The Brothers
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The Brothers

Rick Ross Just Made the Same Album Again For the Ninth Time…

…and we couldn’t be happier about it

But I don’t hold everyone to that standard. There are people calling HNDRX a masterpiece. Somewhere. But hearing it just made me more grateful for the fact that Future released that project AFTER he released FUTURE.

I don’t want Future to make nothing but Future music. I’m resolved to that fact now.

And you know what? I don’t want Rick Ross to ever do anything other than what he does. What is that? Make shit talking raps over the best beats in the industry.

Let’s be real — most rap music now makes you want to hold your pinkie up whilst drinking a drink with fruit in it. Ross might make some of the last bastions of whop-a-man-ass music. He’s not singing. He gets singers to do that. It’s just straight up rhymes and beats…and it’s what the people want from a Rick Ross album.

The catchphrase for Rap Purists wasn’t “mumble rap” as it is now, instead it was “ring tone rap” with people who loved the music afraid that their beloved genre was being overtaken by throwaway songs that only lasted until the next catchy, ring tone song came along.

I was in Atlanta that year…more importantly, I was on public transportation, and in addition to the hated “ring tone rap” there was also “snap” (which to some people, was one and the same). Contrary to prior belief, “snap” wasn’t bubble gum, happy go lucky, feel good music. Naw, that was hood music made by people who not only were from the worst areas in Atlanta, many of these “snap” rappers had reputations that proceeded them.

In the midst of all that, “Hustlin’” was released.

Just FYI for all you revisionist history writers, this is how you know the Billboard 100 numbers ain’t shit. According to those numbers, “Hustlin’” peaked out at 54, which to some would mean that the song was a marginal success.

But quite the contrary.

That song came out in the spring of 2006 and played damn near until the spring of 2007. It didn’t just play in the south either. When I moved back to New York in October of 2006, “Hustlin’” was making noise there too.

I wasn’t rocking with Rap then, so whatever success Port of Miami had, it was by me. I ain’t listen to that album until after hearing Ross’ Sophomore effort, Trilla.

Trilla is where the Ross that we’re familiar with came into existence. That 2008 release is where the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League began flexing their orchestra-esque, cinematic sounds with “Billionaire,” “Luxury Tax,” and on what would become a signature Ross song, “Maybach Music.”

And this is where any true Rick Ross story begins — the ‘beats.’

Producer Lex Luger

So for me, that’s what’s dope about what I do. When I bring a sound, it’s not just a dope record, it’s also a sound that’ll also alter the sound of the game for that moment, for that era. And that’s what I want to do again. Rick Ross

That’s certainly the case for what he did for Lex Luger who’s placement on Teflon Don was the right hook to the jab of his production with Waka Flocka.

“B.M.F” and “MC Hammer” were the songs of Summer 2010. I emphasize these two more than “Hard in the Paint” because most lovers of rap are almost naturally adverse to southern rappers of Waka Flocka’s caliber. Ross usually gets a pass…but we’ll get to that later.

A Rick Ross album is always packed with street anthems. On Rather You Than Me, Ross plucked Young Coke from the cadre of Atlanta producers for the song “Trap, Trap, Trap” which won’t be climbing up no Billboard list but will definitely rattle some car speakers this upcoming summer.

You also have the Beat Billionaire produced “Dead Presidents” ft Future, Jeezy, & Yo Gotti & “She on My Dick” ft Gucci Mane on the street anthem tip; two more songs that are earmarked for a club near you.

Which is a part of the Ross formula — a mix of street anthems packed with guests, look back at Trilla — “The Boss” ft the then white hot T-Pain, “Speedin’” ft R. Kelly (and a video that featured every damn body) — to solo songs like “Hold Me Back.”

I don’t think Ross is trying to push the boundaries on these songs as much as he’s making it a point to feed the streets.

It’s not like these songs are produced by a who’s who of producers either. I hate to say that anyone is picked out of obscurity without knowing their full story but Luger has gone on record as saying he was ready to supplement his income with a labor intense 9–5. And I’m sure that G5Kid’s “Hold Me Back” was one of his top placements as well.

That being said, I’m sure he doesn’t have to pay top price for those beats.

In that aspect, Ross def exhibits the traits of “a boss” — buy low, sell high.

Those “other” songs is why I put beats in quotes.

We talked in detail about the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League process here and what those songs did for the Ross brand. But they aren’t the only ones that contribute the musicality to a Ross release (they’re not even listed on Rather You Than Me).

