Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
The homie Alex Goodwin is no stranger to Soul In Stereo, and he’s back again to chat about the biggest boss you’ve seen thus far. From Rick Ross’ best and worst albums, singles and beats, let’s debate all things from the king of lemon pepper wings.
What are Rick Ross’ three best albums?
1. Teflon Don
2. God Forgives, I Don’t
3. Port of Miami 2
As far as Rozay’s discography goes, his fourth album Teflon Don is undoubtedly his best. This is the project where it all came together for Ross. Completely gone was the unsure vocal delivery and pitch that weighed down his first two albums. In its place was a menacing roar Ross utilized to deliver clever couplets about the dope game. Immaculate production from DJ Clark Kent, Kanye West, No ID, JUSTICE League, and Lex Luger gave the biggest bawse more than enough room to strike the perfect balance between bombastic raucous trunk rattlers and lush, laid back luxury rap. Despite being loaded with high profile guests, Rozay’s charisma made sure he was still the center of attention. Quite frankly, tall tales of going from public housing to partying on yachts with Pablo Picasso paintings on the walls never sounded more entertaining.
1. Teflon Don
2. Deeper Than Rap
3. Port of Miami 2
Yeah, Rick Rawse’s best album really isn’t in doubt. And props for showing love to Port of Miami 2 – I thought it showed much needed growth for an artist who, quite frankly, had been a little stagnant creatively. But while I love God Forgives, I Don’t (I’d actually place it fourth on my list) I think Deeper Than Rap is a much stronger project. It took a couple of years for Rozay to find his voice (literally – he sounds like a completely different person on his debut) but by his third album he settled into the role of the heavyweight mafioso with the decadent beats. You know, the role that would define his career.
We had to go there: What’s the Boss’ worst album?
Alex: Hood Billionaire
Only once can I recall an MC releasing two quality albums in a calendar year (see DMX’s debut It’s Dark, and Hell is Hot and its follow-up Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood in 1998), and this album showcased why it’s such a tough task. It’s challenging to release a good record, tour for three or four months to support that project, and then return to the studio to make another quality album quickly. Arriving in December of 2014, nine months after the release of his sixth album Mastermind, Hood Billionaire comes off like a collection of half baked ideas devoid of any innovation. Ross also sounds mostly uninterested (he probably had Wingstop on his mind). Strong cuts like “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” “Phone Tap,” “If They Knew” and “Brimstone” give Hood Billionaire potential to be good if Ross and the MMG team took more time and paid more attention to detail. Still, overwhelmingly this album is full of songs you wouldn’t want to hear more than once.
Edd: Hood Billionaire
Yeah, sorry Rawse, Hood Billionaire ain’t it. Honestly, Mastermind – the initial offering of Rozay’s dual 2014 releases – was equally meh. Hood Billionaire just had even less to choose from. Maybach Music fans certainly can go through and cherry pick the gems for their personal playlists (and there ARE good songs to be found here) but as overall bodies of work? Pass.
While we’re at it, what’s his most underrated album?
Alex: Deeper Than Rap
This is the first album where Ross was rounding into form musically. He first tried out the heavy rumbling vocal delivery that he would perfect on Teflon Don, and his beats began to feel just as big as his boasts. Though it lacks big hits, it’s still a solid body of work.
Edd: Port of Miami 2
I think Deeper Than Rap gets proper love in most circles. But as I said earlier, it seems a lot of fans really missed out on Port of Miami 2, which got lost in the shuffle of releases last summer. I’ve been a big critic of Rawse’s reliance on filler and his tendency to lean on production tricks instead of tightening up his pen. Port of Miami 2 reverses that trend with solid, consistent storytelling to go along with those incredible beats. If you missed out, give it another shot.
Rozay has a ton of great feature spots. Which is his best?
Alex: “I’m a Boss”
By 2011 Rozay was arguably the hottest rapper out and positioned to introduce the masses to new talent in the way of his Philadelphia protege Meek Mill. Found on Maybach Music’s “Self Made Vol. 1” compilation, Renzel matches Meek’s urgency over the Jahlil Beats production and steals the show with witty one-liners about lazy eyes, Mercedes rides, Mcdonald’s double stacks, and NFL running backs as only The Boss can.
