You’re lying if you say you saw this coming. In fact, I’m not sure even Rick Ross saw this coming. Ten years ago William Leonard Roberts II was an unknown emcee doing records with Erick Sermon, and five years ago he was a portly Miami rapper Hustlin with one-hit wonder written all over him. And now? Now Ricky Rozay is not only one of rap’s elite solo stars, a perfectly bearded force of nature that has overcome Officer Ricky revelations and a 50 Cent campaign, he’s a burgeoning Don. Real power is not the ability …
DJBooth Album Review
Real power is not the ability to control your life but to control the lives of others, and since Ross obviously has high aspirations he’s following in the blueprint laid out by Jay-Z (pun intended) and getting his own Maybach Music coalition up and running. After his first attempt at putting on his team flopped like a European soccer player (sorry Triple Cs, but numbers don’t lie) Ross re-uped and signed a team of up-and-comers: Wale, Meek Mill, Teedra Moses, Pill and Stalley. The first shot in the Bawse’s bid to take over the game is the somewhat ironically titled posse album Self Made; somewhat ironic in the sense that every rapper is in the process of being “made” by Ross. But as Ricky has shown time and time again, ultimately it’s the music that matters, and Self Made’s music, well, it’s not half bad. If you like hearing that chick say “Maybach Music,” good lord do I have an album you need to hear.
With all due respect to Mr. Meek, Mr. Pill and the rest there’s really only one member of the Maybach Coalition that deserves his own paragraph, Wale. While many were shocked to see the former “savior of hip-hop” aligning himself with the shallower than a kiddie pool Ross, it made perfect sense to me. Wale killed himself trying to make the conscious crowd happy and got nothing but headaches for his trouble. So after he got a taste of the good life on No Hands and when Ross showed up waving stacks of cash, cash that was conveniently located in a stripper’s cleavage, he figured screw it. Just like that Ross has a respected lyricist on the team and Wale gets some sure money (and titties). Everyone wins, right? Kind of. Just take single 600 Benz, a banger dedicated to the finer automobiles in life. As Benz shows, Wale’s lyricism and flow can work on an aggressive track, but I can’t say the same for his voice. By contrast Ross could recite a take out menu and sound bad ass, but no one’s ever heard Wale rhyme and thought “I shouldn’t f**k with that dude.” He sounds more at home on the lusher Pandemonium, and the slowly burning That Way, but for every Way there’s a Big Bank, where Wale sounds like the kid tagging along with his older brother’s friends. Still, he’s only been rhyming over Lex Luger beats for a minute, he might learn to truly go hard sooner or later. Or not. Frankly, it could go either way.
When it comes to assessing the contributions of everyone else on Self Made words like “capable, “solid” and “pretty good” come to mind. Ross’ booming voice and the album’s equally booming voice rightfully dominate nearly every track and beyond that the rest blend together into the background. Stalley, the crew’s newest member, appears on only a single verse of Runnin’ Rebels and Teedra Moses is largely relegated to backup vocal duty throughout, so by process of elimination we’re down to Meek Mill and Pill. Meek makes his biggest mark on the breakout Tupac Back, although he’s most definitely Scottie to Ross’ Jordan, and Pill is allotted a moment to himself on Ridin’ on Dat Pole, which he does fine with, but it’s not enough to make a lasting impression. While more serious minded fans will take the time to follow every verse, the average listener frankly won’t leave Self Made being able to differentiate between Meek and Pill, and they certainly won’t know who Moses or Stalley are.
So is Self Made a success? That depends in part on what Ross was aiming for. If he was hoping to prime his artists for individual success, he’s got a long way to go. But if he was simply looking to keep Maybach’s name on everyone mind via a loosely defined collection of bangers, well then it looks like Rick Ross still can’t do wrong.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/30/11
Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros.
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