February 25, 2014

Rick Ross: Mastermind – What You Need To Know
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Rick Ross: Mastermind – What You Need To Know

What’s the background?

It’s been an eventful few years for William Leonard Roberts II, better known to most by his stage name, Rick Ross. Since 2011, the rapper has been arrested for marijuana and gun possession, suffered two seizures (on the same day) and had to endure numerous accusations about his past suggesting that, contrary to his gangster image, he worked as a correctional officer in Fort Lauderdale in the late 90s. To make matters worse, he was the target of a drive-by shooting on his 37th birthday last year, which 50 Cent subsequently claimed was ‘staged’, reigniting a long-running feud between the two rappers that began in 2009 when Ross claimed 50 Cent ‘looked at him the wrong way’ at the BET Awards. To top it all off, last year he was dropped by Reebok as their spokesman, following a controversial verse on Rocko’s track ‘U.O.E.N.O’, where Ross appears to condone date rape. Mastermind is his first release since the last two incidents and you can bet the outspoken rapper will have plenty to say…

Who’s at the controls?

Ross, along with longtime collaborator DJ Khaleed and friend Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs (Ross signed to Diddy’s Ciroc Entertainment agency in 2012), are all listed as ‘executive producers’, but the album also contains beats from a host of producers including Kanye West, The Weeknd, DJ Mustard and Jake One, amongst others.

What does it sound like?

Despite the inclusion of Diddy on the production team, Mastermind isn’t as slick and over-produced as you would expect – in fact, it’s pretty gritty. Of the two singles released, ‘The Devil Is A Lie’ features Jay-Z while Maybach Music’s newest signing Jeezy adds his gruff vocals to the proceedings on 'War Ready', but while these two tracks do kind of set the tone for Ross’ sixth album, there’s some experimentation on here too. Sometimes it works, like on the reggae-infused ‘Mafia Music III’, thanks to input from Sizzla, Movado and Bink!, but elsewhere the experiments fall a little flat, particularly ‘In Vein, Ross’ collaboration with R&B upstart The Weeknd.

There are homages to his heroes too, with Mastermind featuring a cover of Biggie Smalls’ ‘You’re Nobody Until Somebody Kills You’, as well as hefty nods to Ol’ Dirty Bastard (on ‘What A Shame’) and Souls of Mischief, whose ’93 ‘Til Infinity’ is sampled on ‘Thug Cry’. Overall it’s heavy, grimy and about as ‘gangsta’ as it gets.

What are the standout tracks?

‘Sanctified’, featuring Kanye West, is one of the album’s highlights, as is the Biggie cover, where he reframes Biggie’s lyrics to address the drive-by attempt on his own life. Other standouts include ‘Supreme’, featuring Drake, and ‘BLK & WHT’, where Ross gives it the big one about his drug dealing prowess.

Does it deliver?

Mastermind lacks the polish of earlier albums like Teflon Don, but that’s no bad thing as the new gritty sound seems to suit Ross’ style. It certainly has its moments, but at times Ross’ rapping sounds monotonous. That said, f you’re a fan of ‘gangsta’ rap, or Ross in general, then there’s plenty on offer here to enjoy.

Mastermind will be available in hmv stores and from our download store on March 4th

Rick Ross - The Devil Is A Lie (Audio) (Explicit) ft. JAY Z

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