Review: Rick Ross: “Teflon Don”

 

From album to mixtapes, Rick Ross has been delivering the goods with the ability to balance the streets with the mainstream. Trilla and Deeper Than Rap truly began Ross on his dramatic ascension. With Teflon Don, an overt nod to mob boss John Gotti, Ross eases comfortably into legend status. The debacles and  the subsequent beefs are in the past and actually thrust Rick Ross into a larger light.  All the controversy has been countered and attacked with quality music.

Ross’s Teflon Don solidifies the Miami rapper as a force that musical rivals will have to contend with. Emphasis stays with musical, because we’re talking about good music and albums we want to listen to for years to come, right? Teflon Don is the culmination of a lot of already classic videos, loose songs and  savvy street marketing. So, the album is really a part of an entire movement that quietly encompasses marketing as well as music. The results are pretty damn epic.

With this review, I’ve decided to go track by track so every song is treated like an individual. At the end, there will be a conclusion to keep this Teflon Don review clear and concise!

1. “I’m Not A Star” (Produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)

Oh really, Mr. Rozay? Its interesting that Ross lead the album off with “I’m Not A  Star” considering he’s definitely on the way to the heavens. The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced song is a powerful street record, which is typical of other powerful street records on Teflon Don. But,  I get where Ross is coming from. He’s bypassed many of his peers in the “game,” but wants to maintain those ties despite evolving into a celebrity. So, he may want to show a kinship to those in the trap, but he’s not them.

2. “Free Mason” featuring Jay-Z and John Legend (Produced By The Inkredibles)

“Free Mason” has Rick Ross playing with those that proclaim (with or without merit) they he and others are involved in secret societies. So, both Ross and co-conspirator Jay-Z denounce that they are Satan’s disciples, Mason or any of that Illuminati stuff. Jay raps, “If y’all n***as fear me, just say y’all fear me. F**k all these fairy tales/ Go to hell, this is God engineering/ … I said I was amazing/ Not that I’m a Mason …/ I’m on my third six, but a devil I’m not.” Musically, the album pushes the boundaries of what is being presented these days. The bassline is deep and rich, touches of organ and guitar licks back up  the rappers. John Legend completes the soulful cipher as he croons in the background and the end of “Free Mason.”

3. “Tears Of Joy” featuring Cee-Lo (Produced by NO ID)

Sonically, “Tears Of Joy” is a perfect segue from “Free Mason,” as it is one soulful piece of Hip-Hop. The tone of the song is set with a monologue from the legendary Black Panther/activist/revolutionary Bobby Seale where he lays out the foundation for organization, power and fighting police. Admittedly, this is a bit odd coming from Ross, but certainly it could be symbolic of the evolution of the man. Ross emotes: “Last night I cried tears of joy, what do we do to deserve this? Not to dwell on the past, but to keep it real I gotta represent for Emmett Till / All the dead souls in the field.” As for the song, its evokes heartfelt expression from and with Cee-Lo playing back up, this is as a winner.

4. “Maybach Music III”  featuring T.I., Erykah Badu and Jadakiss (Produced by The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League.)

Basically, this beat is ridiculously dope and the production team of the The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League hit a Grand Slam and bring home the pennant for Ross.  The live instrumentation comes courtesy of Edward J. Nixon and conductor Adam Brooks, who guides an entire orchestra through this audio roller coaster. The dramatics rise and fall and morph into music that movies are made of. Really, there are no issues with this song, but if  there was one critique, Ross could have cleaned up a bit better as the anchor of the record. It’s a very minor bit of nitpicking since “Maybach Music III” eases dangerously close to perfection. Listen closely and you hear violins, flutes…its just crazy.

5. “Live Fast, Die Young” featuring Kanye West (Produced by Kanye West)

“Live Fast, Die Young” has been floating around the internet for quite some time and it doesn’t disappoint as two worlds collide. “Ice insured, f**k  life insurance / I live for the moment and put a bullet on it,” Ross says. This song picks the tempo up and relieves Ross of some of his more cerebral notions expressed on the previous four songs.

6. “Super High” featuring Ne-Yo (Produced by DJ Clark Kent and The Remedy)

“Super High” is the  obligatory radio song. The only thing is, it doesn’t sound like the obligatory radio song. Some cringe at the comparisons between Ross and Biggie, but one this is for sure: Ross can make songs seemingly effortlessly. Unlike other emcees, you never get the impression he’s trying to force it. This one is for the ladies and dudes looking to woo those ladies. Again, live instruments prove that Hip-Hop doesn’t have to be beholden to sampling.             

7. “No. 1” featuring Trey Songz and Diddy (Produced by Danja)

This song,  “No. 1,” is definitely a banger so you know it’s going to get to club anthem status for those seeking to feel all high and mighty. Honestly, I certainly could have done without Diddy and Trey rapping and sing-rapping, but I will say they differentiate this song from others on it. Thus far, this is my least favorite song on Teflon Don.

8. “MC Hammer” featuring Gucci Mane (Produced By Lex Luger)

“MC Hammer” bangs like Bloods and Crips in a closet. It just does and it is a marvelous ode to on of Hip-Hop’s heroes. “I got 30 cars, a whole lot of dancers / I take ‘em everywhere…I’m MC Hammer.” The beat is all bass and synth thanks to producer Lex Luger.  Not much more to say, but turn the sound up whenever this plays. No Gucci Mane was needed on this album version of “MC Hammer.” He sounded lazy and lifeless.

 9. “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” featuring Styles P (Produced by Lex Luger)

“B.M.F.” sounds very much like “MC Hammer” and there’s a reason for it. It was also produced by Lex Luger. Despite their similarities, they are the hardest records on Teflon Don and both have the streets on fire. I envision, somewhere even conscious rappers are saying, “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover…whipping work, Hallelujah.” The word infectious is often overused when describing songs, but this time it truly applies.

10. “Aston Martin Music” featuring Drake And Chrisette Michele (Produced By J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)

“Aston Martin Music” is another effortless R&B-hued Hip-Hop song that Ross and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League have crafted. Chrisette Michele sounds flawless as usual, but the Drake bridge sounds somewhat disjointed from the rest of the song. Not that it sounds bad, but it sounds as if it was cut and pasted in from a Drizzy song. Overall, this song is more than adequate as it relates to the landscape in radio, TV and general marketable music. After listening three times I a row, I gave up trying to determine what Aston Marton Music actually was.

11. “All The Money In The World” featuring Raphael Saadiq (Produced by The Olympics)

Not to be taken too seriously, “All The Money In The World” is Ross and his most playful. On the hook he experiments singing a bit as Raphael Saadiq keeps it grounded. He even says, “First time singing, gotta turn this b***h up.” The song is a nice exodus to a very enjoyable album that has something to offer for just about everybody.

In conclusion, Teflon Don takes Rick Ross into new, uncharted waters where the quality of the music simply drowns out all the noisy chatter in the background. The album is a concise work that is destined to raise the stakes in Hip-Hop and hopefully make his peers rethink their approach to music. Ross consistently summons emotions, earnest sentiments about life and lyrically paints a very vivid, lucid picture for the listener.

Epilogue: This review would not fully be complete without mentioning some of the stray songs that are out there. Look for “Audio Meth” with Raekwon, “Super High (Remix)” with Wiz Khalifa & Curren$y, and “Aston Martin Music (Remix)” where Drake drops a verse. Also, “Sweet Life” and “Mafia Music 2” with Chrisette Michele and John Legend are ancient by internet standards, but both are durable records that withstand the Fast Food Music Test. So get your iTunes together and add on to Teflon Don with some of these gems.

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