Edd: “Devil in a New Dress”
This isn’t just Ross’ best feature, it’s probably his best verse ever. Unsurprisingly, it’s his usual stream of consciousness flow where he jumps from bragging about watches and cars to reminiscing about old Teddy P vinyls. That’s nothing new. But this one soars because Rawse sounds so comfortable in Kanye’s soulful backdrop. Confidence is nothing new for Ricky but rarely does he sound this controlled yet aggressive. He COMMANDS this track. It’s his best verse and his best performance arguably over the best beat he’s ever spit on.
Name the best song in the Maybach Music series
Alex: “Maybach Music II”
Ross treats the Maybach Music song series as the crown jewel of his albums with hip-hop heads anticipating what high profile guests will ride shotgun as Ross waxes poetic over lush instrumentals. Though Maybach Music IV made it close, I’m going with Maybach Music II. Exquisite live instrumentation and production from the JUSTICE League brought the Trap House to the Opera House. They made the song feel as epic as its guest list would imply.
Edd: “Maybach Music III”
OF COURSE you’d pick “Maybach Music II.” It’s the one with **shudders** T-Pain. For me it’s between Maybach III or IV. Part 4 is so dope it sounds like straight-up Black superhero music but I’ll go unconventional and give the nod to “Maybach Music III.” It has possibly TI’s best verse EVER, an oft-forgotten appearance from Erykah Badu (which works way better than you’d expect) and Jadakiss and Rawse himself tie it all together. All hail the JUSTICE League.
Since we’re on the topic of songs, name his best single.
Alex: “BMF (Blowin’ Money Fast)”
“I think I’m Big Meech/ Larry Hoover/ Whippin work/ Hallelujah” is one of the most memorable lines in the past decade. This song is so boisterous and beautifully gritty in its celebration of opulence it makes you want to pimp slap somebody with a stack of hundred dollar bills or go to the cart dealership and buy a car you know you can’t afford.
Edd: “BMF (Blowin’ Money Fast)”
No argument from me playa, “BMF” is everything that’s great about Rick Ross – loud, obnoxious, sorta ridiculous but so very endearing. Also, shout out to the OG Styles P, whose presence is often overlooked but potent in its own right.
And what’s the worst single?
Alex: “You the Boss”
This song isn’t unbearable, but this “for the ladies” record is rather bland, and Nicki Minaj’s flat vocals on the hook don’t do it any favors either. Don’t waste five minutes of your life listening to this one.
Edd: “Trap Trap Trap”
Mark this moment down, I’m ACTUALLY DEFENDING Nicki Minaj on this one. Eh, sorta. To your point, “You the Boss” is more bland than bad, she has much greater offenses out there. But to me, Rawse’s worst is “Trap Trap Trap” from Rather You Than Me, which features such lyrical prowess like:
Trap, trap, trap, trap, trap, trap
Trap, trap, trap, trap, trap, trap
I took my roof off at the red light
I took my roof off at the red light
Oh I already hear y’all down in the comments
EVERYBODY CAN’T RAP LIKE NAS GIVE HIM A BREAK HE’S JUST HAVING FUN.
Rapper Tourette’s doesn’t sound like fun to me, sounds like a medical condition.
No one has an ear for beats like Rick Ross. Which is his best?
Alex: tie between “Here I Am” and “Aston Martin Music”
I’m convinced that Rick Ross picks beats with one guiding principle in mind: “Would The Notorious BIG rap on this beat?” If the answer is yes, Ross puts down the lemon pepper wings and gets to writing bars. This is another tough one because half of Rozay’s catalog has production that makes you feel like you’re sitting on a beach in Aruba wearing a Versace shirt surrounded by a plethora of pretty women. I know this is a first, but “Here I Am” and “Aston Martin Music” are so well produced I can’t decide so I’m making Head to Head history and I’m going with a tie between the two. Edd, I hope you’ll understand.
Edd: “Maybach Music IV”
I can’t be mad at you straddling the fence. I spent more time researching and changing my mind about this question than any other here – maybe in the history of Head to Head! Ross’ production is his trademark and he takes care to have the finest soundscapes on his resume. I’ve gone back and forth for way too long on this one so I’m just gonna settle on “Maybach Music IV.” Black superhero music! Ask me again in 20 minutes and I’ll have a new answer, probably “Santorini Greece” or “Amsterdam.”
