JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
Rick Ross, "Mastermind" (Maybach Music Group/Def Jam)
All of the songs on Rick Ross' sixth album are built with strong production and the rapper's normal shoot-from-the-hip approach. However, the performer is unable to move the needle on "Mastermind" like he did on previous releases, including 2012's top-notch "God Forgives, I Don't."
Ross' 16-track set doesn't transcend his message as a man of growth, wanting to expect more out of life than money, women and luxury cars. It comes as a surprise since the new album was co-executive produced by Diddy, who has helped mold albums for the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, the Lox, Mary J. Blige and others.
But the Miami rapper is certainly not a bore. Ross taps some of the top beat makers in hip-hop from Kanye West, Scott Storch, the Weeknd and production group J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League for his latest effort. Some songs entertain with introductions: Diddy is full of himself -- in a serious tone -- on "Nobody," comedian Katt Williams is silly when he talks about staying in a home with 109 rooms on "Supreme," and Ross boasts about having more than $92 million in his bank account on "Drug Dealers Dream."
Ross upholds his gangster mentality with gunshots ringing on several songs such as "Rich Is Gangsta," ''Walkin' On Air," featuring Meek Mill, and "Mafia Music III," with Sizzla and Mavado. The production work by Mike WiLL Made-It (Miley Cyrus, Juicy J) is superb on "War Ready" featuring Young Jeezy -- a rapper who Ross once had beef with.
The West and Big Sean-assisted "Sanctified" is one of the album's best tracks, as each rapper talks about how the fast-paced lifestyle has impacted them. Ross also raps about beating the odds as a young man on "Thug Cry," which co-stars Lil Wayne. While these are bright spots, most of "Mastermind" is Ross middling.
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