As summers have come and gone, what defines each and every one of them has been the soundtrack which accompanies it. Many of rap’s past and present figures have defined a summer with an unrivaled arsenal of musical ammunition to add extra power to many drop-top convertibles and speakers.
Having dominated the first seven months with numerous MMG releases, Maybach boss Rick Ross now faces his biggest obstacle, venturing into the arena alone to offer up his greatly anticipated, boldly-titled album God Forgives, I Don’t, which many feel will solidify his much-doubted credibilities as a performer and as a man. Considering his previous works, including 2010′s Teflon Don, still stand as landmark moments in recent history, the pressure mounted onto Ross from radio personalities and others highlights the work required in convincing rap folk of his merits. God Forgives… spearheads Island Def Jam’s summer assault course, as the label hopes that Ross’s kingpin status remains teflon.
Boasting one of the more impressive back catalogs in recent years, the pressure for Rozay to maintain his consistency remains evident. Content-wise, Ross again reverts to the previously successful chronicles of coming up in the drug game, with “Pirates” being one of a handful of tracks reflecting on his ascendency to “bawse” status.
Whilst his topics are limited, what pushes Ross into the spotlight is the grandeur of his song arrangements and chronicles, as well as the co-signs from rap’s greats. The album’s landmark moment arguably comes with his collaboration with Dr. Dre and Jay-Z on the triumphant “3 Kings,” where the best from the past and present toast to their musical and entrepreneurial achievements over Jake One‘s superb production.
Ross and his selected beatmakers have previously been able to create the audio equivalent of the Maybach brand: Luscious, rich soundscapes which play out oh-so-smoothly. On God Forgives…, the soulful, Isaac Hayes-esque formula returns to add much sophistication to the Teflon Don’s grittier vocals of kingpin manoeuvres. Miami hitmakers Cool & Dre provide the Bawse with a 1970s, Cadillac-riding moment for “Ashamed,” as its blaxploitation-inspired production supports MMG’s recitation of the savage pursuit of street recognition and the shame that often accompanies it, resulting in another successful slice of soul.
Bringing forth familiar surroundings from Rozay’s previous bodies of work is the fourth chapter of the “Maybach Music” series. Bringing RnB superstar Ne-Yo on board for hook duties, Ross covers all the luxurious bases including taking trips abroad, Audemars watches and the newest Maybach convertibles. Though the track has less of the main event feel that of previous chapters, Ross recruits big time record exec L.A. Reid to share some brief words about being a top boss.
Big collaborations and exceptional productions are what save God Forgives… from being discarded as more throwaway material from our heavy-framed protagonist. With a handful of material released throughout 2012, some of the tracks feel like efforts left off the Self Made 2 album or even his free mixtape Rich Forever. Street cuts such as “So Sophisticated” and “Hold Me Back” fail to keep up with the standards of heavier material, as Rozay’s ability to construct more complete “album” songs is well and truly evident. Whilst Meek Mill may still shine on the rawer anthems, Ross’ strength comes when barking over vintage samples and subtler basslines.
Fortunately for fans of the “album” Rick Ross, more emphasis on song structures and creative approaches is evident, resulting in some truly fine material. The almost unimaginable pairing of Ross and OutKast’s enigmatic Andre 3000 on “Sixteen” conjures up lenghty verses from both (with 3K’s being more impressive) recollecting on earlier, simpler times. A hitmaker for over a decade, The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams shows that the spark still remains with a slick, clever arrangement of vocals and dry drums for “Presidential”; whilst flamboyant singer Omarion quashes any skepticism of his Maybach signing by adding some golden vocals to the heart-turned-to-stone narrative of “Ice Cold.”
Andre 3000′s runner-up for the award for best guest feature, MMG’s Wale produces a magical, poetic performance on “Diced Pineapples,” with seductive whispers and complex stanzas stealing the show from both Ross’s typical brazen declaration of lust and Drake‘s honey-dipped chorus.
With 17 easy-to-go-through tracks, God Forgives, I Don’t probably stands as Ross’s most creative outing to date. Whilst trill, hood anthems still pop up, they are kept to a minimum, as epic, more innovative pieces shine brightest. Such a trait couldn’t come at a better time for the Warner money machine as, with the exception of a few occasions, nothing new emerges here on the lyrical front. Raps about drug dealings and expensive purchases are again recited with no innovation or depth, and if separated from the instrumentals they would fall short of capturing one’s full attention. Nevertheless, the exceptional production credits of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Cardiak, Harry Fraud and others, in addition to the solid performances of the baritoned bawse, helps God Forgives… reach its lofty expectations.
The culmination of what has been another landmark year for Miami’s top draw, God Forgives, I Don’t takes a similar route to Ross’s prior works but throws in the right mix of new tricks and surprises, keeping the bawse on course to being the most dominant artist of 2012.