Name Rick Ross’ best mixtape
Alex: Rich Forever
There should be no debate or discussion about this category. Rich Forever is of such high quality it could have been an album. How many mixtapes have show-stopping features from John Legend, Nas, 2Chainz, Drake, and Kelly Rowland? This one does. Though Rich Forever does not break new ground lyrically or sonically, it’s undoubtedly a fun 80-minute ride.
Edd: Rich Forever
It feels like this is a footrace between Rich Forever and Black Dollar, both of which are album-quality releases. I’ll give the slight edge to Rich Forever, due to the abundance of A-listers and always-incredible production.
A few years back, Rozay entered a feud with 50 Cent and was outed as a former corrections officer. Did the “Officer Ricky” stuff hurt his career in the long run?
Alex: Twenty years ago, the revelation that any rapper whose primary subject matter was moving keys held a job corrections officer would have been the death knell for their career. However, in this era, authenticity isn’t nearly as important is it was in the ’90s. Ross is so good at cosplaying as a drug kingpin that the listeners just accepted it and have gone along for the ride. He’s similar to WWE’s famed The Undertaker. We all know The Undertaker isn’t really a deadman, but he played the character so well and had such an aura about him; you got entranced by the spectacle of it all. The same works for the Bawse. It also helps that since those photos of him in that corrections officer surfaced, he’s put out consistent undeniable good music.
Edd: Allow the OG to take the stage for a minute to expound on Alex’s point. In my day, way before y’all were fake canceling artists on Twitter, there were two unforgivable sins in hip-hop – stealing another artist’s lyrics, style or flow or to be caught lying about your background. As Alex said, in a previous era, Rawse would be wiped from the hip-hop map after it was revealed he was really an ex corrections officer and not Black Scarface.
But the 2010s saw the rise of, sigh, stan culture – where fans blindly defend their faves no matter the evidence against them. I swear, Nicki Minaj could bite the head off a baby on live TV and her miserable Barbz will just say “baby shouldn’t have been sitting there looking all delicious.” But I digress – while today’s stan culture was still in its infancy during Rawse’s spat with 50 Cent, it still proved that the fanbase was changing. In this case, they were more invested in the music than the persona. As long as Ricky kept cranking out hits, his fans didn’t care what was formerly on his resume, they’d ride with him regardless. And honestly, I respect that. I’m a journalist and naturally skeptical by nature, I don’t 100 percent buy everything these artists claim anyway. It’s entertainment. Regardless, what should have been a career killer was barely a speedbump on Ross’ road to success.
We did get this hilarious track out of it though. OFFICER RICKYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Where would you rank Rick Ross among rappers from his era?
Alex: The bawse ranks reasonably high given that he’s churned out quality albums for more than a decade. Despite not having a classic record on his resume and occasionally monotonous music, he’s proven to be one of the top MC’s of the past decade. Ross has given us both street bangers, and smooth R&b tinged jams without missing a beat, and that heavy grunt maybe the most memorable ad-lib in rap history. Rozay’s music is a lot like your favorite food, it may not be the most healthy or most filling, but it damn sure tastes good.
Edd: Yung Renzel is in an interesting spot. In many ways, he feels like hip-hop’s Chris Brown. Lemme explain for y’all wild out. Objectively speaking, my Cousin Chris is a proven hitmaker, with memorable tracks and features on his resume … even though his LPs can be uneven and some singles miss the mark. He’s missing out on that one true classic. I see Rawse the same way, an artist who has continued to evolve over the past decade, has tons of high-profile songs and features, knows exactly what his fanbase wants and how to deliver it … even though there are several lackluster outings attached to his name and we’re still waiting on that one undisputed classic.
When it comes to name recognition, Rick Ross is among the top 10 rappers of the past decade, no doubt. But he’s always felt like a good artist on the cusp of being truly great. I think he has a classic in him, I hope he realizes it.
Who got it right? Was Alex spitting more truth or did Edd’s gems shine brighter? Let us know below.