Review Summary: Every superhero needs his theme music, and Rick Ross seems to have found his with Rich Forever
Everything about Rick Ross has always seemed to be outsized- a caricature, if you will. His beard is quite bushy, his weight is exorbitant, and his delivery could be best described as a bellow. Furthermore, his lyrics are so outsized that when it was revealed that his “gangster” persona was nothing but a farce, it really wasn’t a surprise. Ross sounded like he was uncertain with his image back in the days of “Hustlin,” and even 2010’s street anthem “B.M.F.” seemed to be tinged with caution about overstepping the boundaries of how raw it could be (not to mention the grandiose Lex Luger beat made it sound that much more over-the-top). There’s nothing wrong with having an alter-ego: Eminem became famous due in large part to Slim Shady, and even Nicki Minaj has a separate version of herself. The difference with Rick Ross is that he seemed uncomfortable in his costume. After all, he is a former correctional officer who got sued by notable drug dealer “Freeway” Rick Ross for defamation of character. That should be enough for anyone to subdue their adopted persona.
Then, something amazing happened.
At some point in 2011, Ross developed a formula of lyric writing that lent itself to highlighting the things that he seems to understand most: money and women. Combine these two winning elements with his famously gruff voice and trademark grunt, and suddenly, offers for guest verses came pouring in. All of a sudden, Ross wasn’t the correctional officer that cleaned the streets: he was the voice of the streets. His verse on Lil Wayne’s “John” even seemed to be a more natural representation of hood living than even Wayne could provide. Rick Ross had completed his transformation from Beauty to the Beast- he was no longer just the guy pretending to be from the hood; he was pop radio’s idealized version of the hood.
This personality carries over to Ross’ latest mixtape “Rich Forever,” which, as the name suggests, is a vast collection of braggadocio regarding Rick Ross’ assets. Tracks like “Yella Diamonds” and “King of Diamonds” center on his favorite types of jewelry while others revolve around how much “cheese” he has, or about the keys to his crib. No matter which song, they all come off as love letters to the thug life that Ross has so convincingly construed for himself. He sounds more confident than ever in his new skin, and refuses to let guests like Birdman and Wale show him up on their guest verses. Even the beats seem subdued compared to those on Teflon Don. Essentially, Rick Ross gives us a very tuned down offering, but sounds more natural and confident in doing so. By no longer needing to compensate for his gangster imagery, he is able to do just what he was meant to do- rap- and do it better than he ever has before.