Rick Ross is in the moment. He's reflective and he's planning for the future — all on his new LP, Teflon Don, due July 20.
Ricky Rozay has his lineup more stacked than the Miami Heat, with Jay-Z ("Free Mason"), Diddy and Trey Songz ("No. 1"), and Kanye West ("Live Fast, Die Young") in the rotation. But it's Ross' continued progression as an MC, the Carol City native's refusal to let his rhyme skills be overshadowed, that really makes you take notice. As for the beat selection, it remains on par with 2009's sonically superb Deeper Than Rap, with the Bawse using soulful instrumentation and club thumps to blanket his words.
No I.D. gets shouted out for his beat on "Tears of Joy," which co-stars Cee-Lo. It's church-like and soul-stirring as Cee-Lo goes to his roots with vocals worthy of a pastor's pulpit.
"To all the loved ones I leave behind/ At least they can't see my crying," Cee-Lo sings. "And I ask, but someone wants to be me, why?/ Done everything but ease my mind/ If you could read my mind/ My God, I'm scarred/ I got tears of joy."
"Last night, I cried tears of joy," Ross raps on the record. "What did I do to deserve this?"
" 'Tears of Joy,' that's a very strong possibility [to be a single]," Ross told MTV News. "That's the record I've never done, [that] I've never recorded. It's gonna be most definitely real strong. The way I wrote the record, it's so emotional. I rhyme four bars then I gotta catch my thoughts. I start back rhyming, I say something I feel is incredible then I stop again. I start back up then I start again. I got records that I have no ad-libs on; I'm trying a lot of different things. I'm just excited, man."
"Biggie Smalls in the flesh, living life after my death," Ross later adds on "Tears of Joy," before addressing his court battle with DJ Vlad, resolved earlier this year.
"Five different lawyers, Lord knows I'm stressed / A punch in the face will get you 300K/ Ask Vlad, now he's back to making minimum wage/ Another victim of my criminal ways/ I wanna walk in the image Christ/ But that bitch Vivica nice."
Kanye West appears on and produced "Live Fast, Die Young." "Most definitely!" Ross told us in May. "It's gonna be most definitely a club banger, but it has that edge to it. That's how 'Ye loves to make music, he loves to take it to the edge. That's where we went with it. It makes you feel like if you had that one record the rest of your life to play, that's it right here. It's really gonna make you feel good. We both talk about seeing the pitfalls in our rearview [mirror]. It's a feel-good record."
T.I., Erykah Badu and Jadakiss all line up beside Ross on "Maybach Music 3," while Gucci Mane jumps on an extended version of the club banger "M.C. Hammer" and Raphael Saadiq lends his vocals to the last song on the album, "All the Money in the World."
"It's funny man, the name of the record he's on is called 'All the Money in the World.' It's a record talking about how I wouldn't trade my fundamentals for all the money in the world. I talked about people that's no longer here: my father, a few of my friends. I talked about if I could see them again, what would I do? It was almost to that fact that I'll sing for you. That's what I did on the record."
"Turn off the lights," Ross and Saadiq sing together. "Take a ride with me/ I wanna see you smile/ It's a fantasy/ La, la, la, la." "Just to have Raphael Saadiq hold me down — 'It Never Rains in Southern California,' Tony! Toni!, Toné!. To do something once again that I never thought I'd do, [sing], that was the furthest thing from my mind. To continue to raise the bar, song after song, I had to do that."
Are you excited about what you've heard so far from Ross' next album? Tell us in the comments!