Rick Ross Rick RossGod Forgives, I Don’t
The problem with releasing a new album a few days after Nas released “Life Is Good” is that you run the risk of finding yourself involved in unfavourable comparisons that are unfair by any reckoning. These days everybody is more or less trying to put down the value of “God Forgives, I Don’t” by pointing to the New Yorker’s return as an example and as a source of grievances. Not fair. They aren’t playing in the same league, they don’t have the same goals, nor do they set themselves the same artistic challenges. And of course, their respective talents can’t be compared. Although Nas’ comeback has been an excellent commercial and critical success, the Queensbridge musician hasn’t been a competitor on the charts or a heavyweight in mainstream rap for some time; for years his solitary, erratic, autonomous path has moved along its own circuit, a fictitious terrain of inventive hip hop that goes its own way, without any type of responsibility. Just the opposite of Rick Ross, who has been settled since his debut in the larger, more popular sphere of the genre, an icon of post-9/11 gangsta rap, the owner of a label that aspires to becoming an empire, Maybach Music, and currently one of the banners of the battered industry.
So the Miami musician starts off with notably different obligations and aspirations: to sell albums everywhere, even on the Moon, to spread his musical poison all over the world, and to maintain his status as a G star. And one of the merits of his career is that, as years have passed and his influence and power have grown, his musical production has grown more interesting and solid, in a process that is the opposite of what usually happens in these dynamics. For this reason “God Forgives, I Don’t” is a disappointment in terms of his previous mixtape, “Rich Forever”, and what one might have expected of this album, which in a sense puts the brakes on this trend towards improvement that we were talking about. It’s a project that seeks to consolidate rather than to move ahead or surprise, and this idea of sticking to guidelines that are set and already very well established is a setback for those of us who expected a step ahead in his discourse. But even so, it’s a consistent, appropriate block within the framework that he is operating in, which is relevant: many of us would sign right now for all such popular major-label releases to be as solid and sturdy as this album is.
However, you can criticise “God Forgives, I Don’t” for recycling the occasional song that has already been presented, for reusing beats, and for limiting itself to recreating the key elements of the Maybach Music sound without much more intention or depth. And one might even argue that Rick Ross is overshadowed in many of the cameos that add colour to the guest list – to start with, Jay-Z, Andre 3000 and Nas show him up without much trouble - but with all of its flaws, it is still a very competent, reliable recording with occasional touches of creative brutality: the eight minutes of “Sixteen”, the best piece of all; the intimate adventure of “Diced Pineapples”, with Wale and Drake giving support; the new face-off with Nas in “Triple Beam Dreams”, which returns the favour of “Accidental Murderers”; or “3 Kings”, with Dr. Dre and Jigga, in a new meeting of the greats all placed at the service of the cause conscientiously and wilfully. There aren’t clear hits - “Touch’n You”, with Usher, tries to be, as does “Maybach Music IV”, with Ne-Yo, although without inspiration - or pop connections. With a serious sneer and a solemn tone, “God Forgives, I Don’t” looks like a more or less conscious compendium of everything that Rick Ross’ sound has meant in recent years, also in the lyrics department, where there are no outstanding novelties or advances. It is spotlessly and exemplarily correct, but it is also colder than his recent recordings, giving one the inescapable feeling that this isn’t the definitive or decisive album that we were expecting or hoping for.