Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Album Review: Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don't

Album Rating: B
Say what you will about Rick Ross’ past as a correctional officer, his idea of drug slinging and mafioso lifestyle have always been pretty fun to hear about. Although sometimes his boasts were a bit wrong-footed, such as his supposed excursion to Acapulco in “MC Hammer,” or his songs repetitious to a point of near self-satire, like first hit “Hustlin,” but he always had the charisma to make up for his obvious flaws. On Rich Forever, he shocked everybody by displaying a decent amount of talent while maintaining his persona and trademark booming delivery. It seemed like he was going in an exciting direction with his music.

With God Forgives, I Don’t the lone element retained from Rich Forever is the abundance of guest stars. Ricky Rozay, whose personality has always been the best part of his music, has become less charismatic than ever before. On lead single “3 Kings,” Ross sounds as cold as Jay-Z, someone whose chilliness is well documented. The message is only reinforced on songs like “Pirates,” which features Ross bragging about his criminal acts and the appropriately titled “So Cold,” featuring a devilish hook from Omarion. Apparently still reeling from his beef with 50 Cent in 2010 about Ross’ former career as a correctional officer, Rick Ross puts forth a huge effort to convince the public that he is, in fact, living the gangster life- even dropping a line saying he’s Crip affiliated- that has almost become expected of rappers. Few songs fail to remind us about the amount of marijuana he smokes (with "3 Kings" even referencing Ross quitting “the weed game”) and even fewer omit the themes of sex and money. Writing verses has become something of a formula for Ricky.

But the formula, for some reason, is pretty effective. The man name drops Lebron like he’s being paid to and he drinks like an alcoholic on Thanksgiving but his extra rough identity is pretty entertaining. He isn’t looking to break ground musically, he just wants to provide a good listen. “Diced Pineapples” is about as generic a Rick Ross song you’ll hear- which is no small feat mind you- but his verse, and even Wale’s, is a decent romp through all his tropes. “911,” one of the few songs where Ross can shine on his own, is a fun song that sounds like it was left off Teflon Don for not fitting with the others songs. When Ross declares “financial fanatic/got 40 bricks in my attic” over a bass-heavy Young Shun beat he sounds more convincing than ever that he really does live the gangster life. He may not be as charming as he was on Teflon, but his faux-gruffness proves to be an adequate substitute.

God Forgives, I Don’t is far from a one man show though. The beats, as is customary for a Rick Ross album, are excellent. With a roster of producers ranging from superstars (J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, Dr. Dre, Pharrell Williams) to the lesser known (Cardiak, Reefa, Jake One) the album has a good amount of diversity on the instrumental side that all fit Ross’ delivery perfectly in some way. “Amsterdam” gives him an opportunity to enunciate and take it slow while “Hold Me Back” takes a page out of Lex Luger’s book with staccato hi-hat rolls and heavy bass. The only beat that doesn’t really hold up is the guitar powered “Sixteen” but Andre 3000 comes in to save the show, even performing a completely out of left field guitar solo. This is another element that separates God Forgives, I Don’t from Rich Forever: on the latter, Ross was the undeniable star. On this album most of the guests outshine the main attraction. The hooks are the most interesting parts of songs like ‘Rich Forever” and “Maybach Music IV” and Nas more than owns “Triple Beam Dreams.” On one hand, it’s disappointing to see Ross being outclassed by guest stars again; on the other hand, it’s expected of people like Jay-Z to outperform him.

On the whole, God Forgives, I Don’t isn’t the perfect follow-up to Teflon Don but it’s far from the worst thing that could have happened. Not many of the songs have staying power like the singles on Teflon did but this is a good deal more cohesive than any of his other works and it shows him trying to cement an identity, one that he had been trying to push on his guest verses for a while. There will always be detractors that disagree with Rick Ross’ identity crisis and his skills but it’s hard to deny that his music is a lot of fun to listen to - even when he tries to act tough.



1. Pray for Us
2. Pirates
3. 3 Kings
4. Ashamed
5. Maybach Music IV
6. Sixteen
7. Amsterdam
8. Hold Me Back
9. 911
10. So Sophisticated
11. Presidential
12. Ice Cold
13. Touch'N You
14. Diced Pineapples
15. Ten Piece Jesus

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