The extra-large rapper Rick Ross may not seem spry, but he carves conceptual figure eights on gangsta rap's icy surface. On Mastermind his sixth studio album and his best effort since the 2012 mixtape Rich Forever Ross one-ups the rappers bragging about their fees for guest verses simply by calling his bank: ''Drug Dealers Dream'' opens with an automated voice reading off every cent of a $92 million balance.
It's a wry, ingenious start to a track that's got a beat like doom in slow motion and entertainingly inscrutable invocations of both the ''son of Osama'' and an anonymous ''son of a bitch.'' As a former corrections officer, Ross owes that comfy margin on his debit card to hip-hop, not moving cocaine, as he once implied. Now that he's on his ''fourth Bentley,'' he's more assured than ever, shrugging off authenticity and tossing out whimsical, cut-and-paste rhymes. On ''Walkin' on Air'' with Meek Mill, he compares himself to Rasta deity Haile Selassie and claims he was ''baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the a--holes.''
As always, he's got a gifted ear for rumbly, deep-gloss beats. ''Sanctified,'' which Kanye produced and raps on, sounds like platinum mallets drumming on shipping containers. His flow too remains flawlessly weighted. He's leisurely and precise even on the theatrically dark ''In Vein,'' where he raps fast to play off the Weeknd's cynical come-ons. The bleaker the setting, the brighter Ross shines. A-
''Drug Dealers Dream''