual random boasts (although on a track this mighty, I’m OK with the beat doing the heavy lifting).
As I said earlier (and many, MANY times over the course of 13 years) Ross’ biggest drawback is that he often doesn’t really say, well, anything of note. It’s a loosely connected stream of consciousness that ranges from ridiculous (driving his woman around in a “doo-doo chocolate Chevy” on “White Lines”) to nonsensical (bragging “I’m married to this s***, I get my alimony,” on “Act A Fool” – playa please, if you’re married, you’re not getting alimony. That’s not how this works).
While Rawse revels in sitting on top of the world, it’s on the second half of Port of Miami 2 that he proves to be surprisingly down-to-earth.
After rampaging over a captivating soul on “Fascinated,” he raps up his verse confronting his own mortality. That leads directly into “I Still Pray,” a concept track where Rawse rises from a coma to contemplate what’s really important in life.
What good is all the wealth, s***tin’ on yourself?
I’ll give you back the money just to get my health
All the rifles on the block be fully automatic
Kids dying in the projects while we living lavish
Welfare cheese and the pigeon P’s
I’ma skip the lobster tails, I want the chicken wings
I pray it come a day when everybody eat
Your president on Twitter while my people on the street
“Running the Streets” keeps the momentum going with Denzel Curry delivering a show-stealing performance. The dedication to his unborn son is by far the best verse on the album. Rawse refuses to be outdone though. Never one to bite his tongue, Ross shuns Kanye West’s antics on “Vegas Residency,” vowing that he’s “never golfin’ with the Trumps and I give you my word” over masterful J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production (and shout out to Teedra Moses on the hook).
As with most Ross projects, there’s a fair share of filler. “Rich N**** Lifestyle” and “Summer Reign” feel like “been there, done that” efforts, even with a Nipsey Hussle feature on the former and a nice SWV “Rain” sample on the latter. “Gold Roses” with Drake will get endless hype (cuz Drake, naturally) but it’s pretty forgettable in the long run. And even “Maybach Music VI,” despite all the conversation around Pusha T’s deleted verse, struggles to stand out when Ross and Lil Wayne sound like they’re in cruise control.
Personally, Rawse’s albums have always lacked a replay value for me. Simply add a couple of the best tracks to your playlist, ditch the rest and keep it moving. Port of Miami 2 bucks that trend. It’s a shockingly consistent listen that builds on the brief flashes of introspection we’ve seen from the Boss in the past. He has something to say, and it makes for a stronger project.
We’re 13 years in, and Rawse is getting better with age. Growth is a beautiful thing.
Best tracks: “Nobody’s Favorite,” “Vegas Residency,” “Big Tyme”
4 stars out of 5