Mastermind (2014) 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… 2014-03-03 Rick Ross Hip-Hop/Rap Island Def Jam
Music Review

Mastermind (2014)

ROSS THE BOSS M-M-M-Maybach music is at it again
Image credit: Pamela Littky
ROSS THE BOSS M-M-M-Maybach music is at it again
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: Mar 03, 2014; Lead Performance: Rick Ross; Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap; Production: Island Def Jam

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-

Best Tracks:
''Drug Dealers Dream''
''Sanctified''

Originally posted Feb 26, 2014 Published in issue #1301 Mar 07, 2014 Order article reprints