By: Lucas Kowalik
Ross’ legendary verse on “Devil in a New Dress” from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy proved there is a talented emcee inside him. The problem is that we hardly ever get to see this Ross. Ever since his debut, Port of Miami, he has released an album nearly every year, as well as an absurd amount of features. With such a large output, he’s been unable to maintain a consistent quality.
Ross is often criticized for his drug-kingpin style of rap because people believe he is not actually about that life. He was even briefly employed as a corrections officer in the late ‘90s. Hip hop has a long history of artists embellishing their criminal side, including Notorious B.I.G. and Ice Cube, so Ross is clearly not the first. His birth name is William Roberts and he acquired his moniker from a famous drug kingpin. Similarly to what Raekwon did with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, a Rick Ross album is more like a fictional crime film rather than an account of actual events.
Rather You Than Me is Ross’ ninth studio album, and it’s surprisingly good. It may still have some weak bars and boring tracks scattered throughout but overall it is quite consistent. On this album Ross acts as hip-hop’s de facto voice of reason. He calls out injustices where he sees them and shows loyalty to all of his brothers.
The production on this album is clean and silky smooth but the real highlight instrumentals are crafted by Bink. He contributes production to three tracks, the most impressive being “Scientology.” It features an eerie organ sample and feels like a psychedelic trip through the universe. A small grievance with this album is the presence of the annoying ‘Maybach Music’ watermark. A watermark can hype up a track—listen to a Ronny J or Metro Boomin’ beat for reference—but on here it only takes away from the otherwise quality production.
There are many instances of Ross rhyming a word with itself, but that is just part of his style. His husky, laid back flow commands attention and will make you forgive him for the occasional weak bars. He even switches up his flow when needed, like on “Trap Trap Trap.” The best track though is “Idols Become Rivals.” On it Ross calls out Birdman, the head of Cash Money Records, for not taking care of his artists. He feels betrayed because he used to idolize the rap mogul until he realized his success was fabricated. This song, as well as “Scientology,” serves as an open invitation to Lil Wayne to come join Maybach Music when he gets out of his contract with Cash Money.
In usual Ross style, this album is heavy on features and most of them are well chosen. Chris Rock has two comedy skits on this album, the most hilarious of which comes before “Powers That Be.” Nas even features on this track, marking his fifth collaboration with Ross. While Nas may deliver a stellar verse, it does not really fit with the production or overall vibe of the album. The banger track “Trap Trap Trap” features exciting verses from Ross and Wale, but somehow manages to make the Young Thug feature boring. For the most progressive figure in contemporary hip-hop, his verse was quite underwhelming. One of the best features is delivered by Meek Mill on “Lamborghini Doors.” He is widely known for being hip-hop’s punching bag since his beef with Drake and more recently, his break up with Nicki Minaj. On his verse he addresses his past losses but assures the listener he is going to bounce back.
Rather You Than Me is a pleasant surprise and shows that Ross is still a talented emcee. In a time when rappers mainly beef over Twitter, it is refreshing to see Ross call people out by name on record. These aren’t diss tracks though, but rather Ross giving the offender a reality check. He manages to tackle serious topics here, while still being able to have fun. That being said, if you didn’t like Ross before, this album likely won’t change your opinion.
“Idols Become Rivals”
(Feature: Rather You Than Me, Epic/Sony Records)