Doc Zeus’s municipal marvelousity has yet to be magnificently memorialized.
Listening to Maybach Music Group’s Self-Made Vol. 1 can be described in a series of short words that may or may not have been used by Rick Ross on the actual album: astonishing, wonderment, immaculateness, impeccability, magnificentience, flawlessment, superlativery, gloriousic and amazitude. Like Xanadu and the Trump Taj Mahal before it, Self-Made is a garish monstrosity of ego and excess that seeks to coercively sodomize the listener into submission of its mighty glory. It is an achievement of towering import upon the rap scene. Never has a rap album been this cocksure of its own supremacy that the Almighty’s choir isn’t enough to sing praise upon it. Quite frankly, it’s the greatest weed carrier album of all-time.
Since time unknown, the weed carrier album has been little more than a contract chewing vanity project that star rappers use to quiet the discontent amongst their entourage of jealous childhood friends and talentless familiar relations. Rarely are these records anything more than brief, cynical lifelines that growing rap stars toss towards their soon-to-be estranged loved ones as they ascend towards greater achievements. Exploitative in nature and lamentable in execution, these records serve as more than a quick cash grab for the star and his record label. For his erstwhile companions, it provides an awkward dalliance with fame – the mercy fuck of the entertainment industry.
In the case of William Leonard Roberts II, his rise towards his status as hip hop’s greatest living comedy rapper has been spent in the theater of the absurd. Rick Ross began his career in earnest as Trick Daddy’s lackey in the Slip-N-Slide franchise before catching on as a second-rate Jeezy clone during the Great Coke Rap Rush of 2005, releasing two comically bad (at least, in the figurative sense) records on Def Jam. After having his pre-rap career as a corrections officer exposed to the general public, it seemed as if his career would’ve died as a punch line, but a funny thing happened on the way to the discount bin: Ross began to embrace and accentuate the more absurd elements of his music to comedically ostentations proportions.
No boast was too ludicrous. No beat became bombastic enough. Refuge in implausible audacity became Ross’ greatest strength, as his next two albums, Deeper than Rap and Teflon Don, proudly straddled the line of intentional and unintentional comedy as if he were the living dead tightrope walking across the mortal coil in a Faustian pact with Lucifer. His star grew brighter as he finally reached his destiny to become the hip hop version of Caligula – the grotesque jester king of gangster rap’s royal court.
Like every rapper that reaches this level of stature, it became inevitable that Ross would embark upon the “ownership” of a vanity label and a subsequent venture into the grand tradition of the weed carrier album. Self-Made Vol. 1 is Ross’ entry into the genre, but unlike the spiritual weed plates of the compilation’s predecessors, this album is a remarkably accomplished achievement. Like Deeper Than Rap and Teflon Don, Self-Made has a centralized vision that builds on Ross’ patented brand of blustering comic book gangster rap. As usual, Ross eschews gangster rap’s traditionalist obsession with nuanced realism, and instead strives to create music that is ostentatious and comically whimsical. On “Pacman,” Ross uses quite possibly rap’s first reference to the titular video game’s power pellets as a death threat. Meanwhile on “Tupac Back” and “By Any Means,” Ross and the crew humbly compare themselves to Tupac Shakur and Malcom X because their obsession with the details of German auto engineering is easily comparable to the lives of assassinated civil rights icons and voice-of-a-generation rappers.
Regardless, these types of deadpan delusions work best when spit over expensive and divinely manicured production. Ross hasn’t met a beat that is too extravagant for his showy tastes. Employing louder and more garish synth vamps and horn sections with each subsequent song, the production seems commissioned as if it were under the mandate to murk any notions of subtlety and nuance. It’s the logical conclusion of the Lex Luger aesthetic that Ross gave birth to with “B.M.F.”
Ultimately, a weed carrier album can only go as far as the talents of its supporting cast, and thus, the primary ingredient in Self-Made’s success stems from Ross’ refusal to go for the standard caliber weed carrier. Being a man of immaculate taste and sophistication, Ross went out and recruited only the finest of herb haulers to be the pockets of the Maybach Music Group brand. Scouring the covers of the XXL Freshman class, Ross emulated Captain Planet and called forth to the Planeteers to protect the oceans from dolphin poachers: The Mixtape Rapper Nobody Gives A Shit About (Meek Mill), Mr. Underground (Pill) and the Major Industry Cornball (Wale). Unlike the fuck-up friends and cousins with a touch of Downs that populate most rapper’s entourages, Meek, Pill and Wale are genuine talents, who if not for the random cruelties of the record industry might have been weed owners in their own right. Each rapper is given their moment to shine on the album and each makes the best of the opportunity. Pill’s solo joint “Don’t Let Me Go” is standout while Meek Mill’s “I’m A Boss” transforms 8-bit video game synths into an anthemic street banger.
The real revelation on the record is Wale, who goes a long way to reclaiming the promise he showed on 100 Miles & Runnin’ and The Mixtape About Nothing (before squandering any goodwill in a torrent of self-obsessed tweets and major label douchebaggery.) After becoming the only person in the last five years to have a single with Lady Gaga that didn’t become a massive chart-topping smash, it seemed as if Wale was doomed to permanent punchline status amongst the bloggeratti of the world.
However, after an appearance last summer on Waka Flocka’s massive hit “No Hands” in which he dropped the year’s most philosophically awkward verse, Wale began to make a conscious shift away from both the underground friendly material of his mixtapes and the cheeseball friend Drake-isms of his major label debut, to the exaggerated car and money talk of Ross and company. If 3 AM Twitter bitchfests are to be taken into account, it seemed that Wale was initially defensive about the shift in music claiming to the incredulity of nearly everybody that his music was just as Mos Defian as ever. However, it seems that Wale’s decision to join forces with the Maybach Music Group is nothing but an unqualified success. Wale steals the album right out from under Ross’ ample bosom and delivers some of the best bars of his career.
If the success of Self-Made, Vol. 1 is an omen of better things to come, then hip hop should expect a lot from Ross’ brainchild. Ultimately, this is a validation of both Ross’ growth since his days rhyming “Atlantic with Atlantic” and his talents as a budding music executive. Now that he’s proven that he can be as an adept an executive as anyone, there’s no reason that Wale, Pill and Meek Mill can’t release quality solo records so long as they receiving the backing and tutelage of Ross to help bring them to fruition. I mean, Jesus Christ, it’s no longer an inherently ludicrous statement to declare that Rick Ross might actually be the biggest boss that we’ve seen thus far.
Adjusted Pitchfork Score: 2,568.7/10