Review: Rather You Than Me :: Rick Ross

Let’s be clear – Rick Ross can rap. However, he also rarely sheds the immovable heel persona he’s known for, so it’s difficult to see the glint of talent shining amidst the corner he’s painted himself into creatively. But the man can definitely rap when he puts his mind to it. On Rather You Than Me, Rick Ross delivers exactly what’s expected of him in the way of big, blustering records to ride around to alongside a few soulful, more luxurious tracks so as not to confuse an album for a mixtape. The heel persona slips away on certain records, revealing a more thoughtful, vulnerable mafioso than we’re used to hearing from.

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[Album Review] Always Strive And Prosper :: A$AP Ferg


I slept soundly on A$AP Ferg until some time last year when I heard the “Work” remix, featuring French Montana, Trinidad James, Schoolboy Q and fellow A$AP cohort Rocky. The energy on that record alone inspired me to pick up 2013’s Trap Lord out of curiosity (and by pick up, I mean “save” on Spotify) and I was pleasantly surprised. I slept on Ferg before this point mostly because of the disdain I have for the music of A$AP Rocky, front-runner of the A$AP crew. Something about this guy in little-sister braids calling himself “pretty” on songs that I couldn’t quite rock to. Nevertheless, Ferg brought something different to the table on Trap Lord and later records like the hilarious “Doe-Active”, which indicated an ambition beyond what his friend was offering musically.

I was fully onboard when I stumbled upon the Complex City Cypher where Ferg appeared alongside RATKING’s Wiki and one of my favorite current rappers, Your Old Droog, with jazz musician Christian Scott and band providing the musical backdrop. Ferg’s compelling verse from the cypher eventually ended up on “Beautiful People” on Always Strive And Prosper, which was much to my disappointment, one of few bright spots on the album.

“Strive” is easily the worst song on the album by far and (because I don’t usually lend my ear to things I think will be horrible) probably the worst thing I’ve heard all year. While I didn’t have high hopes for a Missy Elliott feature, her input ended up being the only salvageable part of the song for me. Ferg’s hook sounds like a rather dry imitation of dance-pop music one would expect to hear from someone not quite old enough to recall when dance and house and hip-hop used to get equal burn on the same urban radio stations. This sounded like Barbie Girl 2016. I’ll be looking forward to a remix at some point of “Swipe Life”, which unfortunately squanders a Rick Ross feature on a song with a weak concept and chorus, but a hard-hitting beat and decent input from Rozay.

The very busy “Uzi Gang” was my first introduction to the recently popular Lil Uzi Vert and I’m not surprised to be saying I won’t be looking for further material from him (the Internets tend to suck at recommending rappers). Big Sean appears on “World Is Mine”, yet again dropping the same middle-school-notebook bars that young rap fans seem inexplicably impressed with since his debut. Needless to say, that song was also a dud. I wanted to enjoy “New Level”, but Future’s guest appearance seemed like a throwaway, as if Ferg could have easily saved his imprint some cash and just paid Future’s vocal stunt double, Desiigner, instead. Oh, and “I Love You” featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign was a dose of guy-with-nosering music I didn’t need in my life.

On the bright side, “Let It Bang”, an ode to wild but troubled uncles, is a song I can’t get enough of and really should have been the standard the rest of the album was held to throughout its production, seeing as how this song was released as a single relatively early on. This was a topic I can relate to personally due to losing two uncles over the past couple of years. Schoolboy Q manages to redeem himself for me after what I felt was an underwhelming last album (Oxymoron) and other recent records like “Groovy Tony” indicate he’s on an improvement streak. “Psycho” worked perfectly as an intro of sorts to “Let It Bang”, discussing the life of Ferg’s Uncle Psycho in an honest but endearing way, while Uncle Psycho himself has some dialogue that bleeds over onto the next track. The dreamy production serves well as a precursor to the energy on “Bang”.

Ferg has displayed the Drunken Master musicality and off-kilter melodic tendencies of an ODB before, but lacks the unbridled creativity to pull off the same chaos here. Ferg at times has the ferocity of a young Busta Rhymes, but seems to shy away from showing and proving that beneath all that energy he can also rhyme well, as Busta often did. Always Strive And Prosper is, to me, a botched attempt at trying to reign in some of the wildness that made Trap Lord so interesting. Even the random, seemingly freestyled loosie he dropped days before the album’s release would have been better than some of the finished records he chose for this album. Ultimately, due to the rather simple palates of many new rap fans, Ferg definitely stands to prosper from the blatantly commercial leanings of this album, but I don’t see where he’s striving to be recognized as an improving MC or one who stands out from his decidedly less creative contemporaries who don’t have the same potential I witnessed on Trap Lord.


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Rick Ross & Rape Culture: Reaction To The Reactions


“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”

We’re not accomplishing anything by demonizing Rick Ross.  Ignorance is not inherent evil and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Think of it this way: if Ross thought it was okay to pen such a lyric and we’re just now hearing the backlash about it, there are legions of Rick Ross fans who heard it before now and thought it was A-OK.  That should scare you.  I’m not worried about Rick Ross because I honestly don’t think he’s actually doing what he says like most rappers wh0 rap about an extravagant, blatantly ignorant lifestyle.  What I’m concerned with is getting the youth to understand that rape isn’t just physically forcing a woman into sexual acts using violence or threats of violence.  It’s any situation where a woman is not in her right mind or physical capacity to either consent or to say no and someone still takes advantage of that situation sexually.  I really don’t think some of the youth and even some misguided adults know that.  Not to mention the fact that rappers are running around acting like MDMA (“Molly”) is something to be giving cute nicknames to and writing trite little jingles about.rick-ross-vixen

