Deeper Than Rap
(Def Jam/Maybach Music Group; 2009)
By Colin McGowan | 11 May 2009
Through the last handful of years, the previously-maligned South has had something of a fertile rebirth, growing into a region that now indisputably houses the most compelling personalities in hip-hop. It’s not a supremacy thing so much as a happy coincidence that one region has given us Jeezy’s populist groans, Tip’s burgeoning righteousness, and Weezy’s whateverthefuck (Gucci Mane is next—prepare yourself). And within that crop of major label eccentrics there’s Rick Ross. He feels utterly boring in comparison, merely possessing a feeble sense of disenfranchisement and mediocre bling lines. This might explain why we’ve been sold Rawse from virtually every angle: drug kingpin (false); big-bellied ladies man (unlikely); and, now, actual rapper (fawlse).
Ross seems to lack any sort of awareness of his shortcomings, dutifully plowing through middling, obvious shit-talking. It’s cute that he thinks lines like “The rumors turn me on / I’m masturbatin’ at the top” are clever, but they provoke no reaction, blending in with the bearded jaws from which they emanated, monochromatically “meh.” Closest-cousin Jeezy’s punchlines shimmer in their own brilliant dumbshit-ness like a cloud of chalk chucked skyward; Ross’s pomposity, in comparison, feels flaccid. “Rich Off Cocaine” is about being rich off cocaine. “Face” is about head. “Gunplay” is not only about gunplay, but also features a lousy rapper called fucking Gunplay. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that such colossal ineptitude would likely have some incidental entertainment value, but…nope. Sorry.
These beats are, with a couple exceptions, epic, tumbling romps that Ross’s contemporaries would have gleefully slaughtered (and no, I’m not using Weezy’s phoned-in verse on “Maybach Music 2” as a barometer). J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s “Rich Off Cocaine” begs for a Tip slow jam, and the Inkredibles’ “Usual Suspects” deserves more than vague mafioso raps and a shriveled Nas. The only point at which Ross approaches his production team’s immaculacy is Toomp’s searing “Valley of Death.” Ross hints at some source behind his insistently insecure self-hype, “Who the fuck y’all callin’ losers? / You niggas losin’ / Look like you could use us.” It’s unremarkable to type out as everything else here, but he seems almost unintentionally vulnerable, tossing an impotent insult that, with a sneer, transmutes into a piercing “fuck you.” I’m fishing for personality only because Ross is such impenetrable nothingness. I mean, his signature ad-lib is “pussies don’t get pussy,” which surely sounds profound to fourteen-year-old boys everywhere, but for a grown man is such a trite refrain. In the golden age of trap-hop and creeping Southern anthems, Ross’ alleged claim to supremacy is akin to Jada’s top five dead or alive claim. Really, guy?