Rick Ross wasn’t the chosen one, but the greats rarely are. Jay-Z started out as a hypeman for little-known eighties rapper Jaz-O and Lil Wayne was an unassuming teen in the Hot Boys who was forced to carry the Cash Money mantle when all of its stars went their separate ways. Back in the early 2000s, few thought the Teflon Don, a third-string talent on Miami’s Slip N Slide records, would reach the top of rap’s mountain, but there he stands.
With all of his success, Ross is now ready to extract sweet revenge on his doubters. There were questions surrounding the release of God Forgives, I Don’t, but then again there are questions surrounding every Rick Ross release of late, as if the Bawse’s reign will inevitably end. It’ll take more than a corrections officer controversy, a pair of seizures or what seems to be an oversaturation of the rap market to stop the Bawse, and God Forgives is the irrefutable evidence.
The clanging of car keys and the inescapable Maybach Music drop start off the 14-track ride, which simply glides with little to no bumps in the road. The amazing part is that the Bawse knows how good he is and draws a clear line, so either you’re with him or left you’re to wallow far outside of his power circle. On “3 Kings,” Ross unites Jay-Z and Dr. Dre while at the same time claiming his own throne. Then he continues to build an empire for his protégés Meek Mill and Stalley on “So Sophisticated” and “Ten Jesus Pieces,” respectively.
Rozay’s rhymes are sharper than ever, but his strongest suit has always been his impeccable beat selection. On “Ashamed,” the former d-boy seems embarrassed by his former life as a drug dealer, but never apologizes over Cool & Dre’s fitting soul selection. Musically, though, it’s the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League that provides the grandest musical moment on the symphonic “Maybach Music IV.” The track builds from a bassy intro to a wild string affair that culminates with a full-horn section, which blossoms just before Ne-Yo begins to belt out his powerful chords. Even Ross himself marvels at the instrumentation when he spits, “I love the way the beat dip/ Same way I love to see a ki flip.”
The pace of “MMIV” seamlessly changes at least three times before it transforms into the album’s next track, the brilliant, Andre 3000-assisted “Sixteen.” Rather than craft a formulaic three-minute-and-thirty-second radio track, Rozay gains major artistic points on the eight-minute conceptual masterpiece. “How the f— can I squeeze my whole life into a 16 bar verse?” Ross asks before breaking hip-hop’s status quo.
Not that the MMG CEO ignores the need for radio: There are more than enough moments like the sex-ode “Touch ’N You” (featuring Usher) and the middle-finger-waving street chant “Hold Me Back.” Still, the LP is well-balanced and expertly sequenced. Just as the melodic “MMIV” and “Sixteen” are placed one after another, Ross delivers his street jams in bulk as well. So after “Hold Me Back” is the kinetic “911” and then the schizophrenic-sounding “So Sophisticated.”
At this point in his career, Ross’ well-laid album structure shouldn’t be surprising. He did it on 2009’s Deeper Than Rap and then again on Teflon Don a year later. God Forgives, I Don’t should leave no doubt about Rozay’s place in the game, only expectations for more greatness.
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