Rick Ross could claim a giant victory from the moment he stepped into rap with his 2006 summer anthem “Hustlin”, a track so boastful and simplistic that it basically made The Runners as a production team, gave Young Jeezy another crack at fulfilling his snowman legacy and brought out a semi-retired Jay-Z to spat jabs at then foes Jim Jones & Cam’Ron.  He was a behemoth with not so much lyrical skill but enough charisma to keep boastful claims of knowing the actual Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega almost to the chest.

Three albums later, things aren’t the same for Ricky. He’s flashier and more reliant on name dropping invaluable objects and slick wordplay than anything else but has been catching constant attacks over his name, his past as a corrections officer and even a beef with 50 Cent. He has improved by leaps and bounds as a lyricist but what plagues his latest effort Teflon Don is that while he has moved to more lavish surroundings, he sticks to his escapist rap almost to a point where the actual truth may never exist.

Much of the production on Teflon Don lies right in line with the latter amount of production from his second album Trilla and the bulk of his last release Deeper Than Rap. Ross has developed a keen ear for production and working with the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League & The Inkredibles has given him leeway to say whatever might be up his sleeve. On the album opener, “I’m Not A Star”, Ross ups his flow and rebukes all of the initial idea that the title may bring. He’s a braggart, high on himself and what’s got him here. That is the album’s constant theme, Ross’ own greatness and ownership in the game and little much else.

The few times he strays away from being a money hungry giant with a beard, he invokes listeners to go through his experiences. On the Raphael Saadiq featured “All The Money In The World”, Ricky questions the pain he felt when his father died of cancer a decade ago. Yet all that pain gives the listener the worse possible scenario, Ross actually attempting to sing. There is such thing as being off off-key, and the Boss succeeds in failing. When he does let crooners grab the vocals, they shine. Cee-Lo gives the Bobby Seale tinged “Tears of Joy” much needed soul as the No I.D production is ethereal, even with Ross’ constant subject change and obscure name dropping of Emmitt Till.

There are moments where Ross is right at home in his own comfort, such as “Aston Martin Music” where Ross enlists both Drake & Chrisette Michele to bring out some smoother than silk League production. He finds more comfort being the giant teddy bear of hip-hop as tracks geared for the ladies like “Super High” are suited for Ross perfectly these days, a lot better than his previous efforts where his own audacious idea of oral sex made for an instant skip. But for all the small giant steps Ross makes, he gets outshone repeatedly on the tracks he’s supposed to own.

Sure, “Free Mason” lets Ross salute those who “see the sun at midnight” but I’ll be damned if he didn’t let Jay-Z absolutely eat him alive with his declaration for being anti-Mason and Illuminati. An uptempo switch in the otherwise lush “Maybach Music III” begs Ross to murder it with a king’s precision but T.I. already snatched that idea from his first bar & “Live Fast, Die Young” has the awkward setting of being an upbeat track of laughing in the face of morality suited more for its producer Kanye West than Rozay himself.

The biggest eyebrow that can be raised towards Teflon Don would be the inclusion of three consecutive tracks that aren’t lush but gritty, two of which sound exactly the same. As big a street record as “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” is, it sounds like the better produced cousin of “MC Hammer” and with all of Diddy’s yelling throughout the mess that is “No. 1”, you can tell that Ross’ duality for being street and being suave cross but nowhere near enough to create fluidity.

When given the platform to rhyme and deliver some escapist reality, Ross succeeds. Nobody else could have possibly run with the notion of being a boss this long without surviving every single credible challenge thrown his way. However, that same reliance makes me wonder where Williams Roberts is really, because he only decides to appear whenever the character of Rick Ross allows him. The man has gotten so comfortable playing his created alter ego; you wonder how much is actually left of the real William Roberts.

FINAL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10