By Kassie Junkeer
Most famous for his smash hit single ‘Hustlin’, Rick Ross’s name and all associated connotations are iconic in music culture. William Leonard Roberts II takes his name after ‘Freeway Rick Ross’, who is known to be a notorious drug-lord. With this acquired street credibility, Rick Ross entered the music scene in 2006 with his début album ‘Port of Miami’, after being signed to Slip-n-Slide Records (closely affiliated with Def Jam), Robert’s pursuit of success has been maintained since his first albums; taking him through to the birth of his own label, Maybach Music Group; founded in 2009 and home to artists like Wale and French Montana. Since then, Ross was given the 2012 ‘Hottest MC In The Game’ title by MTV, right before his release of ‘God Forgives, I Don’t’. In this time, he consistently met the high expectations of his fans and critics; his dominant quality being his idiosyncrasies that have lead him through his career and subsequent success to date. On top of that, he maintains the ability to mould his own dynamics over hip hop’s undulating trends, without sacrificing his individuality.
In 2013, however, following the release of the track ‘U.O.E.N.O’, Ross’s lyrical content crossed boundaries in a negative sense. His rhymes, which seemed to celebrate rape culture, were not received well by fans, understandably. He issued an apology for the lyrics after he was swiftly removed from his endorsement deal with Reebok. If that was not enough, the lines were also removed from the track. Ross, confident that this controversy will not leave a mark on what was so far a successful track record, bounces back with his latest album Mastermind.
Working on this sixth studio album since late 2012, Mastermind meets its triumphant expectations; it’s the Maybach CEO’s fifth #1 on the Billboard charts also. The introduction to the album features conversational samples of what sound like two Australian/New Zealand girls discussing “Maybach Music” (Ross’s label). The actual music starts in ‘Rich As Gangsta’; its cymbals and victorious brass features on beat make for a luxurious and almost celebratory opening track. Having said this, the overall tone of the album does not necessarily reflect this first song, given the variety of themes explored in the album; varying flavours from artists like Big Sean, The Weeknd, Meek Mill, Jay Z and more enhances the diversity of the album; considering this, Mastermind is palatable to an array of hip-hop lovers.
‘Sanctified’ has that jubilant use of filtered gospel vocals and biblical-imagery characteristics of Kanye West, who of course features on the song. Similarly, ‘In Vein’ features The Weeknd, who adds a chill-wave/trip-hop air to the track, as well as a nice mixture to the album. Ross also pays homage to the hip-hop classics whilst maintaining his modern sound. ‘Thug Cry’ samples the nostalgic ’93 til Infinity’ by Souls of Mischief but also includes trendy 808 percussion. ‘What A Shame’ also covers the timeless and recognizable Wu Tang hook; ‘shame on a n*gga, who try to run game on a n*gga.’
The 808 percussion, recurs in a majority of tracks and gives the album that catchy southern feel. After two years of hard work, Rick Ross’s return to the music scene is enjoyable; Mastermind is an album to throw bows and get turnt up to!