Rick Ross was never as close to The Notorious B.I.G. in terms of physical appearance and artistic prowess as when he dropped TeflonDon in 2010. Despite the fact that Ross prefers lemon pepper wings to cheese, eggs, and Welch’s grape, Teflon Don was a long kiss goodnight to the many detractors Ross had garnered from his super-ugly-style beef with 50 Cent and being ousted as a former law enforcement officer. But defying the odds of math, science, religion, philosophy, etc., Ross lost his hunger with God Forgives, I Don’t. Maybe God forgave Rozay for the savage treachery of his last album, but the fans surely didn’t, and with good reason. The album reeked of an artist cooking up the same recipe with only this time with stale ingredients, such as chopping up “Diced Pineapples” in an obvious effort to bake another “Ashton Martin Music.”
[TAKE A LISTEN: Rick Ross’ “Mastermind” Now Available For Streaming]
But I have some delicious news: Wingstop is short on inventory, because Ross is hungry once again with his latest dish, Mastermind. Ross cooks early on the album, commencing things with two banger appetizers in the form of “Rich As Gangsta” and “Drug Dealers Dream.” Beat selection is never a problem with Ross, as he picks his instrumentals with the same keen insight as he scopes out his next Golden Corrall helping, but on Mastermind the level of lyricism is back on par. Ross even dares to remake Frank White’s classic “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You,” doing his best rendition of Biggie’s flow on “Nobody.” Surprisingly, one of the worst songs of the album is Ross’ collaboration with Jay, “The Devil Is A Lie.” Lord knows, Lord knows Hov and the fat jake man were fresh out of Advil after cutting “FuckwithmeyouknowIgotit” in the studio that night.
Navigating the way through a few unnecessary skits and mediocre tracks, there is some serious heat on Mastermind, and Ross saves the best courses for the latter half of the album. Featuring Kanye West and Big Sean, “Sanctified” has a strong case for an early song of the year nomination. Also, after finally deading a pointless beef, the collaboration with Young Jeezy (“War Ready”) is filling despite lofty expectations. And while “Thug Cry” featuring Lil Wayne seemingly has all the fixings for a bland disaster we’ve been spoon-fed dozens of times, the track is absolute flames, containing outstanding lyrical performances from both heavyweights over, you guessed it, and hot ass beat.
Ross’ collab with The Weekend (“In Vein”) will inevitably be coming to a club near you probably before this review sees the light of day, but in comparison to microwavable popcorn efforts like “Touch’n You,” the track is about Ross’ weight multiplied by 100 on the quality scale. “Blessing In Disguise,” featuring Scarface and Z-Ro is one of those tracks where massive hype is inevitably attached before the play button is hit, but surprisingly, Ross keeps things kosher. Although Ross will never reach Biggie status, Mastermind is a refreshing indication that the rapper still has a sweet tooth for quality music, and despite all speculation, is not in fact one lemon pepper wing over the line.
Lyricism – 8/10
Production – 10/10
Personal Favorite Tracks: “Sanctified”, “Thug Cry”, “Blessing In Disguise”,”War Ready,″ "Rich As Gangsta"