Does [artist id="2000082"]Rick Ross[/artist] have dimples under his signature woolly beard? The Boss has been smiling ear to ear for about a year now. Last year around this time, he released his second consecutive #1 LP, Trilla, notifying the rap world that it was no fluke he received accolades on his first go-round, Port of Miami.
Then that picture leaked to the Internet: the photo of Ross wearing a security-guard uniform. The cyberspace chatter was that the Miami Don was a flat-out liar and the photo contradicted everything — guns, drugs, hustlin' — Rick rapped about. On the street level, though, Ross' fans either didn't care or turned a blind eye. He's maintained support. They came to his shows, downloaded his mixtapes and kept requesting his hit "Here I Am" on the radio.
Several weeks ago Ross made what some thought could be a potentially career-jeopardizing move, starting a beef with hip-hop battle knockout-king [artist id="860639"]50 Cent[/artist]. Tussling with 50 on the mic hasn't proved fruitful for plenty of guys. He's helped put rappers' careers either on ice or in deep freeze.
During his back-and-forth with Ross, Fif has launched a full-on Internet campaign. He brought in both mothers of Ross' children and threatened Rick's friends. The gloves are not just off, they're in a trunk, buried somewhere under a vacant lot in Jamaica, Queens. Everything's a go in this war.
While 50 has dropped an occasional dis record, he's relied on video (porno movies, vlogs of shopping sprees, etc.) as his ammo. Ross has chosen leaked songs from his album and freestyles as his weapons. Bottom line, though, we all know that the real winner is going to be whoever has the better album: 50, with Before I Self Destruct, or Ross, with Deeper Than Rap.
Tuesday night at New York's Tribeca Grand Hotel, Ross unveiled the majority of the songs from his April 21 opus. Make no mistake, if the music were trash, Rick would be in more trouble than the average rapper with a wack album. But the down-South brawler couldn't stop grinning because he knows how strong his material is. It sounds like Deeper Than Rap is well on its way to being a rap classic of 2009.
"I'm making the best music of my career," said Ross, holding a glass of champagne for most of the night. With media, bloggers, DJs and various other industry insiders ready to listen, Ross began. Scenes from Mafia flicks played on a movie screen while his cinematic music played out of the speakers.
"It's not only a single, its statement [is] that the situation is 'Magnificent,' " Ross said of the album's lead cut.
"The event is history," he later proclaimed of the listening session. "Feel free to enjoy the images you about to see."
First up was "In Cold Blood," in which the big beat sounded like the soundtrack to a Mob war. Trumpets, horns! Ross' lyrics matched.
"In the midst of the war I p--s on graves," he rapped. "Sued Louis on my feet and I never missed a heartbeat."
Meanwhile, highlights from "King of New York" played for the audience's eyes.
Former G-Unit ally Bang 'Em Smurf is featured on the song, speaking towards the end of the track.
"Usual Suspects" was one of the night's most anticipated songs. Ross has proven his skills with the best of them, rapping on tracks throughout his career with the likes of Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe and T.I. How would he do with the legendary Nas?
Ross started off the song rapping about his plight to get to the top from age 17.
"Too cool for lame dudes to ridicule," Ross rapped before declaring himself the "black Phil Drummond" (from "Diff'rent Strokes").
[artist id="1000"]Nas[/artist] came in singing his own praises. "My talent has yet to be challenged," he boasted. Esco then turned towards his past. "I used to stand on rooftops with two Glocks thinking, 'How do I turn my Timbalands to Crocs?' "
Meanwhile, clips of the film "The Usual Suspects" played on the screen.
"Club-hoppin' in Cali, shoutout to Harry O," Ross added. "Run with n---as destined to catch a life sentences."
"Throwing money 'cause I can and I love it," went the chorus. "From nothin' to somethin', you know us, we the usual suspects."
"Maybach Music 2" has no lack of stars, with [artist id="1998098"]T-Pain[/artist] on the hook and [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist] and [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] with guest verses.
"I am the sh-- and this is my commode/ Uh-oh, there they go talking about your boy's clothes extra tight/ I just remember that my limelight extra bright," Kanye raps.
"Realest sh-- I ever wrote, chillin in my Maybach," Pain sings. "Whatever I send y'all homie, I'mma make back ... I'm in it to win, n---as can't take that."
Ross stunts on his verse.
"Now I got so many horses, bitches call me Polo," he raps. "I was barely getting pretty women, now I'm scooping any winner like kitty litter."
Wayne compares the high-priced vehicle to the human anatomy then unleashes his swag.
"All black Maybach, I'm sitting in the a--hole / Classier than a mutha, still gutta like a bad cold ... Sweet as banana split every time I peel through/ Fresher than Will Smith and Uncle Phil too... Lil Wayne in one word immaculate."
That record actually got applause afterwards.
Ross also played records that are out now, including "Mafia Music," "Cigar Music" and "On Top of the World," on which he starts off speaking of the riches of coke-dealing then faces inner turmoil because he realizes he's "not living right." But his duet with Mary J. Blige and his 50 Cent dis record, "Schindler's List," were left out.
"I wouldn't be a boss if I didn't leave you a few surprises," Ross said.