Review Summary: "You can look around but don't touch anything."
These were my exact thoughts when the incredible consistency and scope of Rick Ross’ 2012 mixtape Rich Forever
first sank in. “This cannot
be this good, what does he have left for his album?” Not a lot was the answer I was dreading, not a lot is the answer I got. Following the absurd success of that mixtape, everyone stopped telling Ross no and the result is boring beyond belief. God Forgives, I Don’t
is the product of a man so on top of his game he completely loses any shred of self awareness and produces an album that only he wants to listen to.
When Rick Ross released Teflon Don
on July 20, 2010, if you were quiet enough during that day you could hear the entire rap world doing a double take. Officer Ricky had released an 11-track album with little to no filler. Anyone who had been following Rozay would have noticed his preceding album Deeper Than Rap
was his best work yet, but who was following Ross by that point? Port of Miami
were terrible, writing off Ross by that point was basically a foregone conclusion. Yet, the guy that had been proclaiming he was the boss for years finally started acting like one. He made serious moves, snapping up hungry young rappers and stepping up his flow on an epic scale. By 2011 Ross was as on top of his game as any rapper had been, the world was his.
The way things started falling apart from there feels strangely cinematic, like Rozay was setting up his own Scarface-esqe narrative thread. When two singles that were supposed to be on his album tanked, that was a bad sign, that the two singles that actually were on his album tanked harder
? That was a really bad sign. It was around this time my opinion on Ross was turning mightily. Anyone who listened to a lot of rap radio during the summer of 2012 can attest that God Forgives, I Don’t
’s lead single “Touch’N You” and MMG posse album Self Made Vol. 1
’s “Bag of Money” were the most annoying songs on the dial. Something was changing, Ross was losing touch with what made his earlier singles so invigorating.
There’s a difference between an album smelling
like money and an album reeking
The smell of money is alluring; it allows us to live in its world for an instant. Imaging that we have so much money that we even revel in the stress that comes with having an absurd amount of cash at our disposal. Reasonable Doubt
, Purple Haze
, Watch the Throne
, and Ross’ own Teflon Don
and Rich Forever
all smell of money. We sing along to their hooks with our hands folded under our chin, planning our own rise to power as our used cars start to feel like 6 figure chariots.
God Forgives, I Don’t
on the other hand, well…
“Come and suck a dick for a millionaire!”
Nobody is singing along to that.
That particularly bad example is from the albums worst track, “3 Kings”. This is supposed to be the epic meeting of three titans of rap with Rozay being inducted into their ranks. What we get is one of the most boring epic rap songs ever. First, the song has no chorus. That’s not a big deal but it means the verses need to come correct. To say they don’t is a bit of an understatement. First to bat, Dr. Dre, he shows up, pimps his headphones, and hits the door. I don’t think he stuck around long enough for the ink to dry on his check. Ross fairs better but he’s on autopilot here, he should be writing his ass off in the presence of legends like he did on “Triple Beam Dreams”. The beat wants to bang like vintage Just Blaze but the mix is so clean and airless it sounds tame and bland.
And then Jay-Z starts.
“It just feels different…” he begins. Right you are Hov. Jigga’s verse on this is so bad I can only reason he was actually trying to sabotage the song in vengeance for Ross jumping ship from Rocafella. He actually sounds in danger of falling behind the beat during his whole verse, letting words lazily fall out of his mouth. “Banksy bitches… Basquiats…” Then comes the most telling bar, “You aint gotta keep this Khaled, it’s just a freestyle.” That says it all doesn’t it. Nobody is putting in 100% effort anymore, the drive to try is totally gone.
The albums production absolutely reeks of money. Most of the record is composed of million dollar string sections, distant saxophones, and Phil Collins drum samples. It’s the aural equivalent of a closed-door yacht club that you’re visiting with a distant relative; you can’t help but feel woefully out of place amongst all the opulence. His prior releases held a ton of this opulence too, but the plate smashing riots of “I’m Not A Star”, “BMF”, and “MC Hammer” made sure to keep things interesting. This album’s attempts at those songs, “Hold Me Back” and “911”, are average at best and sequenced together. All that remains is huge deserts of yacht rap.
The opening 5 seconds of “Ashamed” is the most Miami sound in history. “Maybach Music IV” forgets to bring along the usually surprising lineup of guest appearances - the prior installment had Southern rap king T.I., New York hardknock legend Jadakiss, and deep space queen Erykah Badu - for friggin’ Ne-Yo, one of the most boring guest artists in history. “Sixteen” is fine, but at 8 minutes long and lacking a particularly noteworthy Andre 3000 verse it wears out its welcome. “Diced Pineapples” opens with a poem from Wale in which he states his glee at discovering how deep your vagina goes. “The better my effort, the wetter her treasure.” Hand me my bucket.
The album wins only once. “So Sophisticated” crackles and sparks to life, Ross’ weed shuttered eyes seem to snap open and he suddenly remembers everything that made his last two releases great. Ross clamps down hard on the end rhymes here, “…Hate it/…Made it/…Refrigerated/…Confiscated/…Contemplate it/…Complicated/…Conversation/…Combination.” He weaves the hook right into the verses as to not disrupt momentum and hits the ground running. Meek Mill comes in the clean up spot and shows off that uncanny talent of his to tap into his hunger seemingly whenever he wants. It’s pretty great on its own; in the context of the album it’s bewildering.
Imagine for a second. You’re a hardworking family man who enjoys rap music. You’ve been putting in long hours at your job, carefully managing your finances and stashing money away. You have your eyes on a brand new Honda Accord. You’ve done all the research, stellar marks in reliability and performance, great user reviews and highly regarded amongst the automotive press. You’ve test driven it, it’s handling is crisp and involving, the backseat space perfectly suits your family, the interior design is tasteful and solid. The whole thing is well put together and great on gas. Finally comes the day, you’ve talked to the dealer for an hour and negotiated down the price considerably and signed the papers. You’re ecstatic. In celebration you pull the shrink wrap from your copy of God Forgives, I Don’t
. You slide it into your stereo and cue up track seven. Then you hear this.
“Nigga you a bitch, where your Honda Accord?”
How would you feel? I’d pitch that CD right out the window and back over it. Rick Ross’ decision to insult the owners of the best selling car in America
sums up the total ignorance on display. It’s clear that Ross has lost touch with what made his previous albums so much fun. The epic production, the sweeping hooks, the inclusive, almost winking, sense of over the top excess, and, most importantly, the absurdly fun bangers are either gone or dulled. He’s become the 21st Century Christopher Cross, making music only for those in his tax bracket. Bullets in his car door and the embarrassing end of his Reebok endorsement might send Ross back into scramble mode. He’s come back from worse; this puncture to his mighty ego might do him some good.