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M-m-m-m-Maybach music

Rick Ross rebounds from mediocrity with “Mastermind.”
Image by Def Jam Recordings
Rick Ross’ “Mastermind” exhibits the full-spectrum of what coke rap has to offer.

Athletes James Harden and Brian Wilson get plenty of attention for their awesomely intimidating black beards, but Rick Ross’ dedication to whisker maintenance puts him a step above the whole crop of beard-sporting celebs.

Ricky and his meticulous whiskers were thrust into the spotlight the summer of 2006 — his rotund debut, “Port of Miami,” was a rap blockbuster. In a blink, he was firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of the industry.

Since that debut, Ross survived an attempt on his life, two lawsuits, lyric controversy, being arrested and the revelation that he’d been a correctional officer — all while releasing another four albums. 

Those albums maintained a level of consistency solely because he applied and reapplied the formula he used on “Port of Miami” — a keen ear for quality instrumentals; a reliance on his self-generated “Boss” persona, rather than unmatched lyricism; and a knack for choosing the right collaborators.

Ricky Rozay has returned to the well one more time, and once again, it was full.

“Mastermind” features a few amusingly bad skits — including one in which girls talk about washing their hair with champagne — and his trademark gruff bark.

Ross has built a career off that grunt, especially when rhyming racial epithets and curses with themselves — one of two methods he continues to employ in his songwriting.

The other technique seems to involve writing his raps, then figuring out how to contort the words to function within the rhyme. 

Pulling off such rhythmic stunts — not the resourceful life of luxury hustling that he paints for himself — is what qualifies him for boss status. 

This is the self-assured, boastful Ross who makes a time-proven product, with upgrades. This is the Ross who pushes the limit. 

“Mastermind,” while imperfect, does not sound like the album of a complacent artist. If anything, it is notable for the track “War Ready,” where Ross buries the hatchet with Jeezy.    

Politics aside, there are solid standouts sprinkled among all the drug rap.

The third installation of “Mafia Music” is a reggae jam with Sizzla.  So, yeah, that’s worth a peek, as is the buried 13th track, “Santified,” which features Big Sean and Kanye.  It has soul, with a stabbing piano riff for an anchor and an addictive clap on the downbeats.  Let the sultry poses and affected mean mugging begin — this one’s going to bring the lechery out in people.    

Still, the album has its issues. 

Most glaring is Ross’ attempt to recycle some rap classics into new material. In “Nobody” with French Montana, Ross lifts the same laid back, shuffling chorus from Biggie’s “You’re Nobody.” 

French Montana just so happens to be present during the other misappropriation, aptly titled “What a Shame,” in which Ricky, for some unknown reason, sees fit to fuzzily spit, “Shame on a [expletive] who tries to run game on a [expletive].” 

Ross’ utterance doesn’t sound like the Wu-Tang lines he’s recycling, so it just incites an urge to listen to the Clan rather than French and Rick riffing about wealth. 

But those are beefs based on redundancy, not the music itself.   The album remains triumphant throughout due to the array of featured artists and producers such as Diddy, Mike Will Made It, Kanye and the Weeknd. 

Ultimately, this is an appeasing offering from the ultimate Maybach car-lover.

With that company now defunct, Ross is probably thanking the heavens he still shares initials with Rolls Royce. 


2.5 out of 4


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