Rick Ross - Mastermind (Review)

"Mastermind" is the sixth studio album by Maybach Music Group founder Rick Ross. The album features guest appearances from Jay Z, Kanye West, Jeezy, Diddy, Lil Wayne, French Montana and others as well as production from Mike Will Made It, The Weeknd, Kanye West and others. It is set to be released on March 4th, 2014 via Maybach Music Group, Slip-n-Slide Records and Def Jam Recordings.

1) Intro - Skit.

2) Rich Is Gangsta - The first song on the album features an epic Black Metaphor instrumental full of cinematic strings, blaring horns, a prominent vocal sample and hard hitting cymbals over the booming bass. The beat is pretty ill and Rick Ross sounds ok over it, kicking some of his usual boastful bars about his money stacks as well as about being a mogul in the rap industry. Despite the cliche subject matter, this is pretty dope. Not a bad way to kick off the album.

3) Drug Dealers Dream - After a short skit to remind us how rich he is (and to emphasize the songs title), Rick Ross comes through and spits some more violent rhymes about being a Don in the rap industry, dealing drugs and about being watched by the Feds. Again, he isn't really saying much on here that he hasn't said before, but the instrumental has a real epic feel to it, with some triumphant horns over the synths and trunk rattling bass. As I said before, the skit at the beginning of the song actually helps to emphasize the "drug dealers dream", so that fits in nicely with the theme of the song. Dope track.

4) Shots Fired - Skit.

5) Nobody (featuring French Montana and Diddy) - This song says it was produced by Sean Combs, but I'm pretty sure he produced it back in 1997 since its mostly the exact same beat as Biggies "You're Nobody (Until Somebody Kills You)" off of his "Life or Death" album. The only difference I really hear is that they threw in some extra vocals to change it up a bit. Rick Ross once again sounds ok over the beat, kicking some street stories while French Montana provides the chorus and Diddy just goes on a motivational rant throughout the song. I'm not sure who felt like it was a good idea to bring back a classic Biggie track and then put French Montana on it, but it is what it is I guess. Eh, this isn't terrible by any means, but all it really makes me want to do is put on the original Biggie version.

6) The Devil Is a Lie (featuring Jay Z) - This was the albums first official single and its ok I guess. The beat, by Major Seven with co-production from K.E. on the Track, features a soulful vocal loop and some more horns layered over trap hi-hats and window shattering bass. The beat is quite dope, but Rick Ross just sounds ok over it, kicking some more of his usual braggadocios rhymes while claiming that he is the truth and the Devil is a lie. Jay Z, however, actually sounds really good on here, rapping in a double time flow for part of his verse and sounding reinvigorated after his somewhat lackluster appearances as of late. Not bad, but not as good as their other collaborations.

7) Mafia Music III (featuring Sizzla and Mavado) - For the third entry in his "Mafia Music" series of tracks, Rick Ross delivers what is probably my least favorite iteration in the series so far. The beat, by Bink, has a Jamaican sound to it, with a chopped up guitar sample, a prominent vocal loop and some strange synths, but I'm not really feelin' it that much. Lyrically Ross comes through and just spits some more of the same, while Mavado provides the chorus and Sizzle closes out the track. This one is just not doing it for me. Bleh.

8) War Ready (featuring Jeezy) - I believe this was the second official single from the album and its pretty good. The beat, by Mike Will Made It, hits hard as hell and has an epic trap feel to it. Lyrically the song is about the same as all the others, but its nice to hear Jeezy on here since I thought him and Ross were beefin'. Anyways, Jeezy comes with the strongest verse by far and Rick Ross sounds like his usual self, but that chorus is just absolutely terrible. This could have been worse I guess.

9) What a Shame (featuring French Montana) - The beat on this song, courtesy of Reefa, has a nice feel to it, with some organs, synths and vocal chants layered over the stomping drums. Rick Ross comes through and kicks some more braggadocios bars (incorporating some lyrics from Wu-Tang Clans "Shame on a Nigga") while French Montana reworks some lines from Camp Lo's "Luchini" on the chorus. Between this track and "Nobody", there have been quite a few references to golden era tracks on here. Anyways, this shit is pretty good and French doesn't ruin the song as much as he usually does.

10) Supreme - Now this is dope. Scott Storch, who I haven't heard a beat from in years, comes through with one of the best instrumentals on the album so far, with some celebratory horns and synths that have much lighter feel than most of the other beats so far. Lyrically Ross is just on here spitting some more of the same, but this is the kind of beat that Ross sounds best over in my opinion. I'm really feelin' this one. Dope shit.

11) BLK & WHT - Rick Ross kicks some rhymes about selling drugs over a somewhat mellow D-Rich instrumental that is centered around some wavy synths and keyboards over the deep bass. The instrumental is not quite as lighthearted as the previous song, but its not as dark as some of the others on here either. The beat is dope, the lyrics are passable and the chorus is kinda humorous. Yeah, I guess I like this one too.

12) Dope Bitch (Skit) - Skit.

13) In Vein (featuring The Weeknd) - The Weeknd stops by to drop the beat, first verse and chorus on this track that features a real slow instrumental full of ambient synths, pianos and a distorted electric guitar. The beat is real dope and both Ross and Abel sound good over it, rapping (and singing) about coming up from nothing and about impressing women with their money, fame and lifestyle. This sounds more like a Weeknd track than a Rick Ross song, but whatever. Another one that I'm feelin'.

14) Sanctified (featuring Kanye West and Big Sean) - This song begins with a long sampled intro before the actual beat, by Kanye West and DJ Mustard, finally kicks. Once it does, it's actually quite ill. The piano loop and string section sounds real nice over the booming drums and has actually got my head nodding a bit. Lyrically Kanye sets it off first with a pretty good verse before Ross comes in and closes out the track, rapping about the usual. Big Sean only shows up for the chorus, which I could have done without. Still, dope track. The album has definitely picked up a bit on the second half.

15) Walkin On Air (featuring Meek Mill) - D-Rich returns with an upbeat trap instrumental that definitely raises the energy level a bit after the more laid back past few songs. The beat on here is full of the usual trap synths and 808's, but its got an epic feel to it that I'm diggin'. Despite more of the same lyrics from Ross and Meek (this time sprinkled with lots of religious references and imagery), I'm actually feelin' this one too. Nice.

16) Thug Cry (featuring Lil Wayne) - The final track on the album features a beautiful instrumental, courtesy of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, that is centered around the same sample as Souls of Mischief's classic  "93 Til Infinity" track. The beat is dope and is yet another nod to a classic golden era album, something Ricky has been doing a lot on this album. As far as the rhymes go, both Ross and guest Lil Wayne come correct, with Weezy sounding a whole lot better than he has recently. Very dope way to close out the album.

I'm going to rate the album

2.75 / 5

because its got some good songs on it, but its got some filler on it as well. The beats on the album are quite good throughout, with a wide variety of styles to choose from. There is a little bit of everything on here - from soulful instrumentals and slow R&B joints to energetic trap beats and reggae-influenced sounds. The variety and quality of the instrumentals is the best thing about the album since there is a little something for almost everyone to like on here. Lyrically Rick Ross is not quite as solid as the instrumentals, spitting the same boastful rhymes about his money, power and influence on almost every song. Sure he has a few witty lines here or there and his flow and delivery are as sharp as ever, but the subject matter does get tiresome after a while. Still, not many people listen to Ross for his lyrical prowess, so it is to be expected that that would end up being the weaker part of the album.

Favorite songs: Supreme, Sanctified, Walkin On Air, Thug Cry


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