Ever since Ricky Rozay burst onto the scene with his trap anthem “Hustlin,” his album releases have been like an event or a spectacle. The Miami native has literally become Mr. Untouchable in the hip-hop world. He’s survived through rap beefs with 50 Cent and Jeezy, his questionable past profession as a correction officer, and an actual life threatening incident just last year. He is being mentored by Diddy and has one of the top three hip-hop labels within the music industry. Rick Ross just cannot lose and as my good friend Regg has said, he’s “done the most with being just a gold selling artist more than any other rapper in history.”
From the opening track ‘Rich is Gangsta’ you can tell the King of Mafioso/ Luxury rap is picking up right where he left off from his well received album Deeper Than Rap. Rather than wow us with lyricism, Ross is going to give you vivid story telling like a drug lord reminiscing on the good ol’ days, as evident on ‘Drug Dealer’s Dream’. One of the stand out tracks is ‘Nobody’ and not because it samples the late great Notorious B.I.G.’s classic track ‘Nobody ( Til Somebody kills You)’ but for the motivational shit talking Diddy is doing throughout the song. Whoever the person is that he was talking to is being served a tongue lashing like it’s an old episode of Making the Band (apparently that recording was an actual conversation Puff had with a unnamed artist).
When the tracklist first appeared online for Mastermind with all the features, you could of mistaken the album for a DJ Khaled project, but some of these Rozay collabs are so necessary. However, his collab with Jay Z for the forced luxurious outing “The Devil is a Lie” is a bit of a let down and pales in comparison to their past magic like say a “Free Mason” or “Maybach Music.” The biggest collab on the album is obviously ‘War ready’ where Jeezy offers a surprisingly impressive verse. When it hit the internet that these two buried the hatchet I was pretty convinced that the beef was never real to begin with, so I was just happy to hear that they’d come to an “understanding.” ‘Sanctified’ is the track I was looking forward to the most. DJ Mustard and Kanye West co-produced this soulful offering and while Big Sean handles chorus duties, ‘Ye swoops in and shows us he is still capable of getting busy when he is not ranting for twenty minutes at his Yeezus shows and practically steals the spot from Ross himself. On “In Vein” Rozay pairs with The Weeknd for an intimate outing and lets Abel take the wheel for the first minute and a half into the track which worked out brilliantly. This is partially what separates Ross’ music from the rest. He let’s other artist shine without compromising himself no matter the content. The outro track and most reflective is “Thug Cry” which features Lil’ Wayne and an impressive Souls Of Mischief’s “93 Til Infinity” sample laced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E League. Weezy delivers an exquisite verse that I’m hoping we can get more of when The Carter 5 arrives later this year.
In the past Ross has been accused of trying too hard, but on Mastermind Rozay seems to take it all in stride. His ear for music and song arrangements are impressive and he could easily serve as A&R if ever on hard times. However, there are flaws and it’s his gift as well as his curse. He made the lane for luxury rap and he’s so good at it that hearing him rap about anything else may seem off putting. But the guy sure does love his money. In fact on “Drug Dealer Dream” he even shamelessly plays a recording of his bank account statement (cringe). Or check the “Dope Bitch Skit” where two women attempt to intimidate a guy with their wealth. “Does my weave make you nervous?” one of them asks. And although he’s mastered gift wrapping the same tales, Mastermind fails to conquer new territory but delivers on Ross’ consistency. I’m pretty sure he wants to rhyme about other subjects but he’s put himself in a box and anything otherwise wont be well received in my opinion. Hopefully now that he’s ‘mastered’ this tactic he’ll begin to challenge himself.