Album review: Rick Ross, “Mastermind”
**1/2 (out of 4)
By now, Rick Ross fans know that enjoying the flashy rapper means focusing on the details of his stories, not wondering if his larger-than-life boasts about making huge gains in the drug game come from actual life experience. He spent years denying accusations that he spent time as a South Florida correctional officer, eventually and quietly confirming those reports without providing any evidence that his recorded material is anything but an escapist fantasy—a naturally gifted storyteller flexing with vivid descriptions of familiar situations on the streets.
Ross’ latest, “Mastermind,” is yet another performance piece in which the well-established character of Rick Ross gloats about his funds—even playing a recording of his massive account balance—and his luxury lifestyle. It’s his best album since 2010’s “Teflon Don,” largely thanks to a renewed focus on quality production courtesy of executive producer Diddy (Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige). Yet Combs doesn't really lend his usual polish, instead showcasing the crisp work of other producers like Bink (Jay-Z), Scott Storch (Beyonce), Mike Will Made It (2 Chainz) and J.U.S.T.I.C.E League (Drake).
The featured rappers also excel: Jeezy spits venom on "War Ready," dancehall chanters Sizzla and Mavado shine on "Mafia Music III" and Jay-Z lends weight to "The Devil Is A Lie." Produced by DJ Mustard (Tyga, YG) and featuring Kanye West, "Sanctified" thus contains an untouchable trio of acts who get played all day on rap radio in 2014. Yet the record also has considerable filler. In particular, “BLK & WHT" and "In Vein," which is basically a Weeknd song that Ross doesn't even show up on until two minutes into the thing, add nothing to the overall product.
Too often Ross sounds content to coast, using lazy punch lines and standard metaphors. It’s subject matter that we’ve heard from him a million times before, without any newfound sense of truth or purpose. Like an actor playing a long-running supporting character in a popular TV show, the big man’s just doing his job and sticking with what works.