Available on: Maybach Music mixtape
Rick Ross: Rich Forever? Forever-ever? Maybe not in the real world, where health complications (two seizures on a plane last October) suggest that at some point his cash flow will come to an abrupt halt, but then Miami’s most famous gangsta rapper doesn’t tend to live in the real world, at least not musically. This, after all, is the guy who came into the spotlight assuring us that Manuel Noreaga (the “real Noreaga”, no less) owed him “a hundred favours”. The cynic, aware of Ross’s past employment as a correctional officer (a fact crowed upon by arch-enemy Fiddy Cent) might wonder if those favours are owed for procuring Manuel some cigarettes and contraband porn, but if the world has serious doubts about Ross’s criminal credentials, on record the self-styled ”Bawse” expresses none whatsoever. It doesn’t matter what we think, because he thinks he’s Big Meech (another big-time coke dealer), as he notoriously roared on 2010’s Lex Luger produced trap-rap anthem ‘B.M.F’. There’s no limit to Ross’s wealth, because there’s no limit to Ross’s fantasies – other than their utter conventionality, of course.
Rich Forever is an appetiser before the main course, the release of Ross’s fifth studio album God Forgives, I Don’t. Appropriately enough for a man of Ross’s wealth and girth, its a lavishly laid-out B.K. Whopper of an entrée, sporting over an hour of pristenely mixed-down club bangers, trunk shakers and potential radio hits. Whether you’ll want more by the time you’ve finished it will very much depend on what you make of Ross’s existing formula, because on the evidence of Rich Forever its seems likely that what’s coming up next is going to be more (and more, and more) of the same. Ross is a supremely confident rapper, and Rich Forever is a supremely confident mixtape, which is probably why it is extremely entertaining in small chunks, but can be witheringly boring listened to in its entirety. Often several tracks in a row will sound extremely similar to each other, as if they’ve come off a production line; slightly different models but part of the same range.
This lack of versatility could be seen as a weakness, but Ross plays to it as if its a strength. Grinding – but profitable – repetition is built into both his coke selling persona (“Flipping bricks, counting money – so repetitious”) and his declamatory, slogan-spawning rap style. He’ll often repeat a line or rhyme-scheme to triumphantly emphasise it, sometimes varying the words slightly while returning to the same essential structure (“God forgives and I don’t, my chopper hit the lotto nigga / My chopper hit the lotto nigga / Keepin’ it real my ch-ch-chopped a lot of niggas”). This varied repetition can easily extend to an entire verse, or track, to the point where a track can feel like one long extended hook, every line blown up to anthemic proportions by Ross’s titanic, husky voice. This sense of gigantic – if quite monotonous – accumulation compliments Ross’s subject matter which is, broadly speaking, making and spending a steaming shit pile of money.
In keeping with his hustling business-thug persona, Ross’s music is all about expansion – chest expansion, mainly – and the proportions on Rich Forever are comically humongous. Ross has “more guns in the car than the whole state of Missouri”. He buys cars “like sneakers” (“just got me ten pair”). His crib is as “big as Turner Field” (that’s a baseball stadium). Your crib – if you have one – probably costs less than one of his chains (“got a house on my neck”). It probably costs less than guest 2 Chainz’s chain too (“Chain cost a coupe, coupe cost a crib”). Almost all the guests on Rich Forever are engaged in a condo measuring contest; the honourable exception being Nas, who contributes a brilliant, vivid and intelligent verse to ‘Triple Beem Dreams’, criticising the same Scarface myth that Ross endlessly venerates with his polished-up stock-Mafiosi imagery: “I remember watching Scarface the first time / Look at that big house, that Porsche paid for by crime / How could I sell this poison to my people’s in my mind? /They dumb and destroy themselves is how I rationalized.”
There are occasional hints of such a canny critique of crime ‘n’ capitalism in Ross’s own raps (“Diamonds round my neck call it the ghetto’s guillotine”), and one track intro samples Mike Tyson dismissing all his material gains as “garbage” compared to the happiness of his children. Generally, though, Ross sticks to glorifying crime and celebrating wealth, mesmerised and gratified by dope that shines “like yella diamonds” (his Chevrelot, meanwhile, shines “like a marble floor”).
Ross is a thoroughly, and unrepentantly, shallow rapper, but this of course doesn’t mean that he isn’t a good, occasionally great one. And Ross knows, and makes, good music. The production here positively shines: as expensive and impressive as a freshly-polished Maybach, as slick and grandiose as its Bawse’s voice. There’s glossy, upbeat soul (‘Keys To The Crib’ and the Kelly Rowland featuring ‘Mind Games’), synth-heavy G-Funk (‘Fuck Em’, ‘High Definition’) and moody Scarface soundtrack music (‘Triple Beem Dreams’, ‘Stay Schemin’). There is also, naturally, a fair share of B.M.F. style tracks, all pounding bass, rattling drums and tinny operatic brass-riffs (the Mike Will-produced ‘King Of Diamonds’ almost out-Lugers Lex Luger by constantly, operatically building to a climax). It all sounds great, and Ross sounds great on top of it.
Ross is, after all, in the entertainment business, and can’t really be chastised for failing to provide an edifying dimension to music that doesn’t really need it. The only real problem with Ross’s endearingly shallow “Rozayyy!” persona comes when it interferes with the entertainment side of things – when the listener can’t stand to listen to yet another song about a Rolex the size of Big Ben or a bread-and-butter sandwich more expensive than a lobster-stuffed blue whale wrap. At these points, the question of whether or not Ross can be Rich forever becomes less pressing than the question of whether he’s going to be remain Rozay forever, altogether too rich for continuing consumption.