Review Summary: Not much to say...but it sounds great.
Rick Ross’ music has always been defined by his excessive lifestyle choices and braggadocio, much like many other rap artists. What has made him successful and revelatory in the past is when his larger than life ambition matches flawlessly with his outsized boasts and choices in production, especially during his prolific run with Lex Luger which included the now iconic single ‘B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)’. While initially starting off shaky in the realm of his lyrics, he improved upon himself marvelously by finding numerous different ways of explaining his wealth and drug pushing ability. If there’s one thing you can always say about his music is that it sounds truly bigger and more expensive than most of us could ever imagine being able to afford, but on Hood Billionaire, the beats behind him far outweigh pretty much everything he says on his second album of 2014.
His first album this year, Mastermind, was equally inspired in its production choices and occasionally found him expanding upon his template with more menace than ever, especially with songs like ‘War Ready’. Mastermind is a better album in comparison on a track-by-track basis, however like Hood Billionaire it suffers from an overly long running time and little in the way of inspired lyricism. Ross mostly sticks to similar flows and continually overuses repetition in especially grating ways on Billionaire, with songs like ‘Phone Tap’ and ‘Nickel Rock’ being particularly egregious offenders. He also has very little to say other than how much money he has and the drug empire he sits upon, and while these topics have always been the lynchpin of his persona, the language he uses here to describe his feats of wealth feel uninspired. There are a million ways and perspectives on money to speak about, especially in the realm of rap, but Ross doesn’t seem to be able to find anything new or attention grabbing to say here for the majority of these songs.
Occasionally, as with a handful of tracks on Mastermind, Ross finds himself enlivened and easing into a new lane for himself. Both ‘Coke Like The 80s’ and ‘Movin’ Bass’ are particularly impressive, as it finds himself not only hearkening back to older sounds in hip-hop (there is a light touch of ‘80s sounds in the hand claps, synths and samples of ‘Coke’) but also potential strains of rap that he can further expound upon in the future. In addition to earlier eras of music, he also appears to be listening to current trends in rap, as there are often humorous and ecstatic ad libs that remind me of Migos and their ilk all over the tracks here, with ‘Burn’ being the best example of this. When he pushes past his repetitious lyrics and typical bombastic beats, he truly shines and proves he still has something worth listening to.
Ultimately, Hood Billionaire is a middling album from an artist that for a time appeared to be moving in an increasingly upwards arc. Besides maybe ‘Nickel Rock’ nothing here completely bombs, but much of this album is boilerplate Rick Ross, and many of his contemporaries and newer artists alike have run circles around him with their releases this year. Hood Billionaire is worth a listen for those who wish to experience a truly great sounding album or are already fans of Ross, but if one wishes for lyrical depth or great wordplay in 2014, you’ll likely come back from this album disappointed.