Rick Ross Rick RossTeflon Don
The big problem with “Deeper than Rap”, Rick Ross’ last album before the appearance of “Teflon Don”, was that there was too much unsatisfied ambition, and a latent imbalance between intentions and results. In reality, the title was already an awful, erroneous declaration of intentions. The rapper from Miami wanted to make the album into his magna opus and it didn’t work out for him from an artistic and musical point of view, abusing a repetitive, predictable sound, alternating powerful singles with a lot of trivial filler, and letting his lyrical contribution slide in favour of a sample of mediocre rhymes and a lot of outside cameos that made people dizzy and hindered the overall dynamic of the album that he was trying to achieve. In the memory of his fans and of hypebeasts recently arrived in the game of rap, two or three undeniable hits will last, but at the end of the story, what remains in the genre fan’s retina and memory is the way that 50 Cent ruined the launch of this album by spreading shadows about Ross’ past, his work as a guard in a jail, and the doubtful credibility of lyrics that, contrary to what Fifty was saying, preached about a hard, fearsome life on the streets, always outside the law.
“Teflon Don” was supposed, then, to be the album of redemption or vindication, a trial by fire to reconcile with fans whose pride was hurt, and to call the attention of those of us who still had doubts about his role in current hip hop and, most of all, about his real, tangible talent for writing good lyrics and putting out solid, compact albums beyond the couple of obligatory hits. He has already winked to his fans in the title, one of the most popular nicknames of John Gotti, the big capo of the New York Mafia during the 60s and 70s, with a due appropriation of the alias to reinforce his status as a credible gangsta with a record. And for them, a condensed, well-packaged dose of his own particular lyrical and visual universe: an unconditional defence of carpe diem, of the philosophy of “live fast and die young” and his parade of references to money, exaggerated purchases in luxury shops, reservations at the best clubs, models anxious for wealth and celebrity, friendships forged to stand up to betrayal, interests, and the cold look, the smell for business, when you reach the top. The same formula as always, let’s not fool ourselves, but with a lot of strength and conviction, with a tone more of reaffirmation than of arrogance or ostentation.
For the more reticent, “Teflon Don” offers several very pleasant surprises, although we had already been warned after his magnificent “The Albert Anastasia EP”, which he takes advantage of to re-master various songs. The first surprise is the collection of producers, which is spotless for my taste, is: No I.D., Kanye West, Clark Kent, Danja, The J.U.S.T.I.C.E League and The Inkredibles. All of them weave a magnificent bundle of sound, accessible but credible, soulful and southern at the same time, with certain luminous pop glimmers, uniform and coherent, juicier and more inspired than the one before, which gave us the carrot and then the stick, and with a clear intention of reinforcing a harder, more street beat to his discourse. The merit is also conceptual: only eleven songs, no skits, a short duration and spirit of specificity and condensation, the fixed idea of cutting to the chase and setting aside, for the time being, the grandeur and megalomania of the big star shown in “Deeper than Rap”. It’s not a more modest or minor album, but it stops all the foolishness, steering clear of the mainstream traps and more abominable tics of luxury albums; he concentrates on the songs, and puts out what is probably his most solid work - singles, sales, and popular repercussions apart.
Some days ago, the producer 9th Wonder wondered on Twitter why the headz disdained Rick Ross’ music if his texts moved under the same thematic parameters as many New York MC’s and groups with an untouchable status in the community. Cash, asses and fame. But in the language of hip hop, it’s often not as much the contents as the way that they are presented that matters, and this is where Ross often lost punch and credibility. On the other hand, on “Teflon Don” we see him more confident and convincing than ever with his pen and notebook, as if all of the problems that came up from his beef with 50 Cent had motivated him and pushed him to improve in this area, to make double the effort. In fact, this is where the album grows and improves in comparison with its predecessors: Rick Ross raps about the same things as always, but better than ever. And not only that, but he also dares to set some outstanding thematic challenges that end up giving greater interest and daring to the work as a whole.
Because the long-awaited “Free Mason”, the collaboration of Jay-Z, hasn’t turned out to be one of the songs of the season by chance. In it, the Miami MC brings up the thorny, controversial, and oft-argued subject of the masons in the current rap universe. The presence of Jigga as a guest isn’t casual either: all of the forums, blogs, and comments on Internet point to him as the big instigator of a small current of adherence to the Masons among some famed representatives of the genre, and even a certain devil-worshiping. And this is the first time that I recall, at least in a song, that the author of “The Blueprint” denies these rumours, and he does it with a handful of splendid verses that, nevertheless, we don’t know are intended to deny it or to lay it to rest so that people stop digging into it. “Niggas couldn’t do nothing with me / they put the devil on me / I would have preferred if niggas squeeze the metal on me / Rumours of Lucifer / I don’t know who to trust / whole world want my demise turn my music up / hear me clearly, if y’all niggas fear me / just say y’all fear me / fuck all these fairy tales / go to hell.” Later, the two lines “Bitch I said I was amazing / Not that I’m a Mason,” seem to make it clear, or at least we are supposed to understand, that all of the Lucifer paraphernalia and supposed Masonic symbolism attributed to Jigga is only due to theories and imaginations of bloggers with a lot of free time and not much desire to listen to music. “Free Mason” is, in the end, the crowning glory of one of those albums we’ll considered a dark horse, but which gain specific weight, credibility and value as the years pass. David Broc