Rick Ross has unleashed his newest studio album, Mastermind. The follow-up to 2012's God Forgives, I Don't, the album is the Maybach general's sixth in total.
The LP packs 16 original jams, including featured singles "The Devil Is a Lie," "War Ready" and "Nobody." The deluxe edition features three additional tracks.
Big Sean, Jay Z, Jeezy, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Meek Mill make guest appearances throughout the set, which boasts boardwork by the likes of DJ Mustard, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Mike WiLL Made It and Scott Storch.
Mastermind Album Review
And yet, leading up to the release of his new album, Mastermind, Ross is on unfamiliar shaky ground. As single after single failed to really take off the way Ross and MMG hoped (RIP No Games), and album delay after album delay stacked up like so many racks at Magic City, the shine around Mastermind began to lose its luster. Although Ross is as famous as anyone in rap, Mastermind arrives without the same fever pitch of anticipation that surrounded his peer’s recent releases (Yeezus, MCHG, NWTS, etc.). Could this be the beginning of the end, or at least a decline, for Ross, and by extension his MMG empire?
Probably not. Despite his well-deserved reputation for shallow luxury, on the whole Ross' albums have been actually been very high quality, well-produced and complexly executed affairs. In many ways it’s his consistency that’s been his greatest skill, and Mastermind is no different. The album’s opening track, Rich is Gangsta, is cinematic in every sense; in a genre obsessed with Scarface, this is what Tony Montana might actually have been bumping if he had lived to see 2014. That kind of ambition and scale is present throughout the album, most aptly on The Devil is a Lie, featuring the kind of freshly baked guest verse from Jay Z that might just make me forget about the day old Pound Cake he gave Drake, and Sanctified, featuring a rewind-worthy verse from Kanye and a completely superfluous Big Sean. Throw in Scarface showing Ross what an actual Trayvon Martin tribute line sounds like on Blessing in Disguise, and you've got an album with some actual depth.
On the other hand, coming to Rick Ross for musical depth is like coming to WingStop for a raw kale salad. The day I learned to appreciate Rick Ross' ability to craft a masterfully ignorant banger is the day I learned to appreciate Ross, but Mastermind really doesn't have much to offer those interested in turning the volume up and their brains down. Minus a hook from Tracy T that's far more annoying than intimidating, War Ready comes equipped with some a serious arsenal, and Drug Dealers Dream bangs, although not as hard as I'd hope; in fact, Mastermind makes me kind of miss the good ol' M.C Hammer days. Now there was a man who knew how to sell a fantasy.
In fact, on the whole Mastermind is a predominately midtempo album. Nobody's notable for its Biggie sample and influence, but beyond the sample, I don't think it'll prove to have anywhere near the impact and longevity Ross and Diddy were apparently aiming for. Mafia Music III's Jamacian vibes are a welcome change of pace but nothing particularly remarkable. In Vein is a pretty damn good Weeknd song featuring Rick Ross...if it wasn't already evident, beyond a handful of tracks I'm having trouble getting truly excited about this album.
So yes, first week sales of Mastermind might just prove to be one of Ross’ lowest yet, but it won’t really matter. The album might not be nearly good enough to launch him into any "classic" conversation, but it also not nearly bad enough to be viewed as a sign of his impending demise. By all indications Ross and MMG will continue to eat lobster bisque for breakfast and drink Ciroc for dessert. There's too much filler on this album to give Ross true mastermind status, but the man's still a Teflon Don. He hasn't taken a shot, literal or figurative, that's slowed him down yet. At this point only the government, and maybe a taco truck, can stop him.
(By Nathan S., @RefinedHype)
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins