Rick Ross has more or less willed himself to the top of the hip-hop heap. It’s not a genre lacking for performers who project themselves as the toughest, richest and most luxurious, and the 36-year-old MC has made such boasts his reality. He’s got a few tidy, self-given nicknames (Teflon Don, The Boss); lyrics almost exclusively focused on drug-dealing and outrageously expensive cars; bulletproof beats; an equally massive snarl; and a trademark grunt (“Ungh!”). In 2012, the rap game revolves around Rick Ross.
You wouldn’t know that from the turnout Thursday night at DAR Constitution Hall, though. The number of attendees was greater than the beefy MC’s weight . . . but it was a shockingly close call. This presented an interesting predicament — how would this king of excess, fresh off being named MTV’s “hottest MC,” function when performing in a mostly empty venue? Playing in front of all those vacant seats couldn’t help but shatter the illusion of Ross as invincible icon, and during his brief, perfunctory set, Ross balanced out his larger-than-life persona with a bit of down-to-earth likability.
This was not a high-production concert: Its glitziest element was the personal pan pizza-size medallion draped around Ross’s neck. He has a limited-but-effective arsenal and it was fully deployed after the first handful of songs. “Ima Boss” and “I’m Not a Star” feature plenty of supersized boasts delivered in Ross’s slow-paced growl. He’s not a particularly dexterous rapper, but his singular focus and style serve him well.
His persona is all scowls, but smiles were actually more forthcoming at DAR. Seemingly untroubled by the small crowd, he offered a handful of almost-playful call-and-response “Ungh!”s. There were multiple personalized thanks to D.C. And he even took his sunglasses off for a full 30 seconds, which was not unlike seeing Darth Vader unmasked.
Amiability notwithstanding, the show’s momentum was non-existent and Ross exited stage right after 45 minutes. Just as quickly, the house lights came up and everyone filed out. Did people leave the venue fully convinced that Ross really is the hottest MC in the game? Probably not. That he’s an all right dude? Affirmative “ungh!”