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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2006 | 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, 2008 | Def Jam Recordings

For all the criticism thrown at Rick Ross' debut -- redundant, nothing new, by the numbers gangsta music, and so on -- the man himself had little reason to reconsider after the album climbed to the top of the charts. Add up his guest appearances and mixtapes and he's a walking bankroll, so it shouldn't be too surprising that his style and attitude toward the album format has changed little on his sophomore release, Trilla. For Ross, the full-length is a place to hold the singles -- big, slick, and grand singles that are hard, hypnotic, and just what's needed to get a gangsta party started. Even if initial single "Speedin'" didn't dominate the way he would have hoped, the follow-up anthem "The Boss" and the sleazy "Money Make Me Come" are killer, the latter being especially infectious and extra shameless. The rest of the album survives thanks to its production, with everyone from Drumma Boy to Mannie Fresh offering exciting trunk rumblers. Special mention goes to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who helm three tracks, including the soulful "Luxury Tax" with Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Trick Daddy. The huge guest list is also a plus since Ross would have a hard time carrying this album on his own, but when surrounded by talent he pushes a little harder and comes up with a handful of rhymes that aren't tired or clichéd. While Trilla might not earn this Boss any more respect, he's got the single and collaboration game on lock, and when his greatest-hits album rolls around, it'll be a monster. ~ 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

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2009 | 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, 2010 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2011 | Slip N Slide Records

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

CD$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2011 | Slip N Slide Records

CD$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2011 | Slip N Slide Records

CD$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2011 | Slip N Slide Records

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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

CD$12.99

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
CD$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Slip N Slide Records

CD$14.99

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

CD$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2012 | Slip N Slide Records

CD$14.99

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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Rick Ross in the magazine
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