Love him or hate him, one thing is for certain; Rick Ross has the attention of the entire rap world. Ross has enamored the masses with boasts of machismo, decadence, rap feuds, and hilarious slipups. All the while, the self-proclaimed “Boss” has banged out album after album of solid material backed by Miami’s finest producers and an array of who’s who in the rap game. Nothing’s changed on Ross’ latest release, Teflon Don, which draws its name from late mob boss, John Gotti. Although Rick Ross is certainly far from John Gotti, his tales of possibly fabricated coke deals, gun battles and lavish living allow Ross to stay a few steps ahead of other artists in his genre. It’s notable that Rick Ross is far from the best lyricist in the game, a claim which he makes effort to refute. Yet, all of his albums are consistently superior to most highly-anticipated releases year after year. The key is Ross’ knack for working with talented producers and his grasp of making songs. Rarely will Ross hog the mic. In fact, he’s generous with allowing guest appearances, which is no different on Teflon Don. On Ross’ fourth studio album, he follows the blueprints of his previous successes with favorable results.
Ross tries to get everything underway with the overproduced, “I’m Not a Star.” The Boss starts off strong with “If I die today remember me like John Lennon/buried in Louie, I’m talking all brown linen/make all of my bitches tattoo my logo on their titty/put a statue of a n*gga in the middle of the city.” However this gets old quickly and becomes nothing more than Ross trying to prove he can rap. Luckily the next track, “Free Mason,” has a head-nodding beat courtesy of The Inkredibles. Rick Ross and Jay-Z showcase their smarts by playing into fan-generated rumors of the two being what the song title suggests. Ross might be a bit out of his league in that sense, but Jay-Z’s fortune certainly places him in a ‘conspiracy of the month’ category. Hov addresses rumors of masonry, bluntly stating, “I said that I’m amazing/not that I’m a mason.” In addition, John Legend’s vocals on the hook are a subtle touch that boosts the overall song quality. Ross goes on to begin “Tears of Joy” similar to Jay on “D.O.A.” On the track, Ricky Rozzay attempts to draw comparisons to Biggie, which is lyrically unfound, despite their similar physical dispositions. The beat feels like it runs short, building up, but never fully delivering until Cee-Lo sings his heart out over a soft-hitting drum break. Picking up where Deeper Than Rap left off, Ricky Ross jumps back into his signature “Maybach Music” series, this time accompanied by rap royalty from the North and the South. Starting off with a distinctive, symphonic melody akin to its predecessors, the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-crafted anthem bangs even if you’re listening to it through the sound system of a Geo Prizm. The epic intro stumbles upon an air of smooth jazz, perfect for T.I. to coast over (“meet me at the Waldorf Astorian/architecture Victorian/riding in the past like you’re driving a Delorean“). Jadakiss’ remarkable consistency sounds comforting over jazzed-up beat, as listeners can hear “the Champ” has not lost a step. When the music changes dramatically and undergoes a transition into a guitar driven instrumental, Ross comes through with a timely delivery, but marginally falls below the standards set by the track’s co-stars.
Kanye West’s production on “Live Fast, Die Young” is more soulful than what we’ve heard from the Chicago beatsmith as of late. To reiterate, Rick Ross has one of the best beat selections in the game today. While he’s not taking instrumentals from Boom-Bap favorites like Pete Rock and DJ Premier, he continues to bring originality to his uniquely Floridian sound by choosing beats that compliment his style. Kanye’s hook game proves to be on-point as he sings sans-Auto-Tune before killing his own doing by somehow rhyming “Japan” with “Milan,” once again proving he’s one of the most stylish individuals in Hip Hop. Although some listeners might get sidetracked by Yeezy’s work, Ross more than holds his own, with what might be his best verse on the album. Touching on his excessive lifestyle, Ross brags, “die young, but f*ck it, we flew first class/turned you to a rich bitch by your first glass/up in this bitch and we lit up like a screen/every time we hit the charts, n*ggas shoot up like a fiend/stuntin’ like we printing money with machines.” The image of owning a beverage so expensive that it could raise your socioeconomic status is whopping and Ricky Rozzay has no problem getting that point across while keeping everything relatively simplistic. “Super High” [click for music video] is one of the year’s strongest singles. Featuring co-production from the legendary DJ Clark Kent and the unprolific Remedy, the song is nearly unflawed despite Ross’ unimpressive rhyme scheme, which he tastefully manages to duplicate throughout each verse. Ne-Yo’s soulful vocal delivery is as smooth as a young Michael Jackson, thus making the song worthy of being a cross-over sensation.
“No. 1″ featuring Trey Songz and Diddy is everything you would expect from a club song involving all three individuals. Although the beat lacks complexity, it pounds in headphones, while the declaration that “I’m number one in this bitch,” is sure to get any club hype. The song structure is appropriate, but the flaws in Ross’ game such as corny lines (“I don’t smoke no tobaccos/but I smoke the most rappers“) and Diddy’s pointless ‘verse’ take the song down a few notches. Rick Ross’ flow bodes well with Lex Luger’s darker production when he makes an attempt to appeal to a southern audience on “MC Hammer.” Unfortunately, Guccie Mane’s guest appearance on the third verse takes away from the already lagging track. Lex Luger sticks to the script on “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” which seems custom built for Ross’ flow. The man with the “Rozzay” alias stays in the same vein as his previous tracks, bragging about balling, cocaine, and buying jewelry. Unlike the previous track, Styles P’s guest appearance yields positive results, with “the Ghost” spitting, “did I mention guns from ‘Red Dead Redemption’/nine mils, fifty clip extensions” in his signature flow. Deep into the album, “the Boss” decides he’s tired of rapping about Maybachs and switches it up to “Aston Martin Music,” which doesn’t vary much from former’s subject matter. Playing on LL Cool J’s time-tested “I Need Love,” Ross sets off his verse declaring, “when I’m alone in my room sometimes I stair the wall/automatic weapons on the floor but who can you call?” Drake outshines the Boss on his own track with numerous quotables such as “I got that Courtney Love for ya, that crazy sh*t/I don’t drink every bottle I own, I be aging that sh*t/and I got that wedding ring flow, that engaging sh*t.” In addition, Drake gracefully sings with a high-pitch delivery which meshes well with Chrisette Michele’s hook. The big budget vibe of the song is flagrantly poppy, but better than a lot of pop rap out there. The album’s closer (“All the Money in the World“) has a different tone than every other track on Teflon Don. At this point, Rick Ross attempts to keep it real with his fans, rapping about his family over the typical Rozzay choice of production. This is a genuine look at the man behind the mic, backed by the ever catchy Raphael Saadiq and a fitting way to end the album.
At first glance, Teflon Don seems like a star-studded lineup that’s destined to fail; but one look at Rick Ross’ track record should prove otherwise. While his flow isn’t exactly impeccable, Hip Hop’s reigning “Boss” knows how to pick and choose his spots in order to elevate the overall quality of his music. Relying on consistent production and sticking with melodies that fit his style, Rozzay has done little to stray away from his follower’s expectations. Teflon Don isn’t the crowning moment of Rick Ross’ music career, but it cements his consistency even if some songs lack a certain replay value.