Amid one Hip Hop PR disaster after another, Rick Ross has somehow managed to not only maintain a formidable level of success and relevancy, but he’s also steadily progressed as a recording artist. Every release has been slightly better than the last, but last year’s Deeper Than Rap can’t hold a candle to the hefty Miami emcee’s latest, the unstoppable Teflon Don.
This is a great rap record; taut, uncompromising and emotionally-charged. Ross’s trump card has always been his near-perfect ear for beats. Regardless of the subject matter and emceeing he employs, Rick Ross albums are consistently among the best-produced rap albums of the year, at the very least. Teflon Don does nothing to derail this trend, consisting of eleven immaculately produced and arranged tracks. Some of these songs, particularly those helmed by The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, are astoundingly lush and musical. “Maybach Music III,” featuring T.I., Jadakiss, and a gorgeous chorus from Erykah Badu, is extravagant beyond belief, while the Chrisette Michele and Drake-assisted “Ashton Martin Music,” fleshes out LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” in luxurious fashion.
Crucially, what sets Teflon Don apart from Ross’s previous work, and almost any other rap album released this year, is the emergence of Rick Ross as a captivating, undoubtedly entertaining presence over these top-notch beats. Ross’s has grown by leaps and bounds as an emcee, and may have finally found his stride with Teflon Don. The album is chock full of guest appearances (from the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Cee-Lo, Diddy, Raphael Saddiq and Gucci Mane, no less), yet Ross is never outshined or outgunned. Instead, Ross covers considerable ground with Teflon Don, with collaborators coming in and out of the picture, and adding their particular expertise to the proceedings without hijacking them. Chief amongst these masterful collaborations is “Tears of Joy,” in which Ross reflects on the struggles that he’s endured over subdued, gospel-inspired production. Cee-Lo’s brilliant, cathartic chorus is stunning, conveying a melancholic gratitude for life’s blessings with striking sincerity.
Ross doesn’t have the insane wordplay and technical abilities of Eminem, or the bizarre, almost psychedelic delivery of Lil Wayne; Ross is a phenomenal rapper because of his impenetrably thick baritone, sense of humor, cleverness, and the sheer force of his larger than life personality. Ross is like a force of nature on some of the more hard-edged tracks on Teflon Don, utilizing a flow that takes its time, pausing between each bar to allow the words to linger ominously. “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” is a fascinating example of this; over a raw, oppressive beat, Ross hits the jackpot with a totally uncomplicated, knockout chorus: “They call me Big Meech/Larry Hoover/Whipin’ work/Hallelujah/One nation/Under God/Real niggas get money from the fuckin’ start.” The lines are simple and direct, but they’re conveyed in such a powerful, arresting manner that it’s impossible not to respond to it.
Rick Ross may have a questionable past (Hip Hop is the only profession in the world where prior employment as a C.O. is scandal-worthy and potentially career-ending), questionable taste in babymommas (a fact of which 50 Cent was more than happy to exploit last year), and even questionable rights to his stage name (The real Ricky Ross is not happy with our man Ricky Rozay), but there’s still no denying Teflon Don.
This is a fantastic album.