Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Revue- "God Forgives, I Don't"

If honesty was the best policy Rick Ross would've been flat broke years ago. The man's meteoric rise to the top of the rap game has been fueled by fabrication. In 2008 the coffin on Ross' career began to lower as it surfaced that he was a former Corrections Officer, a far cry from the drug-pushing character he had crafted on previous records Port of Miami and Trilla. On record, Ross was pushing Scarface levels of cocaine and buying up entire car dealerships with the money; in reality he was essentially keeping those same dealers down. You could almost hear the final flecks of dirt pouring over Ross' body as 50 Cent in a YouTube video promised to "f**k his life up, for fun." But instead of running from the falsehood and pressing reset on his career, he lovingly embraced it and 2009's Deeper Than Rap became his third consecutive #1 album, leaving 50 and most other haters six-feet deep. The man had a Lazarus-like comeback, one that is in full bloom on this his fifth album.

The first thing you can't help but notice when listening to the ominously titled God Forgives, I Don't is the beat selection. Even the album's bangers have a richness to them you'd be unlikely to find on a Waka record. "So Sophisticated" features a ferocious verse from Maybach Music cohort Meek Mill who rides a synth line and clattering keyboards as Ross equates MMG to rap's mafia. Rozay re-ups on "Hold Me Back," which plays like the sequel to 2010's "B.M.F." but noticeably lacks Lex Luger on the boards. While Ross is engaging, snarling like never before, producer G5Kid can't replicate the blueprint Luger authored. 

As great as the bangers are, the record would be void without the soulful samples brought by Jake One and Cool & Dre. "Ashamed" re-purposes Wilson Pickett's "Shameless" to great reward with Ross wondering if the d-boy life style is really worth it. Jake One mans the ship on "3 Kings," with a gripping guitar line and stormy chorus. In a rare appearance, Dr. Dre drops in and thoroughly outclasses Ross and Jay-Z,  shamelessly plugging his headphones along the way. Admittedly the track is a bit of a disappointment for Hov' who can't rise above C-status, noticeably leaving the end of a line in suspended animation.  

Production team J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League easily captures M.V.P. status for the album, tailoring songs with a silky lining that would make Armani proud. The stalwart "Maybach Music" series is brought back with Pt. IV, a cut that plays like the love child of Kenny G and early 2000s Cam'ron with a dash of South Beach sheen. Ross even manages to comment on his highly publicized seizure with a grin-inducing "B.J." joke. "Sixteen" is the triumph of the record, starting with a blaring sax solo and settling into a tremulous beat-blast. Ross is in rare form here, recalling his verse from "Lord Knows," and reflecting on how his life has gone from "ten-speeds to Trump Tower." Guest Andre 3000 slips free from the shackles of the sixteen-bar structure and delivers a grandiose verse that zigzags from dolphins to the dope game to desperately trying to court his neighbor. Dampened only by an ill-advised guitar solo near the song's end, the verse is the sort of awe-inspiring moment that grabs your attention and refuses let go of the reins.

The truest mark of this album's success is that often even its weak moments feel like wins. While Drake is curiously underutilized on "Diced Pineapples," he still croons a chorus that's equally despondent and resilient. "Call me crazy, s**t at least you callin'," is the sort of late-night rationalizing anyone in a rocky relationship has ever engaged in. "Touch 'n You," is the sort of "paltry" pop-rap tune that shouldn't succeed, but coasts on Ross' lover-man personae. Ultimately that's what it takes to be the boss, to make the most out of every opportunity. To come up with gold in every undertaking, and right now no one in rap has the Midas touch quite like Rick Ross.


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