Borrowing the nickname of iconic crime boss John Gotti, Rick Ross' newest effort employs an Escalade-full of gaudy, bone-rattling beats to remind us exactly how hard he's shining with his latest album, Teflon Don (out today on Def Jam).
The sentiment comes through loud and clear on the paradoxically-titled opener, “I'm Not a Star.” In fact, the contradiction is comically apparent in almost every line:
“If I died today, remember me like John Lennon/ bury the Louise, I'm talkin' all brown linen/ Make all bitches tattoo my logo on they titty/ Put a statue of a nigga in the middle of the city.”
Though it's refreshing to hear that kind of humility coming from Rozay's gristly baritone flows, it's pretty much just a sample of the unabashed decadence of the balling hip-hop kingpins of the late '90s, early '00s. Ya know, the kind of flow that'll leave a champagne taste in your mouth.
However, being a boss requires a considerable amount of skill, clever cockiness and business savvy. So it's no surprise to see Ross offer a ridiculous amount of block buster cameos of the Teflon track listing. The list includes mega stars like Drake, Ne-Yo and Trey Songz, Erykah Badu, Raphael Saadiq, Jay-Z Kanye West and, yes, Diddy. In some instances–like the song “Free Mason” featuring Jay-Z–the prowess of a big name rapper helps Ross push his lyrical delivery to impressive heights. The same can be said for select tracks at the top of the album, including “Maybach Music III,” featuring Erykah Badu, Jadakiss and T.I.
However, Ross squanders opportunities to expand the content of his verses beyond the digits of his bankroll. For example, the impassioned, incendiary sample cut of a speech by Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton and the soulful vocal runs of Cee-Lo on “Tears of Joy” set the stage for some gristly, social commentary from the Bosses point of view. Instead, he tries to force fit some historical references to Emmit Till and Bobby Seale into another song about getting pussy and swimmin' in ice. Riiiiight. We don't get it either.
One redeeming quality in the middle of the album is Kanye West's notable guest spot on “Live Fast, Die Young,” showcasing a tight, Auto-Tune-less verse that inspires our confidence in his forthcoming album, Good Ass Job.
The bottom half of the album–including “MC Hammer” and “B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)”–delivers big money braggadocio at it's best (or worst depending on your perspective). Sure, we can can respect Rozay's baller status. But he's forgetting some of the key tenants of being a boss on the top of his game: don't get too flashy, don't be afraid to roll alone (not every song needs a big-name feature) and if you can't sing (evidenced by his lackadaisical vocals on “All the Money in the World”) please don't.