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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 January 1, 2012 | Def Jam Recordings

CD$12.99

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

Booklet
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2013 | Slip N Slide Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 23, 2013 | MMG - Atlantic

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 23, 2013 | MMG - Atlantic

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2013 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2013 | Slip N Slide Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2013 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2013 | Slip N Slide Records

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

Booklet
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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 January 1, 2014 | Slip N Slide Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2014 | 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 October 3, 2014 | Slip N Slide Records

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

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

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Dance - Released April 7, 2015 | Slip N Slide Records

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

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Rick Ross in the magazine
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