Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
Def Jam; 2012
Day & A Dream Rating: 3.5 out of 5
BUY: iTunes | Amazon

There is something far more perversely enjoyable about Rick Ross than should be naturally allowed. To skirt around his past and unorthodox and unbelievable rise to the proverbial top of rap would be a disservice because its an achievement that should have never occurred in the first place. At no point five years ago did any of us truly believe that a burly, heavy baritone rapper from Miami would wind up having his past employment uncovered, ridiculed by the game’s biggest arbiter of realism and survive, with a vast improvement on his victory lap.

If Deeper Than Rap showed us that Ross can string together couplets that trump his meandering “Atlantic” with “Atlantic” rhyme scheme on his breakthrough single “Hustlin’” then 2010’s Teflon Don was his most striking work for all of the right reasons. It yielded massive, unmistakable singles in “B.M.F.”, “MC Hammer” & “Aston Martin Music” and did enough in its economically tight 11-tracks to push Ross to the forefront where the product actually met his cartoonish braggadocio. Two seizures not even days apart from one another delayed this work, something frequent collaborator Drake called “the Ready To Die” of our times. Ross is such a drug for people, even they begin to utter the same high degree of near-impossible to achieve hyperbole.

On his fifth trek out into the world of albums, Ross is more comfortable in his skin despite what mortality should tell him. Yes, God Forgives, I Don’t is the most vainly created judge & jury style album to emanate from the vapors of 2012 and combines hints of fatalism with its creator’s heavily purported boasts that take fantasy to an entirely new level. But it’s also Ross combining the two things which made him great in the first place, haughty one liners mixed in with exquisite, Miami Vice montage style production.

J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League returns to helming the bulk of GFID, only increasing in scales on the pianos and horns to give Ross arguably his most sonically impressive effort to date. “Maybach Music IV” cranks up to impressive levels, shimmering with airy guitars and Ross making the lone hint that he’s not as invincible as he may have previously made you to believe, “Such a breath of fresh air/Get a blowjob, have a seizure on the Lear”. True it was merely a 747 but we’re dealing with Ross, every small aspect of life has to be stretched to proportions that can barely fit IMAX screens. The sentiment of wide open, sprawling works continues throughout with Pharrell Williams flipping New Jack Swing harmonizing into the percussion and velvet smooth “Presidential”. Ross’ flow is calm, tailored fit for enunciation and perfectly whittled off moments of bloated clarity, “I was gifted at math, always counted the fastest”. His accuracy in pulling in big names for projects has been well documented, having Jay-Z appear for his third go-round via the impressive Jake One “event” of “3 Kings” where it’s shill time for Dr. Dre & sloppy brilliance from Hov. In a stanza he reports life about crepes, his drapery turning into show money and shouts out incarcerated rapper Max B.

In full doses, Ross’ imagery can border on either hilarity or mesmerizing. They turn hilarious on “911” where he questions life while peeling the top off of his favorite Porsche before entering the pearly gates, get daunting and menacing on the three piece faux-Lex Luger produced “Hold Me Back” & “So Sophisticated” that sandwich “911” but don’t strike as much fear as they did when they were originally dressed better by Luger himself. Completely reorganizing the Usher collaboration “Touch’N You” into something far less enticing yet reaffirming that Ross did in fact bring Omarion back from the depths on “Ice Cold” shows his hand can stretch too far at times, such as the unnecessary L.A. Reid appearance on “Maybach Music IV” or the Baby Boy intro on “Pray For Us”.

It’s true, “Diced Pineapples” should have never breached the studio walls with its Wale Def Poetry spoken word that ran its course and then some on More About Nothing & Ambition but missteps like that get somewhat passé when noticing the mastered version of Rich Forever’s “Triple Beam Dreams” and its eponymous track with John Legend. Yet, God Forgives, I Don’t will be remembered for mostly three things – the combination of Ross’ somewhat unrivaled brevity, the open production which once again is almost like Ross blowing himself for having such a grand ear and André 3000’s inclusion on “Sixteen”, a 48-bar dive into some mystifying wordplay along silky horns (and a forgettable guitar solo from 3 Stacks).

It’s what makes Ross work in small portions for taking in the entire meal is somewhat of a taxing pleasure. He and his supporters are obsessed with fulfilling a destiny that he should be the king Mafioso of rap. It’s not the biggest rap album of the year (that may possibly come further down the pipe) but it’s enjoyable tonic from a man who is wholly more self-assured of himself than we think.