For South Florida-based rapper Rick Ross, living in excess-and telling everybody about it-is a high priority. The confident, arrogant, and sometimes offensive musician grunted his way to the top of the game by rapping about his multiple Maybachs and his past drug-dealing experiences, and otherwise flaunting his absurd amount of wealth. On his sixth studio album, Mastermind, Ross delivers a product fans have grown to expect: a well-produced, star-studded compilation record that falls short of being the masterpiece its title suggests it might be.
On the record’s third track, “Drug Dealers Dream,” Ross lets the listeners know just how enormous his fortune is as the song begins with an automated voice announcing his “$92,153,158.28” checking account balance. In typical Ross manner, the references to his riches are seemingly infinite. On the second song “Rich is Gangsta,” Ross boasts about giving fellow Maybach Music Group rapper Wale a $44,000 Cartier watch as a welcoming gift to the label, and explains a similar gift of a Range Rover to Meek Mill-another member of MMG-in the following lyric. If it is not already overtly apparent, Ross is rich, and he’s not afraid to talk about it.
Over the past year, Ross has been met with broad disapproval, catalyzing great controversy through his lyrics. Last March, Ross was featured in Atlanta rapper Rocko’s hit single “U.O.E.N.O.”-Ross’ lyrics on the track were met by a heavy storm of criticism. He raps, “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Rozay’s explicit and repugnant rape reference was rightfully received terribly, resulting in his biggest sponsor, Reebok, withdrawing its endorsement.
Despite criticisms of his past lyrics, Ross unleashes another scandalous lyric on “Blk & Wht,” the 11th track of the collective. “Trayvon Martin, I’m never missin’ my target,” the former correction officer raps. By completely ignoring the consequences of his previous mistakes, Ross solidifies his image of arrogance and lets his listeners know that he simply doesn’t care.
Along with the controversial lyrics and boastful rhymes, Mastermind offers a set of very enjoyable songs. With featured artists including The Weeknd, Kanye West, Meek Mill, Jeezy, French Montana, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, and Big Sean, it is hard to go wrong. Jay Z teams up with Ross to create the song that generated much of the album’s hype, “The Devil is A Lie.” The aggressive beat complemented by striking bursts of horns build a perfect canvas for Jay and Ross to effectively make into a masterpiece.
While “The Devil is A Lie” does help the record along, the 14th track, “Sanctified,” is the true highlight of Mastermind. With Big Sean as the facilitator, a gorgeous chorus with striking lyrics launches the track, pairing hip-hop with the vocals of Betty Wright, a 60-year-old R&B singer-songwriter. Sean’s desires are made quite clear in the record’s chorus: “All I want’s a hundred million dollars and a bad b-h.” He also confesses, “That paper chasin’ it done turn me to a savage / God, I’ve been guilty, fornicatin’ from my status.” Kanye West follows with a powerful verse in which he addresses many of his fan’s pleas to return to the “old Kanye West.” He explains, “when Ali turn up and be Ali / You can’t ever change that n-a back to Cassius,” referencing Muhammad Ali’s transformation from Cassius Clay, and using him as a metaphor for his own experience with change. Finally, Ross closes with a verse littered with clever punch lines and a proclamation of his future goals. Other notable tracks onMastermind include “In Vein,” “Thug Cry,” “Rich is Gangsta,” “What a Shame,” and “Paradise Lost.”
With his record Mastermind, Ross delivers a solid work strewn with hard-hitting beats and extremely impressive features, yet as a whole, the project is repetitive. Mastermind is another Ross album that entertains and provides a number of great tracks, but lacks lyrical depth from “the boss” himself, and is missing variety from song to song. The album is enjoyable, but is far from the work of a mastermind.