Alright folks, I gave you the First 48 on officer Roberts’s latest project a few weeks ago and now I’m back with a full review/ breakdown of what is Ross’ last attempt at saving his career from doing a full nose-dive into the ground.
Before I get to breaking this album down allow me to refresh or introduce you to the grading scale that I use.
Welcome to Ghost’s Grading Scheme. First thing first, you know how some sites and publications give out mics or clothing sizes? Na not me, not here. I’m gonna do things similar to the game ‘Horse,’ except getting all the letters is a positive. It simply starts at the letter “R” and keeps adding letters for each level up. For example, if I give a project a “Rhyme” rating, I feel it’s great, a must listen, and could have a significant impact down the road; perfect and requires immediate attention.
What are the things that I’m looking for? I’m judging off of consistency, cohesiveness, replay value, production, lyricism. There is no set curve to be based as far as being compared to others. You’re only graded off of your previous record(s). For example, I expect Kendrick Lamar to be more lyrical than Plies so they’re gonna be judged differently.
Now that we have an understanding of things to come, let’s all take a look at how Ross’ Mastermind stands up to the challenge.
The opening stretch: “Intro,” “Rich Is Gangsta,” “Drug Dealers Dream,” “Shots Fired Skit”
We got the first four tracks right here. Up first is an intro that surprisingly is not the standard noise-talking intro that we’ve come to expect from rappers. This is instead more of a look back at some of his moments during his career. Nothing special, nothing bad. It got 3 stars in my iTunes by default. “Rich Is Gangsta” definitely has that Trilla/ Deeper Than Rap vibe to it. A nice true opener for the album. The Jam Master Jay line was dope. The shot at 50 was expected but unnecessary, especially since they are kind of in the same boat. Ross is just at the front of it now. It gets 3 stars in my iTunes. “Drug Dealers Dream,” soon as that cheesy ass intro was finished and I heard the beat start “BMF” & “MC Hammer” came to my mind. That’s not a good thing. That sound, while giving Ross probably his biggest street and radio record in “BMF,” has been a curse, because he keeps trying to recreate it for some reason. It does continue the momentum that “Rich Is Gangsta” started. That “…son of a bitch/One time for my momma” line still bothers me for some reason. Again, another 3 star track. “Shots Fired Skit” is a collection of various news clips from the time them folks gave Ross’ Maybach the Swiss cheese treatment. Which reminds me of this tweet, again. Again, with it being a skit, by default it gets 3 stars in my iTunes. So the first stretch was very average, but yet it wasn’t average in a bad way. It was good way to start off an album. The two actual songs were nice.
The middle stretch (part one): “Nobody,” “Devil Is a Lie,” “Mafia Music III,” “War Ready”
Up next is a horrible, horrendous, “revisitation” of a classic Biggie song in the form of “Nobody.” I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I just love the Biggie version so much or if it’s French’s horrible hook (not one of his it’s-so-horrible-it’s-good hooks like he did on Pusha’s “Doesn’t Matter“), or it that it was poorly done overall from the Diddy clips to everything else. It just doesn’t sit well with me. It gets a 2 star rating in my iTunes. “Devil Is a Lie,” the first (more like third, remember “Box Chevy” and that other track?) single of the album, and the single that helped get this album a solid release date. Ross and Jay make great music together. From the “Switching lanes like Walmart” to “Wingstop, fat boy need a 10 piece” line, Ross is on point with quotables and laughables here. Not to mention Jay bodied his verse and reminded people he can still rap when he wants to. It’s the first track from this album to get a 4 star rating in my iTunes. “Mafia Music III” is a prime example why you shouldn’t judge a track by it’s title and features (“Love Game” is another example). I was expecting this to be a half-assed reggae abomination on wax. However, surprisingly, he was able to execute this perfectly (Snoop can take a few notes, just a few though). Another 4 star track in my iTunes. This album is finally starting to pick up. I feel like I’ve heard that clip that started off “War Ready” somewhere before. Remember the hype this track got when people saw the photo of him and Jeezy in the studio and then found out MikeWillMadeIt produced it? Yea, kind of fell flat, didn’t it? Be honest, I forget this is Ross’s track due to remixes like this and Jeezy’s verse. It’s still a 4 star track in my iTunes.
