The Carl Online


Rick Ross’s Teflon Don Inspires Many Bad Puns, Conspicuous Consumption by carlmagazine
September 29, 2010, 8:44 am
Filed under: Music

By Charlie Rosenthal

How did this happen?  Rick Ross, the man who once rhymed “Atlantic” with “Atlantic” and claimed to know someone named Pablo Noriega, just released one of the ten best rap albums of the year.  This is the same Rick Ross who was once a Corrections Officer, the same Rick Ross who was once sued by a drug dealer for defamation.  Somehow, Rozay managed to overcome all this and release an album nearly entirely about how rich he is.  Even more amazingly, it’s good.

Rick Ross and Def Jam bought themselves a championship.  There are no no-names showing up on this album, only certified all-stars.  This album features tracks produced by Clark Kent, Kanye West, and the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and guest appearances from Jay-Z, John Legend, TI, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Trey Songz, Gucci Mane, Drake, and Raekwon, among others.  It seems bizarre to praise an album because of the strength of its guest appearances, but, in general, the better the main rapper is, the better the guest verses are.  Basically, Jada might be willing to phone it in on some track by Memphis Bleek, but he’ll try and raise his game when he’s guesting on something legitimate.  As a result, Jay-Z sounds hungry, TI sounds confident, and Kanye West swaggers on “Live Fast, Die Young”.  Even Gucci’s verse is good.  On Ross’s third album, the pretty good Deeper than Rap, “Maybach Music II” featured T-Pain on the hook.  T-Pain is good and all, but Rozay upgraded to neo-soul goddess Erykah Badu for the third installment in the series.  On one level, that sums up the album: why only have good when you can have the best?

As an album, Teflon Don gets by far more on feeling, atmosphere, and sheer sound than it does on lyricism.  Ross’s massive blunted rasp absolutely crushes bangers like “BMF (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and “MC Hammer” and, nearly equally well, rides over more laid back, chill tracks like “Super High” and the superb “Maybach Music III”.  Ross still isn’t a great rapper, especially when he makes semi-cringe worthy claims like “I don’t smoke no tobaccos/ but I smoke the most rappers”, but he’s well beyond competent and self aware enough to only rarely leave his wheelhouse of braggadocio.  On some level, that’s a very good thing.  The Boss attempting Cudi-style mope rap would turn out atrociously, just like Cudi penning odes to speedboats and women tattooing themselves with his name would bomb.  Ross avoids the staleness that would come with such a lack of thematic variation by keeping the album short and by being a legitimately interesting and fun rapper.  For example, during “MC Hammer”, Ross screams “My top back/ I’m circumcised!”  Even if that line would never show up on an MF Doom or Aesop Rock album, it’s still memorable, which is a pretty fair substitute for being “good” or whatever we want our rap lyrics to be.

I have no idea what this means for rap.  Teflon Don has effectively nothing in common with every other good rap album released over the past couple of years.  It’s the anti-recession rap.  Teflon Don isn’t out to be clever like Tha Carter III was and it isn’t a Blueprint III style victory lap.  It celebrates the cocaine culture that Big Boi rejected.  It features very little of the introspection that Drake made fashionable and it doesn’t bother with the storytelling of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II.   It’s like Teflon Don was made in a ‘90s vacuum where Will Smith lied about ever leaving West Philly and decided to start dealing comical amounts of white powder and smoking forests of weed.  Call it Big Ricky Style.

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