In the past, Rick Ross has been in danger of squandering his brand of cinematic and indulgent storytelling because there is literally too much going on. Luckily, ‘Mastermind’ comes with a handy prelude- “There is a price to everything, even your own success”. Straight after this, the majestic bounce of ‘Rich Is Gangsta’ flies in and Rick’s unmistakable breed of braggadocio sails across it like a St. Tropez yacht. If Rick Ross ever made wealth sound complicated, he’s taking you back to school on ‘Mastermind’ and showing you the two most primary symptoms of affluence; the responsibility and the joy.
The record is littered with mixtape-style skits that signpost the fairly linear narrative. Track three opens with an automated voice reciting Rozay’s bank balance ($92 million). There’s also a pre-game talk from Diddy about becoming a “supreme being” before ‘Nobody’ treats us to the best late-night-drive production since ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’. The advantage of listening to a Rick Ross album is that every shot of late night drug dealing is remedied by a chaser of retrospective swollen-headed vaunting which comes best served with an albeit predictable guest verse from the go-to rap game CEO, Jay Z. Another of these thrilling juxtapositions comes in the form of ‘In Vein’ featuring everyone’s favourite Tumblr-friendly creepster The Weeknd being followed up by ‘Sanctified’ which features Kanye West and Big Sean delivering a timeless masterclass in nonchalant flossing. ‘Mastermind’ pans the camera from the sidewalk to the penthouse suite track-by-track and creates a world where everything is celebrated just for the sake of the blowout.
The maxims that Rick Ross abides by are exhausted by the end of the album. The majority of cuts are narrowly saved from being little more than exercises in uninteresting lyrical parroting by undeniably gorgeous production. ‘Supreme’ lets Ross spring off of brassy, playful instrumentation that makes him sound a little more grateful than just extremely puffed up. Similarly, the employment of dancehall superstar Movado on ‘Mafia Music III’ gives the track a streak of visceral terror just like Kanye managed to deploy on ‘Yeezus’. While Ross’ flirting with patois vocal sections doesn’t have quite the same cerebral quality as Kanye’s (see ‘Mercy’ or ‘I’m In It’), it succeeds in giving ‘Mastermind’ a sonic costume-change which distracts you from its somewhat monotonous narrative.
Whether it’s a bottle of Belvedere vodka in his hand or a shotgun, Rick Ross is still the intriguing self-caricature we’ve come to love. ‘Mastermind’ is the ostentatious self-portrait of a persona who is big in every sense. The sound of Rick Ross’ grunting ad-libs and overdone money-talk isn’t designed to deliver the harsh realities of life in America. ‘Mastermind’ is the ‘Scarface’ to ‘Yeezus’’ ‘There Will Be Blood’. For all it’s samey content and predictable soundscapes, Rick Ross is the immovable emperor of new money escapism and ‘Mastermind’ is a no-expense-spared tour of his gold plated kingdom.
Words: Duncan Harrison