When most artists encounter their second LP, it is usual for most critics and executives to fear the sophomore curse. For the uninitiated, the understanding of the curse is basically that an artist set the bar so high with his or her debut; that he unequivocally fails with the follow up.
Rick Ross looked to be a likely candidate, as his first LP, Port Of Miami featured the 2006 summer anthem Hustlin'. The hit spawned remix after remix and even got a then retired Jay-Z on the track. Fast forward to 2008, where the Carol City rep drops Trilla (Def Jam) and you have a sophomore LP that lives up to its name and avoids the dreaded jinx.
When listening to this album, it comes off as a finished product that the South Florida movement has been building for the last two years. Every track has a stylized feel with plenty of synthesizer and is as musically bright as South Beach on a summer day.
The J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, who when given production duty with their four selections, seem to really exemplify that attitude by really hitting the snares and creating a pop and energy that, is seldom matched. In addition to their tracks being well crafted; they create an overall sound that isnt repetitive as each track feels like they are exploring different ways to take it.
The culmination of this is Luxury Tax featuring Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Trick Daddy. The airy and light intro dives right into the snare and the rest is history. It makes for a very powerful background behind the Dirty South's Rapping elite dropping their bars.
The Jay-Z collaboration Maybach Music is another banger developed by the League. The Boss and Hov trading braggadocio barbs over the quiet keys and sweeping xylophones lends more power to two already powerful voices.
One of Rick Rosss previous flaws would be his limited subject matter. Many only saw his experience handling the white stuff, no more and no less. There is plenty of this on this effort (This Me), but there are times to where he goes to the ladies with songs like Here I Am with Nelly and Avery Storm, as well as delving slightly into his personal struggle in Im Only Human. Its something a little different, and provides a little bit of a changeup when the material begins to get stale.
If there was a flaw that is holding this back from being an album remembered in the hall of classics is the lyrics. There are times to when the flow breaks down. This isnt obvious, but it definitely takes away from this album, if only slightly. Additionally, there are songs like Money Make Me Come and Reppin My City that take away from the triumphant sound.
When we look back, this may be deemed best work out of Miami thus far. The bright sounds and the innocuous flow that cover this album represent what South Florida has been all about. Sit down, put this in the car, and cut the sound up, because youre due to enjoy the ride.
Rick Ross featuring T-Pain
Rick Ross featuring Jay-Z