After Rick Ross spawned his two mediocre 2014 albums, Mastermind and Hood Billionaire, the outlook didn’t look excellent for the Maybach Music Group ringleader, but still, the big man from Carol City, Florida with the super recognizable vocal style has delivered in 2015 first with the Black Dollar mixtape and now with Black Market, his eighth official studio album (released today, Dec. 4 via Def Jam Recordings). Here, Ross is still very much a big balling gangster type, but now he exhibits a certain amount of humility and the beats are an improvement since the previous year’s productions (no offense to those producers).
Part of the allure of Black Market is in seeing how Ross has followed up his last two lacking LPs and his solid, black-themed September mixtape. The verdict: he has met the challenge, for the most part. Rick Ross is still a profligate gangster/lover-boy, but let’s look closer. The first two cuts, “Free Enterprise” and “Smile Mama, Smile,” both express a humble air and maybe a little remorse, and things start to get more interesting in “Color Money” as Ross takes shots at Drake, props Meek Mill and disses either Lil Wayne or Birdman, whichever one is “that p*ssy who Drake is signed to.” “Crocodile Python” is the second major song to look out for, but not because it has a good message. Fixated on his money and fearful of losing his fortune, Ross is an example of your typical money-hoarding miser in it as he quotes Biggie and generally disturbs with his capitalistic paranoia and government distrust. It’s a very memorable song but terribly insecure. The third and pretty much last ‘must-check’ is “Ghostwriter,” where Rozay disses his former label, Slip-N-Slide Records, and claims he is some high flung verse-constructing contractor in the game. It’s also partially a diss of insincere fraudulent songwriters behind the scenes who are unacquainted and unfamiliar with the culture.
The producer list for Black Market is also pretty impressive. StreetRunner, Jake One, J.R. Rotem, DJ Mustard, comeback kid Scott Storch and the rest have made a stunning exquisite collection here, which has excited Rick Ross into a frenzy of solid new rhymes because of their hot quality beats. Guests include John Legend, CeeLo, Nas, DJ Premier, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown and Future. Verbally, Ross is a beast, but his rich boy attitudes are as they’ve always been: blah. That is why the most important traits to absorb here are the wordplay and the music score. With new metaphors and different dimensions, Ross is back to being interesting again. Let’s hope it stays this way.