An in-depth album review of Rick Ross’s latest work
By Arshon Howard
Consistency is a key ingredient to success. The recipe consists of repeating the same actions over and over again, gaining feedback from those actions and adjusting them accordingly to help you stay on track as you work toward your goal.
It’s something that everyone strives to achieve, even rappers. Rick Ross, the 43 year old legend in the making, has given hip-hop plenty of it. His vivid use of imagery, over-the-top braggadocio lyrics, and his extraordinary ear for beats are what have made Ross arguably one of the most consistent rappers since his emergence 13 years ago.
Ross’s debut album Port of Miami put him on the map in 2006, as it marked the beginning of his prolific career. With his breakout single “Hustlin’,” Ross did exactly that and rose through the ranks of hip-hop as one of rap’s biggest bosses. But what people have loved Rozay for throughout his career may be his downfall in today’s musical climate.
Over time, Ross has revealed himself to be a much more ambitious rapper than he was initially painted as. He has established himself as one of the industry’s most identifiable voices and has been rap’s self-acclaimed “Boss” throughout his career. He rarely if ever has had missteps musically. Ross is arguably one of hip-hop’s most consistent rappers.
But even with all that success, there’s a thin line he’s starting to cross. One could argue that Ross has been great at being consistent but hasn’t been consistently great. This is evident with his tenth studio album, Port of Miami 2.
One could argue that Ross has been great at being consistent but hasn’t been consistently great.
The album dropped this August 9, one day after the thirteenth anniversary of the original. The 15 track album features a host of talented artists, old and new, including Gunplay, Nipsey Hussle, Meek Mill, Summer Walker, DeJ Loaf, Jeezy, YFN Lucci, Ball Greezy, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Denzel Curry, John Legend, and Drake.
“Act a Fool,” the album’s lead single and opening track featuring Wale, is similar to a lot of Ross’s and MMG’s earlier music. The hard-hitting bass and cadences of both rappers on the instrumental is a sound that we’ve heard before from Ross with songs like “I’m Not a Star” and “Hold Me Back.” Ross excels at making these types of songs. However, he has used that same formula over the years, essentially recreating the same song in different ways. This time around, it doesn’t seem to work for the album’s opening track.
The following song, “Turnpike Ike,” shows Ross at his best. It exemplifies why the term luxury rap is synonymous with Rozay. It successfully captures the essence of Ross’s persona with him bragging and gloating about his past lifestyle doing illegal business and his upbringing in music over the soulful Jake One instrumental.
On “Nobody’s Favorite,” the beat seems to let fans down with its minimalist backdrop, lacking the luxurious sound that we’re used to hearing from Ross. But Gunplay, who always seems to bring the best out of his counterpart, doesn’t disappoint with his verse, which in turn may have caused Ross to change his patented delivery. Even though it’s an uncharacteristic beat choice for Ross, it was the perfect instrumental for him as he sounds lyrically rejuvenated.
On the next two songs, “Summer Reign” featuring R&B singer Summer Walker and “White Lines” featuring DeJ Loaf, Ross goes into his boss mode for the ladies. “Summer Reign” samples SWV’s “Rain,” which should by all means be a recipe for a great song, but it falls short due to Ross’s verses of material purchases and perverse fetishes.
“White Lines” is the same song thematically, with Ross buying his female companion any and everything that she wants, but the difference is that she’s doing all this while sniffing cocaine. DeJ’s vocals are spread out throughout the verses and hook, which makes “White Lines” one of the standout tracks on the album.
The album’s second single, “Big Tyme,” produced by Just Blaze and featuring Swizz Beatz, finds the rapper reflecting on his path to success. It’s a great song, but it’s reminiscent of some of the songs that solidified him as one of rap’s elite. The hook is repetitive with Ross just saying “Big time, I just do it big time, All my n*ggas really do it big time,” which follows a similar cadence to his hit song “B.M.F.” (Blowing Money Fast).
“Rich N*gga Lifestyle” is a breath of fresh air on the album as it features Teyana Taylor and the late Nipsey Hussle. It felt great hearing Nipsey again, since he was tragically murdered earlier this year. On the song, he takes a shot at Tekashi 6ix9ine.
How many n*ggas on your payroll?
Rich gangbangers, y’all ain’t even know they make those
Double caseloads, push buttons, I got say-so
When it’s war time, never lay low, y’all play roles
I can’t name a fake nigga that was not exposed
How y’all n*ggas so surprised that Tekashi told?
Both rappers are cut from the same cloth but go about things in different ways. Ross preaches obtaining wealth by getting to it any and every way, while Nipsey advocated being a man of the people by not only bossing up himself but those around him and in his community. The song is the perfect mix of both sermons.
Fans love when rappers are reflective and can convey that through song. On “I Still Pray,” Ross talks about his health scare from last year when he was found unresponsive in his mansion. He spent four days in the intensive care unit, and the song opens up with the image of Ross waking from a coma with tubes lodged in his throat.
up out a coma, frozen in the moment
You could have the biggest clique, but you gon’ die a loner
Tubes down my throat, rules that I broke
All these quotes that I wrote and never cared to vote
What good is all the wealth, sh*ttin’ on yourself? (M’-M’-M’)
I’ll give you back the money just to get my health
It’s one of the first songs on the album where Ross gets personal, allowing fans to see to his mortality.
“Vegas Residency” stands out as the finest moment on the entire album. It’s produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The beat sounds tailor made for Ross. On the soulful instrumental, the rapper touches on his health issues and his lifestyle. The song seems like an overflowing stream of thoughts that we rarely hear from the rapper. The result is a masterpiece.
“Vegas Residency” stands out as the finest moment on the entire album.
Ross closes out the album with “Gold Roses,” which ought to be added to the artist’s collection of soon-to-be timeless songs. Drake and Rick Ross have undeniable musical chemistry. The duo is Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen or Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant when it comes to creating songs together. This is evident with their string of previous hits like “Stay Schemin” “Diced Pineapples” and “Aston Martin Music.”
At first, it seems like the final song is Drake ft. Drake, as he dominates the song with the intro, first verse, and chorus. In typical fashion, Drake raps about his increasing wealth and relationships. He gives fans “Introspective Drake,” which is him at his peak.
Not be showed up, Ross immediately catches the listener’s attention with his opening lines: “I was nominated, never won a Grammy/ But I understand they’ll never understand me.” The verse is a solid way to close out an album as it sums up Ross’s luxurious career throughout the years.
Overall, Port of Miami 2 is a well-rounded and a great body of work. But in the same token, it’s not anything different from what Ross has done with his previous albums. There aren’t any new ideas or new flows. It’s a formula that Ross knows works. It seems like he’s been repackaging the same album over and over.
The game is always good but never great, which is what Ross has done with Port of Miami 2.
It’s similar to people buying NBA 2K. Each year they know what to expect. They’re excited about new features added each year, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s essentially the same game as the previous years. The game is always good but never great, which is what Ross has done with Port of Miami 2.
For Ross, he had the opportunity to get out of his comfort zone and make this sequel better than the first. But instead, he continued to do what works for him, which is being good at being consistent but not being consistently great.