Check out “Apple of my Eye.” That song starts with the trademarked laugh/Maybach Music tag before going into some choral like singing, horns, beats, and piano. A few seconds later we see, “oh, Raphael Saadiq ain’t just singing, he brought his bass too.”

Again, Ross mines out a producer, Major Nine in this case, to produce a song that many people would assume came from a popular, mainstream producer or one of Ross’ core producers. But nah. Outside of a DJ Booth article, I couldn’t find anything on Nine.

Me and my brother, Alaor Khadir joked that Ross simply traded out singers. Raphael Saadiq takes the place of Mastermind’s The Weeknd, or God Forgives and I Don’t’s Usher, or the ever present Ne-Yo. But Ross has also had Mario Winans, Anthony Hamilton, Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz, Chrisette Michele, John Legend, you get the point.

When I said that Rick Ross didn’t sing, he got singers to do that — I meant it.

Musically, the only thing that makes songs like “Super High” Rap is Rick Ross, otherwise the DJ Clark Kent/Remedy track could have just been another Ne-Yo song.

And that’s the point. If you listen to a Rick Ross album, you’re going to hear good music — period. It’s not just good Rap music. It’s unfortunate that we no longer have detailed liner notes and explorations into how albums are made because the musicality and instrumentation on the average Ross song is second to none.

Think about “Maybach Music III.” You have two cellos, four violas, five violins, two French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, the song as a damn conductor. How many Rappers bring that level of art to their albums?

I remember when the only Rap was New York Rap. I also remember when different regions, originally enamored with New York, finally shook that monkey off their back and began to emerge with their own sound.

I remember how people used to shit on the music that was coming out of Miami. It wasn’t “real” Rap is what most people said. Long before I made my way to Atlanta and embraced my southern roots, me, Sayyed Munajj, and our crew, Da Fellas, latched on to Miami’s 2 Live Crew early, to the point where we called Fridays….Miami Days.

Unlike what was coming out of the West at the time, the music from Miami was fun. That’s how we looked at it.

When I moved to Atlanta, I got learned real quick. That bass, that music, it was all apart of strip club culture…and it ruled the south. Make no doubt about it, most people were not rocking with no New York rap. It was too slow and wasn’t no woman stripping to “Bonita Applebaum.”

I mentioned that for this reason — Rick Ross is from Miami. That may be lost on people now, but for a long time, we’re talking at least twenty years, the music that Ross makes would NEVER come out of Miami.

So when people talk about him not being lyrical, I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that they don’t know the environment Rick Ross came from.

Between Rick Ross and Trick Daddy (yeah, Trick Daddy, you read that right), they brought a new level of lyricism to Miami that had not been seen before. Trick fit the Miami paradigm a little better because he mostly rapped over faster songs but check his catalog. He’s got lyrics. Ross on the other hand, took on tempos more akin to up north. (Does “Hustlin’” even exceed 70BPS?)

I’ve absolutely thought that he’s had some trash lines. Like, I have no idea why his woman would ever have to take a bag back (“Super High”) and that line still irks me.

Nor am I fan of his running commentary on vehicle purchases. He buys expensive cars. We get it.

I could go on and on about things that I don’t like about his lyrics…but that’s every and any rap song nowadays.

Practice might not make perfect but it does make better and Ross has slowly branched out beyond his requisite boasts of boss-hood to songs about losing respect for your idols (“Idols Become Rivals”) to self-empowerment (“Summer Seventeen). It’s because of this slight improvement that Ross gets a pass where someone like Waka Flocka may not.

Like most rappers who come in contact with him, Minister Farrakhan’s name has begun to creep in Ross’ music as has mentions of the Million Man March and the Fruit of Islam.

Is Rick Ross now making so-called conscious music? I wouldn’t say that. But I would say that his lyrics are becoming more reflective. To the point where I listen to songs like “We Gon Make It” more than I listen to “Movin’ Bass.”

I can admit it.

But it’s kind of easy because if I were a DJ I could easily mix those 37 songs into one seamless mix. Rick Ross has a formula and he sticks to it. And, while I may not agree with his assessment that Rather You Than Me is his opus…that’s a stretch…I will say that my 37 song list might get nine or ten songs longer.

I know what to expect when I put on a Ross album — that’s a good thing. When you have something that works, a brand if you will, you don’t want to muddy your relationship with its fans like Coke did with Coke Zero…damn, my age again. Future needs to stick with FUTURE and may Ross never think he should make his version of Love Below.



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