The first part of the middle stretch of this album definitely continues the momentum that the opening stretch created, and even picks up the pace some. It definitely is setting the album up to hopefully continue that momentum. Sequencing has been on point thus far.
The middle stretch (part two): “What a Shame,” “Supreme,” “Blk & Wht,” “Dope Bitch Skit”
“What a Shame” is irony at it’s best. What a shame that this track wasn’t more than what it was. Ross and French usually connect better than this (“All Birds” & “Pop That“come to mind). This beat sounds similar to a 50 beat. I just can’t place it. “What a shame, pussy niggas wear glitter.” Who the hell wrote that line for Ross? That’s so childish and lame that it’s shameful. Track so short there’s a skit longer than it. “Supreme” is a Scott Storch beat. Yes, that Scott Storch. Didn’t know he could leave the blow alone long enough to make a track, let alone something this great. This is the type of Ross music that I love. Reminds me of his early stuff and gets a 4 star rating in iTunes. “Blk & Wht” is about exactly what you would think it would be about, a black man selling that white powder, known as blow, and the perils that come with it. I still don’t get how he got away with that Trayvon Martin line though. Em had his Columbine line censored, 50 had so much of “Officer Down” off Curtis censored it got it’s name changed to “Man Down,” but yet that line didn’t get muted. Why? 3 star rating in iTunes due to the Trayvon line. “Dope Bitch Skit” is hilarious. I mean, it has to be one of the most unintentionally funny skits ever. “If you’re a boss and this stack falls out your pocket, you don’t even pick it up. I have my basic bitches pick it up. I pay my basic bitches to pick up my money.” I’m crying. “My weave make you nervous? I wash my hair in champagne.” This easily got 5 stars in my iTunes.
The middle stretch (part two) slightly drops the ball a bit from the prior stretches, but overall, it keeps things flowing in a positive direction for the most part.
The home stretch: “In Vein,” “Sanctified,” “Walkin on Air,” “Thug Cry”
“In Vein” is just like every other song featuring The Weeknd. They all sound the same. No really, take the last five songs featuring him that include rappers and put them on shuffle and tell me there’s a significant difference. Only good thing going for “In Vein” is that it follows the incredibly hilarious “Dope Bitch Skit.” It gets a 2 star rating in iTunes. “Sanctified” is just beautiful. From the sample to the hook to the verses to everything. Plus, it’s probably the closest thing we may get to a vintage ‘Ye verse. Even the version with the Big Sean verse isn’t bad. It gets 5 stars easily. “Walkin on Air” kind of reminds me of “So Sophisticated.” Wasn’t that fond of “So Sophisticated.” Really wish Meek would rap normally more often. 3 stars in my iTunes. “Thug Cry” is a perfect closer to this album. Justice League has to be one of the more underrated production groups lately. We know they had that run, but recently not much love for their production. That Lil Wayne verse isn’t bad at all. It’s not quite 5 stars, nor is it really 4, but I’m going to give it the 4 star rating.
Highlights: “Thug Cry,” “Sanctified,” “Devil Is a Lie,” “Mafia Music III”
Overall: Overall, this album, in a way, is a return to form of old, while embracing what gave Rick Ross some of his biggest notoriety. Gone, for the most part, are the problems and missteps from his recent releases leading up to this. Parts of this album have the sound and vibe of the Trilla/Deeper Than Rap sessions, while other parts also have the feel of the “let me recreate ‘BMF’ sound” sessions. Did Ross reinvent the wheel with this album? Definitely not, but he did at least put some new tread on the tires of his career for now. The album only leaves you asking two questions: Can he continue this streak? And last and most important, where the hell was Gunplay at?
Final Grade: Rhy- (dash indicates not quite a full letter, a half star essentially). Definitely nothing new here from Ross but yet it’s well executed enough at certain points to seem new.