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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2010 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2006 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Def Jam Recordings

Going cinematic comes easy when your life's a movie, and since Rick Ross' previous 12 months included platinum albums, numerous awards, and some pre-gig CPR and resuscitation on an airport runway, it seemed sensible that the Miami rap superstar cited Scorsese and Tarantino as influences for God Forgives, I Don't. "Yeah, such a breath of fresh air/Get a blowjob, have a seizure on a Lear" is the typically brutish and bold way he addresses the recent past on the great, familiar anthem "Maybach Music IV," but his detractors should note that he didn't cite Michael Bay or Brett Ratner as influences, meaning he's looking not just for bombast but for that new, kinetic kind of gangster noir, just like Marty and Quentin. On key track "3 Kings," he's found it, acting as a Tony Soprano-type character whose thoughts bounce between the meaning of life and the table dance happening in front of him, while mammoth guest Jay-Z shows up with some free-association freestyling that's wonderfully clumsy and fun, while stone-cold legend Dr. Dre uses the loose atmosphere to growl and drop some product placement ("You should listen to this beat through my headphones"). Hip-hop royalty being so free and flippant takes the superstar team-up cut to another level, and when it comes to putting his Maybach spin on new ground, Ross proves he can thrive in "Prototype"-like surroundings during the smooth as silk "Sixteen," which slowly struts over eight minutes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced elegance with OutKast's Andre 3000 along for the ride. Being overly serious is never an issue as Ross chills in the red-light district during "Amsterdam," offering big-boy insults like "You a bitch, where your Honda Accord?" along with the depraved brilliance of "I laughin' at the people who labeled me poor/Now I'm pissin' on Europeans, you'd think it was porn." Then, three of the expected thug tracks -- "Hold Me Back," "911," and "So Sophisticated," with Meek Mill -- help anchor the album before it's on to the unexplored with a Pharell Williams-helmed finger-snapping cut ("Presidential"), some naked passion with Omarion ("Ice Cold"), and a bright cut with Wale and Drake that compares fine woman to health food ("Diced Pineapples"). All of it works, there's plenty of ambition with little overreaching, and the most striking bits of the album are striking for unexpected reasons. That makes three lavish triumphs in a row for Ross, with this one being the richest. ~ David Jeffries
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 4, 2015 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2009 | Def Jam Recordings

Everything is big with Rick Ross. Triumphs, blunders, singles, videos, and everything else he does is huge, but having the audacity to call his third effort Deeper Than Rap is extra risky, especially since it's his first effort since being "exposed" as a former corrections officer. That's poison in the gangsta rap game, and while there's little here to sway the haters -- and certainly nothing "deep" -- the rapper's ability to steamroll over all of his shortcomings, along with all of our preconceived notions, is simply remarkable. In a sure trilogy of albums, Deeper Than Rap is the surest, kicking off with a decent 50 Cent diss and closing with a "Run with me or run from me" ultimatum that's gutsy enough to feature harps and castanets. While that's enough fuel for the haters to burn the whole place down, anyone willing to ignore Ross' iffy relationship with street cred and his incredibly narrow subject matter (money, women, victory) will find Deeper is the superstar, gangster weekend album done right. Boss of them all is the grand "Maybach Music" with T-Pain, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne all in top form. Same goes for the cut's production team, the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who are also in charge of the slippery and swaggering "Magnificent" with John Legend, plus the Caribbean-flavored highlight "Yacht Club." "Face," with Trina, is the street cut of note, and "Usual Suspects" places in the album's top five, although Nas' loyal fanbase will find his contribution rather ordinary. Redundancy is an unsurprising and ignorable issue thanks to all the hooks and slick beats, including a batch from the returning Runners. Even if this isn't much "Deeper" than the average Three 6 Mafia album, the glitz and guts of Deeper are a big step up, making Ross sound like a Miami-fied version of Young Jeezy. ~ David Jeffries
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2008 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2006 | Def Jam Recordings

Nicknamed after a notorious drug dealer, William "Rick Ross" Roberts claims to have dealt drugs himself, prior to becoming an MC and gaining the interest of Def Jam president Jay-Z. Rather than merely lure Ross away from his initial label (Slip-N-Slide) with a lucrative contract, Jay-Z linked up with the entire label and netted a distribution deal. "Hustlin'," a leviathan, trunk-rattling single released a few before Port of Miami -- Rick Ross' official debut album, following a series of mixtapes -- informed everyone within earshot about Ross' modus operandi. He's Miami's answer to Atlanta's Young Jeezy, Def Jam's breakout artist of 2005. He has a slow, husky drawl, almost always sounding like he should either clear his throat or drink some water, and raps almost exclusively about peddling coke and the lifestyle that comes with the trade. He's relatively less agile than Jeezy and doesn't sound nearly as experienced as a rhymer, but his imposing presence and uniquely enunciated pronouncements are alluring, even when his lyrics are random and amount to little more than space-filling, lumpishly projected nonsense -- like, say, "Ever seen a fat boy in a big body?/Know you wanna sit bah me, all you do is think bot it/Lease apartments to get kicked ot it/Next day buy a condo to get a kick ot it." On occasion, he shows promise as a lyricist with flashes of Jeezy or even T.I. when it comes to relating the ups and downs of the life. His pen redeems "Cross That Line," which features another autopiloted Akon appearance, just like Young Jeezy's similarly anthemic "Soul Survivor": "Lil' brother knowing life illegal/No toys, just playin' with pipes and needles." Jay-Z enlists a handful of A-list producers, including Jazze Pha, DJ Toomp, and Cool & Dre, as well as the Runners, who handle nearly a third of the tracks, "Hustlin'" included. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

