Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don't
I think blossoming flowers make us happy because there is something precious about growth. Philosophical, I know, but I've never known anyone to frown at a flower regardless of money, status and power. It's all about the simple things in life. But as modern hip-hop tells me, blossoming flowers only afford momentary solace from reality. And when you've literally had nothing you end up wanting it all, to the point of excess.
And so the goading of rapper Rick Ross' aptly titled break out single 'B.M.F' (Blowing Money Fast), "Self made, you just affiliated/I built it ground up, you bought it renovated," is quintessential. At 6 feet and 310 pounds, rapping with the raspy authoritative voice of a one-time Miami drug dealer-turned-corrections-officer-turned-rapper (with a European luxury car for a totem), he embodies the so-called struggle. As expected God Forgives, I Don't, shows a rapper who wants everything (which belittles my little theory of life). Money, status and power, orchestrated with the unrepentant swagger of the original Teflon Don, John Gotti. On God Forgives…, he is battling for this position in the amphitheatre of hip-hop, rubbing shoulders with the greatest beat makers and rappers.
It starts with the sequential skit 'Pray for Us', 'What is this Maybach Music?', asks the Australian model-come-Maybach music lady, 'I like it', followed by a prayer for forgiveness "we try Lord, we try to keep our heads up in bad times/this is a bad time" and the screech of a car before gunshots blazon. The bad times in question aren't Ross' court cases or health scares. They are a commitment to the street mentality, which serves the murky, dramatic undercurrent of the album with Ross telling MTV "I wanted [God Forgives] to be a bold statement, a dark statement and have music to tell the story behind it. It felt like a film."
"Homicide stay on my mind/Christopher Wallace of my time…Machiavelli returns/It's God forgives and I don't," as 'Pirates' shows he has never been one to question his dexterity in comparison to the undisputed greats. The next seals this unadulterated message. With stomping, head bopping production by Jake One, designed to fill out both physical and mental arenas, 'Three Kings' is a glass window into the grandiose mind of Ross. Accompanied by the erudite kingpins Dr. Dre and Jay Z, Ross does his best to convince us that he is great by association.
Beginning like a theme song to a 80s melodrama, Rozay continues his car inspired series on 'Maybach Music IV'. The 8- minute marathon of 'Sixteen', assisted by an intelligent verse from the widely sought after Andre 3000, has the sound of a slow burning blaxploitation film while 'Amsterdam' seems set in a prohibition era jazz club. These theatrical songs bring out Ross' vision to perfection: heat, alcohol, sex, infinity pools and fancy cars. He is at his very best artistically as his rapping prowess merges effortlessly with this classic velveteen production.
But this throwback sound isn't what catapulted Rozay to the top end of the game's podium. It was the Lex Luger formula of dark build-ups and devilish sounding loops. On God Forgives… he has appropriated a three-song segment for this sound. Where 'B.M.F' and 'MC Hammer' from his breakout album Teflon Don were commanding, 'Hold Me Back', '9-11' and 'So Sophisticated', fall sick to the 'heard-it-all-before' syndrome. Going from this section, with the exception of 'Presidential', the Nas assisted 'Ten Jesus Pieces' and the anthemic John Legend laden 'Rich Forever', the LP begins to sound exhausted. With limited success, he has attempted to pack in the many production identities he has forged for himself. But a true great knows how to strip back what is superfluous.
"I may come down here to record ten records over two or three days. I just have my homeys or whatever bringing me the best food. I smoke the best weed. I get the best massages." As his GQ feature showed, Rick Ross seems to have unlimited access to cash and for the moment he is one the most respected rappers in the industry. God Forgives, I Don't convincingly projects an image of a learned griot telling tales of the struggles of wearing rags in an old life to being defined by riches in the New World. At its strongest, Rick Ross is hip-hop's senior impresario helped by killer guest verses from Nas, Andre 3000 Jay Z and Dr. Dre. Otherwise, it is structurally confused and packs perhaps too much heat clocking in 17 songs that don't all serve a real purpose. Still, God Forgives… wins at selling an image and with profitable results. You get the sense that he'll be around for a while despite these tumultuous industry days.