I’ve heard many critics use this issue to ridicule Ross for his weight and intelligence level (or lack thereof) and also to say that Rick Ross is not a part of hip-hop.  Talib Kweli made the point that if you exclude someone from hip-hop, you position yourself as an enemy and immediately make yourself someone who is not to be listened to.  I personally don’t care whether or not Ross learns anything, but if you’re going to spark a constructive dialogue with the youth who are caught in the middle of this debate and not understanding why people are upset, the solution isn’t to tell them that their favorite artist is trash.  You only succeed in positioning yourself as someone they can’t relate to.  So if the goal was to alienate yourself, then bravo.  I’m the first to say I’ve enjoyed some of Ross’ work since the beginning of his career.  It’s pretty safe to say he won’t be featured any longer on this particular blog, but that’s also due to the declining quality of his work.  Will I be taking “Ten Jesus Pieces” out of my iPod any time soon?  Not based on this, no.  Rappers and musicians of all kinds have said horrible things and rape language has been present in music for years.  That doesn’t, however, mean that this issue shouldn’t be addressed with regard to this lyric.  You can cite a rap lyric from years ago that hinted at rape, but remember that music has never been more accessible than it is today, nor has news coverage.  The more people that have access to the lyric, the more will be outraged by it and the more people will hear it and think nothing of it.  Artists don’t owe it to us to be socially aware and responsible, but I do believe the conversation needs to be had…Ross isn’t the first to rap about rape, but is probably the first to do so at a point of such high visibility in the public eye.

The main issue I have with the reactions toward Ross’ lyric is that it’s being made into a Black issue or a hip-hop issue.  At Rick Ross’ level, the people who support his music are probably not primarily Black, in terms of stats.  This is an issue of rape culture in America as a whole.  This is an issue of re-opening the discussion and making people understand the different instances where rape can occur.  Hip-hop is also not to blame, as violence and misogyny is not something that our culture spawned.  Sure, leaders of our community may feel obligated to step forward on the issue and kudos to them, but to confine this to a “us” conversation is a major disservice.  As a parent myself, it makes more sense to me to tend to my own son’s understanding of entertainment vs. reality than to expend my energy trying to police Hollywood and the music industry and call them to task for not raising my son correctly.  It takes a village to raise a child and though sometimes entertainment can play a bigger part than is healthy within that village, a lack of foundation will cause a child to go astray even if they never listen to one “rape lyric” or watch one violent film.  Mind you, I’m not condoning Rick Ross’ ignorance or his poor excuse for an apology, but I am calling people to task for not putting their energy in the right places…the places that will really get a useful dialogue going and hopefully shed light on the larger issues at hand.

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[New] Millions x Pusha T f. Rick Ross


Pusha T releases the visuals for “Millions” off of the Wrath of Caine mixtape, which I still haven’t really been able to sink my teeth into.  This song’s a simple ride-around-and-get-it anthem and almost sounds like a signature Rick Ross track.  Of course, Ross is the guest star here.

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Audio: Accidental Murderers x Nas f. Rick Ross

Wow, as soon as I write some thoughts about the Nas situation, he drops off a new heat-rock off the upcoming album.  This joint definitely is clearing any doubts that Nas may have some serious product on his hands.  I can’t help but wonder if Ross actually managed to give Nas a run for his money on this, though.  Judge for yourself.

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Rappers & Actors: The Rick Ross Dilemma

Rick Ross’ beef with rap’s Lex Luthor 50 Cent last year when it was revealed that the rotund southern MC had once had a job as a correctional officer for 2 years in the early 90’s.  He has been mocked as “Officer Ricky” and of course had his credibility questioned as a result.  What made matters worse was Ross’ denial of the whole thing before it was revealed, but still remains a very prominent artist.  50 even went so far as to bring Ross’ baby mama on camera and have her talk sh*t about him…yeah, cuz she would have no incentive to speak poorly of him.  Womp.

Anyway, this is an old beef, but it got me thinking about street cred and hip-hop.  Is Ross really the first to lie on record or to embellish his own past for music’s sake?  We all know that the answer is no.  Ross’ handling of his own situation was of course poorly thought out, but let’s be real…Ross does his damn thing.  Am I gonna just stop listening to his stuff because he used to be a corrections officer?  [FYI: anybody can tell you that C.O.s are probably responsible for most of the drugs in our prison system, so being a C.O. doesn’t necessarily mean he was a complete square or even that he wasn’t a career criminal at some point…but why even argue this?] 

People who are honestly vigilant about making sure the rappers they listen to have done everything they said remind me of people who think the WWF isn’t scripted.  If every rapper did everything they said that they do, half of them would be dead (probably due to AIDs or gunplay) and the other half in prison.  I mean seriously…why would a rapper whose face can be seen all over the web and on TV be involved in cocaine-traficking, especially after having made his first million?  Stop it.  This is entertainment. 

The fact that Ross’ career is still afloat despite all the hate and ridicule is proof that people other than me feel the same way: rap is entertainment…f*ck a rap sheet or a professional resume.  Nas was always considered an observer and not a participator in criminal activities in his native Queensbridge, but his strength and the reason people listened to what he said was that the dude painted a beautiful picture in his lyrics while talking about things he had seen or experienced through others.   The way other rappers rap, you would think each had moved a ton of coke apiece…sooo how many kingpings can there really be in NYC?  Aren’t there some gangs and various mobs to deal with?  I think MC casualties would be a lot more frequent if any of these dudes were really doing as much as or anything at all they say they are.  Just enjoy the music.  Damn.  {walks off like that annoying mofo from the Everest College commercial}

“Super High” by Rick Ross f/ Ne-Yo (I usually hate R&B artists on rap joints, but this one rides) off the upcoming Teflon Don.


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