This will be the second time this blog has incorporated or mentioned fat sayer-of-words Rick Ross. Which is a little weird since tonight represents the first time I’ve actually sat down and listened to the man. (Yes, this is what I am doing at 11:05PM on a Monday night. At age 26. I’m listening to Rick Ross.) I just got a tentative deal to review the man’s sophomore effort and am sitting down to listen to his blindingly overproduced first album, Port of Miami.
The general consensus on this man is that he is a big fat lucky moron who bought one of 2006’s best novelty tracks and proceeded to rhyme “Atlantic” with “Atlantic” over it. Even Tom Breihan, widely considered the Gene Shalit of rap critics, called him a terrible rapper. I certainly don’t disagree — I’ve heard enough of his alarmingly heavy-breathing “freestyles” on the terrible mixtapes I used to buy five at a time from the corner bodega to have no illusions about the man’s rhyming abilities.
And yet when I sit down with this album, I’m surprised right away. No, it isn’t “good” — though the first third is decent — and Rick Ross is not someone I could call a “good rapper” and look at myself in the morning. But he’s at least competent. On “Push It” and “Blow,” he tosses vowel sounds around in a nimble-for-a-fat-guy way, like seeing your dad hustle to scoop a ground ball at the company softball game . I mean, “I handle coke like a vandal off the banana boat/Bananas in the rifle, no ciphers, I’m just a man of note” certainly isn’t worthy of Rakim, but its better than the line “Mo’ trucks (mo’ trucks, mo’ bucks, mo’ freaks, mo’ butts” would suggest he’s capable of. By my count, at least, there’s more wordplay in the first four songs of Port of Miami than on 50 Cent’s last two studio albums. And that’s a really damning statement…..about me, mostly because it implies that I’ve listened to enough Rick Ross and 50 Cent to make the comparison.
To be sure, Rick Ross has nothing resembling “flow;” he just kind of mumbles all his words before the beat hits and hopes all the pieces fall into place. He also never varies the tone of his voice. And yet there’s something oddly hypnotic about his wounded-rhinocerous cadence, especially the way he punches in the lat two syllables of EVERY LINE. This is borne, of course, of his inability to string together two lines of the English language back-to-back, but the odd emphases created by this technique are ear-catching. Say what you want about this guy, and plenty of rap critics have lobbed some pretty toxic spitballs, but he has taken the rudimentary tools available to him and created a language all his own, like rap’s Nell.
Taaay iiinna WEEEEEEND.
Or for another comparison, take this verse of “Hustlin,” where he rhymes “twenty-two” with “twenty-two” SEVEN TIMES IN A ROW, punching the words in at the end like a watermark every time.
Don’t tote no … (punch-in): “TWENTY-TWO’S!!”
Magnum cost me ... (punch-in):”TWENTY-TWO!!”
Tatted on the … (punch-in): “TWENTY-TWO!!”
Birds go for … (punch-in): “TWENTY-TWO!!!”
Lil mama super thick, she say she … (punch-in): “TWENTY-TWO!!!”
She seen them … (punch-in): “TWENTY-TWO’S!!!”
We in room … (punch-in): “TWO TWENTY-TWO!!!”
Rawwss understands repetition’s ability to create slack-jawed, glassy-eyed obedience at least as well as this guy (LOL TOPICAL).
Sigh. There. I can now say with relief that while I am regrettably not done thinking about Rick Ross, I am at least done thinking about him FOR FREE.