Two signs that rap titan Rick Ross has a hugely anticipated album due out in a month: First, the release of “Self Made Vol. 2,” a hype-building compilation featuring himself and his entire Maybach Music Group stable. Second, his verses on this album are so hollow and weak that he’s clearly saving the good stuff for the album bearing only his name.
That’s an optimistic outlook. The pessimistic view is that Ross’s gangsta posturing and chest-puffing style is running out of steam, a theory supported by the inclusion of some of his most cliche lyrics to date. And that’s saying something.
Ross has never been regarded as a particularly adept rapper. He succeeds because of outsize personality, a few marketable catchphrases and the sheer force with which he barks his rhymes. But you can’t help but roll your eyes when he declares, “The square root of a kilo is me [expletive] / Do the math, I’m a [expletive] G [expletive],” or “I’m a kamikaze in a Maserati / I’m a John Gotti, got my own army” as if he’s playing gangsta rap Mad Libs.
Ross’s MMG underlings all fall into their roles and often outshine their boss, particularly on the opening showcase, “Power Circle.” Stalley is the thoughtful street poet; the District’s Wale wows you with his technical superiority one minute and frustrates with his petulance the next; Meek Mill is an agitator; and Omarion is the ill-fitting R&B crooner. Each crew member takes a lead role on a handful of tracks, sounding more energized and engaged than Ross (the exception being Omarion, whose Notorious B.I.G. sampling, Salt-N-Pepa referencing “Let’s Talk” is clumsy and uninspired). Nobody from this group is charging for the A-list any time soon, but together they make for a competent and complementary crew, albeit one that would sound a lot better with their boss in top form.
“Power Circle,” “This Thing of Ours”