Booklet
Not one to evolve at any rate above a snail's pace, Miami rapper Rick Ross is gloriously stuck on gangsta rap, having found a simple yet seemingly secret formula that no other hip-hopper has been able to steal, at least not for more than a single or two. Mastermind -- Ross' annual stomp-and-swagger album, 2014 edition -- could be swapped out with 2009's Deeper Than Rap and only those burnt out on the album would know the difference, but when being stuck in a rut means you grind your wheels and all that spews out is gold, you only need to look to successful artists like the always funky James Brown, the always rockin' AC/DC, and the always stoned Devin the Dude for guidance. Always the same and always awesome is how Ross plays it, although to be fair, these clever street rhymes, the raspy and forceful delivery, plus the million-dollar beats are now allowed a little more room to roam as many Mastermind cuts pound past the five-minute mark. It makes the songs feel all the more epic, something that benefits the husky highlight "The Devil Is a Lie," a "crime pays" anthem with special guest Jay-Z, although the biggest monolith here is the Jeezy feature "War Ready," a claustrophobic battle cry that brings all the thrill and chaos of a Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or even Mortal Kombat showdown. The challenges of living outside the law are addressed from beginning to end with "Drug Dealers Dream" representing square one ("Eating out of trash, sure do make you a killer"), while the Diddy-produced "Nobody" looks at the self-reliant and lonely life of a gangsta, all alone "Having sushi down at Nobu/Strapped like an Afghan soldier, and nowhere to go to" just because folks don't like that "My desire for fine things made me a liar." Variety is added when bad-man reggae enters the picture ("Mafia Music III" with Sizzla and Mavado) or the Weeknd give Ross a rare glimpse of elegant R&B heaven (harps and the pace of a Prince ballad power the great "In Vein"), plus the album is a bit more raw than previous, so expect more fan favorites than hit singles. Otherwise, this is business as usual, and business is absolutely gangbusters. ~ David Jeffries
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 4, 2015 | Def Jam Recordings

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After banging out a series of glitzy Miami gangsta albums that made him seem like the AC/DC (always the same, always quite good) of rap, Rick Ross gave the formula a rest for Black Market, an album that wanders into ruminations and cooled production at will, but still ends up all slam dunks and three pointers. Picking a key track is difficult as the epic bangers and surprisingly revealing freestyles all stand tall, but "Ghostwriter" sits in the middle of the album because it's the most anticipated, doling out industry gossip like a hot mixtape track but sending all listeners to check their packaging to make sure they picked up the explicit release, as Ross mentions some superstars he used to ghostwrite for, and they all get the bleep. It could be a fun gimmick that Ross can blame on the legal department, and these are the kinds of tricks that make each Maybach album feel so fresh. Still, "Smile Mama, Smile" with Cee Lo Green thrills on songwriting alone, putting the listener in the shoes of a superstar coming home to his mama -- whom he loves dearly -- while getting at the heart of addiction, family, and everyone's struggle for a centered self with "She told me no more Promethazine, it would make her proud/Think about, I had to think about it/Gimme a second mama, let me think about it." "Free Enterprise" with John Legend is the middle-aged and manly Maybach mind with a story of how reckless group sex used to be the thing, "But now the bitches be the realest one/I done cried on her shoulder when I'm feelin' numb?," along with a raging and precog bit of treason, "Assassinate Trump like I'm George Zimmerman." Black Market isn't a single-minded concept album as the tight, sharp, and debut album-hungry "Color Money" stacks paper and admits the rapper's friends "got them changing the gun laws," while the funk-fueled "Dope Dick" is crass and cold with "I got her addicted to that dope dick" as the hook. This Miami Don remains an unapologetic and indefensible brute -- and he says as much on this very LP -- but this rough, honest, and ambitious work is like his Raging Bull, taking the listener on a compelling, dirty journey that's also a connectable character study, and then letting some slick Chris Brown ("Sorry") and Future ("D.O.P.E") features play while the credits roll. ~ David Jeffries
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 4, 2015 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 4, 2015 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2009 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 24, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2006 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2011 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 24, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rick Ross in the magazine
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