Review Summary: I actually managed to finish Mastermind.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’ve never been much of a Rick Ross fan. The whole Scarface
inspired narrative of coke slinging kingpin really starts to sound tired six albums into your career. This tale has been done to death, and not just by Ross, to the point where I can’t even fully appreciate Scarface
anymore. I understand that Ross isin’t trying to be “relatable,” I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough to invest myself into Ross’ supposed larger than life persona. On top of all that, each album has been plagued by a sound that all seems to run together, making it a challenge to get through even half of a Rick Ross album.
I actually managed to finish Mastermind.
Does that make it a good album? Not particularly. But it doesn’t offend in the way that pretty much all of Ross’ previous efforts have. Ross has finally managed to switch it up a bit. At least sonically, that is. Instead of cooking up the same southern fried sounding beats that start to grate on the listener after several tracks, the production on this album is varied in a way that gives each song its own unique sound.
The guest spots on the album further help to highlight the variations in these tracks. Lead single “The Devil is a Lie” featuring Jay-Z is a prime example. The sample used sounds like it were made for the likes of Jay, and the man actually delivers a verse that (while not all that great) contains more energy than anything he’s put out post-Blueprint 3. “In Vein” has a nice hook from the Weeknd that I’m sure I’ll be tired of once it finds its way into the club. “Sanctified” features a Kanye verse that made me literally laugh out loud (in a good way): “I don’t sweat it, wipe my forehead with a hankerchauuff.” “Thug Cry” contains the first solid Lil’ Wayne verse I’ve heard in several years.
The problem is that in using all of these guests, Ross is completely outshined on his own album. His raps still sound sluggishly out of breath. His verses are still comical at best: “I seen a rich nigga go to jail. / He put wifi in his cell. / Middle of the night my nigga wanna Skype. / I just count money for him that *** just get him hype.” And he’s still barking out the same unrelatably far fetched stories we’ve heard from him for almost a decade now. Unfortunately for Rick Ross, the most memorable and enjoyable moments on the record are never HIS moments.
Mastermind doesn’t really sound like a Rick Ross album. It sort’ve reminds me of when DJ Khaled puts out his annual compilations that feature tracks from all the commercial rap superstars of that year. This album could almost pass for a collaboration rather than a solo artist release. And maybe that’s why I actually made it through the whole thing this time.