[caption id="attachment_23126" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Rick Ross performs during the BET Awards, Los Angeles, Calif., June 2011. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images"][/caption]
Rick Ross doesn't like poor people. At all. According to the gospel of the Miami man, digging in your pockets and coming up with anything less than four stacks of bills is tantamount to a mortal sin. Ross, of course, is a member of hip-hop's platinum club; he can spout such nonsense from a position of privilege. And while he's still rapping from within the white powder world, it's the rapper's financial success that defines the 20-track Rich Forever mixtape.
"It's the rapper as method actor."
This love and lust for luchini is made clear from the jump-off. P Diddy is drafted for shit talking duties on the eerie opener "Holy Ghost," and offers up the plea, "Father, please protect me from brokeness." On the same track Ross himself declares "Being broke the root of all evil" and coins the ludicrous image of the rotund rapper "Talking to the Holy Ghost in my Bugatti." But taking the ridiculous and making it seem somehow real is a trick Ross has perfected since being exposed as a one-time correctional officer; he performs some sort of kinetic braggadocio trick where criticism doesn't so much bounce off him as fuels his further adventures. So while Ross's own street mythology has long been exposed as the stuff of fantasy -- he was even sued by Los Angeles drug baron "Freeway" Ricky Ross for appropriating his name in rap vain -- he's managed to create his own rap mythology. It's the rapper as method actor -- and in Ross's case it's still paying off.
Fittingly, Rich Forever is a lavish listen with a tracklist and credits that share this belief in the power of big money. Guests are plucked from rap's A-list: Alongside Diddy, Pharrell, Drake, and Birdman, Ross gives his young Maybach Music Group charges Wale, Meek Mill and Stalley mic time. On "Triple Beam Dreams," a brooding J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League produced song, Nas drops the key guest verse of the whole mixtape, sermonizing about the dynamics of modern American street dreams and lamenting "Had addictions to gold chains, Mercedes Benz hopes/ But I'm again broke." (The token R&B cameos come from John Legend, on the introspective title track, and Kelly Rowland on the slinky "Mine Games.") Ross, for his part, still spurts lyrics like "All I want for Christmas is my Pyrex," dedicates a skit to the virtues of $200 pairs of socks, and brags about how "My only trending topic is the cash," but when kicked in his somewhat frugal flow, the lines resonate like he's preaching about the grand key to success in life. Whether down to virtuous self-determination or simple self-delusion, Ross has managed to establish himself as a legitimate rap superstar -- and now he's got the whole world endorsing and believing in his fantasy visions.
Despite its free download status, Rich Forever is a loftier listen than just a stop-gap before Ross's delayed God Forgives, I Don't album finally fulfills a release date. It's exuberant, luxury rap from a very large man with a very large beard and a very high opinion of himself. You hope he never slims down.
Rick Ross's Rich Forever mixture is out now. Download it at Datpiff.com