You already knew that Doc Zeus was rooting against all things Miami.
The reality of Rick Ross, “rap superstar” seemed absurd even before his fabricated criminal lifestyle came to light. When Rick Ross emerged in Summer 2006, he seemed little more than the fatter, uglier, marginally less authentic version of Young Jeezy – a corporatized Def Jam focus-group–rapper designed to catch the second wave of the Great Coke Rap Rush Of 2005 before promptly disappearing forever. His debut album, Port Of Miami, seemed to be an example of the suicidally wasteful major label practices, burning time, money and marketing resources while promoting the type of expensive, middling dreck that would eventually contribute to the post-apocalyptic ruin of the music industry. “Hustlin” might have been great for what it was, but his lack of originality made Rick Ross seem fake even before his drug kingpin persona was exposed to be a fugazi.
Of course, his “exposé” as a fraud turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to his career. It didn’t really need to be said that Ross’ origin story didn’t actually involve sharing lobster bisque recipes with Central American dictators. However, the truth of his mundane life actually seemed to spawn an inexplicable, creative renaissance. Ross’ music thrived by retreating into parodic absurdity – allowing his inherently idiotic mafia boss character to reach a conscious lunacy. Ross’ beats became more operatic, his lifestyle more outlandish and his raps enjoyed a Caligulan specificity that was deliciously ironic. His steadfast refusal to actually acknowledge his prison guard past only helped further his career, winning over fans with his Method Actor-like dedication to his fabricated character. For a brief while, Ross seemed to be be rewriting the rules of rap music with his growing success.
Of course, there’s only so long that you can deal in parody before the walls of reality begin to bleed into each other and you risk becoming a self-parody. The controversy surrounding Ross’ inexplicably rape-y verse on Rocko’ s “U.E.O.N.O” transformed Ross’ career into a series of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. His tone-deaf non-apology apology led to him losing his high-profile endorsement deal with Reebok, while a recent scathing article in Noisey punctuated Ross’ inability to gracefully deal with questions that aren’t “on-message.” In the mean time, a series of middling singles for his upcoming album, Mastermind, bricked with the public, leading the album to suffer a series of push backs from his label. Thus, it’s no surprise that his new album is easily one of the worst LPs I’ve heard in a very long time: a horrifying vacuum of hollow-eyed soullessness where both creativity and inspiration go to die.
Mastermind is hilariously, hilariously terrible in ways that defy credulity and basic common sense. Rick Ross has taken his counterfeit criminal underboss persona into total creative bankruptcy creating that rare self-self parody of gangster rap. It’s stupidity is a marvel to behold. Rozay leaves no beat un-jacked and no cliché untouched. At one point on the record, Ross grafts dead-eyed wax museum facsimiles of Biggie, Souls Of Mischief, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Camp Lo’s songs with comically delusional self-importance. You’ll find more originality in the average porn parody script than anywhere on the album.
When not blatantly jacking the beats to classic 90s rap songs, Mastermind solely exists as a monument to the worst impulses of late-00s trap rap. Not only does the production feel dated but it takes trap rap’s operatic tendencies and pushes them to the verge of becoming grotesque. Songs such as “War Ready,” “Nobody” and “Thug’s Cry” are boringly melodramatic to the point of hilarity. Meanwhile, Rick Ross’ lyricism has become truly inane. While Ross at his best would never be mistaken as a lyrical wunderkind, Ross seems to have contracted Family Guy’s sentient, sitcom-writing manatees to randomly select orbs of rap buzzwords. You can easily imagine Ross sitting in a studio on a Tuesday afternoon polling DJ Khaled and French Montana on whether calling himself a “mogul” or an “entrepreneur” makes him seem more regal.
When it comes to sustaining a career in art, fabrication is no substitute for the wealth of experiences that real life can provide. One wonders if Rick Ross would drop his drug dealer dreams, he couldn’t mine a good album from his experiences as a prison guard or a young struggling rapper on Suave House Records. Unfortunately, Ross seems hellbent with perpetuating the myth that he has created for himself. Mastermind is the logical conclusion of career spent living in the lives of other people. It’s only so long that fake thugs can pretend to be great artists.