mastermind-reviewRick Ross – Mastermind
Maybach Music Group/Def Jam
Day & A Dream Rating: 2.5 out of 5
BUY: iTunes | Amazon

Earlier this week, Rick Ross brought his Mastermind shtick, the one of bloated grandiosity and illusion to Late Night With Seth Meyers. He, along with French Montana performed “Nobody,” the haunting karaoke like hark to The Notorious B.I.G.’s eerily fatalistic  “You’re Nobody (Til’ Somebody Kills You)” that closed Life After Death. Ross here, normally cocksure and ready to bellow out grunts and wordplay of great embellishment here looked flat, the roundness of his talents somewhat deflated. He and Montana closed the performance by emptying promotional shouts about the album while the instrumental played and a funny thing happened.

Rick Ross, even in his own coddled idea of being supreme about all – looked lost.

If Ross’ talents were comparable to that of Hollywood, his work would mirror that of a Stallone action flick of the ‘80s: straight forward, shiny at times and utterly violent in others. There’s a giant suspension of disbelief there and for five albums prior, Ross has executed such feats that it even baffles us how he moved around the fact that he’s a former corrections officer and ballooned the persona up even further. There was the masterful deception laid out over 2012’s robust Rich Forever and ascension into high level supervillainy on God Forgives, I Don’t. His absolute peak was two years prior, when Teflon Don angled its way through being a complete Ross project, seeped in storytelling so grand it was nearly worth every cent on the dollar.

Mastermind, his sixth studio effort out since Tuesday is supposed to be the giant culmination of the five prior albums, yet it barely contains the charm of any of them.

Deeper Than Rap. Even the eventful moments of Mastermind feel like he’s been relegated to second fiddle, Jeezy taking advantage of the moment that is “War Ready” and swinging with every bit of force that he can. The Weeknd broods in his own exalted drugged out noir for “In Vein” while Ross merely clocks in for a moment and then clocks back out. We were brought in to enjoy the façade and at the moment, even Ross – someone who’s character has brushed off tough questions about his own clumsy placed together lyrics seems disinterested in making us believe he’s still a giant kingpin, putting together concepts that barely make sense. Unless he’s still believing he’s the son of Moses & John The Baptist rolled into one and then we’re in entirely different territory

There are lights to Mastermind, belonging to the even bigger guests as Jay Z delivers his most assured verse in a while on “The Devil Is A Lie” and Kanye West returns to Yeezus style questions and answers while squeezing out every bit of DJ Mustard’s ratchet polarity for “Sanctified,” the regular album’s best cut. On the deluxe, that honor would easily go to Scarface & Z-Ro equally attempting to bring clarity to the trappings of life with “Blessing In Disguse”. Even Lil Wayne, a punching bag recently for his inability to remain in his cunnilingus malaise inputs a bit of fire and energy into “Thug Cry”.

What made those previous Ross excursions at least memorable in some senses was the production, a volley between brutal street grumblings, drums with enough force and chaos that they became living things on their own and elegant, lush lounge material. Here, none of that is exhibited as things tend to blend together into one hour long arc of watching a pretty great rapper play a character we’re no longer that interested in attempting to believe. There’s flips of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame On A Nigga” for the other coded up Montana guest appearance “What A Shame”, cued up samples of Souls Of Mischief’s “’93 Til Infinity” for “Thug Cry” and “Mafia Music III” sounding more like a patois remix of Jay Z’s “Momma Loves Me” from The Blueprint. Does that match the lush elegance stretched about from the likes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League who seemingly bring out the best in Ross? Absolutely not.

Diddy may scream about the truth on “Nobody”, another moment of zen that Ross fails to obviously get but truthfully, the Maybach head honco needs a reboot in the worst way possible.