God Forgives, I Don’t…And I Don’t, Either

Musicians can’t stay hot forever. Only a select few can even come close to a 10 year music career. Five years in any genre is pushing it. After that, you can count most artists out. They won’t vanish immediately, but fans and media will hold on a few years too long while these artists have either diminished in skill, can’t top the charts, are crowded by new artists, or quite simply…the jig is up.

**I wrote a similar piece on Lil Wayne jumping the shark last year. I’m doing OK so far, no?

Hip Hop has been waiting on Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t since early 2011. Arguably releasing the most anticipated rap album of the year, the run Rozay has been on over the past two years in between solo albums rightfully put him at the top of Hip Hop’s elite.

Ross’ debut album, Port of Miami, came out in 2006. While Lil Wayne’s popularity was growing exponentially, Outkast were getting ready for their hiatus, and Ludacris and T.I. were close to recording their last hits, Young Jeezy and Rick Ross joined Weezy to take hold of southern Hip Hop’s reigns. Two Maybach Music’s and a 50 Cent feud later, the Boss began his transformation into the titan we know now when “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” made way for his fourth album, Teflon Don in 2010. Since then we’ve gotten Ashes to Ashes, introducing Wale and Meek Mill as the feature Maybach Music Group artists (almost got Wiz Khalifa); two volumes of MMG’s Self Made; and Rich Forever, which was never meant to happen.

You see, when Rick Ross first mentioned GFID, we got “Made Men” in January ’11, and then two new lead singles in October (remember these?). The album was set for December 13 before being pushed back indefinitely (wack songs and his seizures). Then in January, “Stay Schemin” and RF magically appears…but we were waiting on an album, not a mixtape. Maybe because the mixtape was the album. And since RF was so good, I worried if Ross’ album had any chance to equal.

God Forgives, I Don’t is more of a eyebrow-raiser of a title instead of something cunning. Announcing the title over a year and a half ago, it wasn’t until recently that he explained approaching the album like Scorsese and Tarantino would their movies. But how do they? Does Ricky speak with them? Does he study their films? Ross never elaborates, so I’m forced to believe he just wanted to sound like there was a plan. Just recording and picking the best songs for the album is a common practice. I’d rather Ross have said that.

One thing Rozay has going against him is that he can’t crossover. He can’t get any bigger than he is now, unless he reaches a larger audience. Hip Hop heavyweights all have had Billboard charting singles (whether it’s their own single or a feature). These songs come in all forms, but most are made for women. One top 10 Billboard hit will usually do it (even Jeezy has at least one). Unfortunately, his lone top 10 single has 57 people on it.

Ross has made some pretty impressive songs with John Legend, Chrisette Michelle and T-Pain, but he can’t crack that top 10. Which leads me to his recent collaborations with Usher. Ross probably thought he struck gold when he hopped on “Lemme See” and when Usher returned the favor for “Touch’N You.” You can tell by the way he promoted the fuck out of that song. And even though Usher’s was the better of the two, neither song’s peak was impressive (Damn, Jeezy got em again. These are the differences between Gold and Platinum plaques).

The fact that all of Rick Ross’ female-aimed songs were commercially unsuccessful proves that he has to switch up his style. It’s fine if your only skills are writing and vocals. Shit, most singers on the radio don’t even write. But writing is a rapper’s bread and butter. 99.99879986899% of rappers write their own lyrics. Rappers need to realize how precious their pen is and take more time to craft something worth listening to.

Think about it, from “Super High” and “That Way” to “You The Boss” and “Touch’N You,” you can plug in any of those Ross verses with one of those hooks and have the same song – Fuck with a guy like me and live luxuriously. Same song, different title. Where is the structure? The idiosyncrasy? The wit? Do you remember any lines from those songs? What if I started singing “Shorty say the n—- that she with ain’t shit…” or “Got a light-skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson…” Clever, right? Now what’s the most popular Rick Ross line? “I don’t make love, baby we make magic.” You knew that one, right? And guess which song is Rick Ross’ highest charting single as the lead performer to date? Coincidence?

Either Ross relies too much on his crooning counterparts to deliver a hit (plenty of artists do this), or he’s not as clever as he thinks (I’ll accept both answers). But when luck strikes, boy is it good.

The odd couple of Rozay and Drake is never nothing short of great. Drake’s subtle hooks on “Diced Pineapples” saved the day after some eh Ross verses. And while Ricky is busy tricking, this Elijah Blake guy sings the fuck out of the “Presidential” chorus. Pharrell Williams blessed the Boss on this production similar to, but more harmonic and distinct than, “Punch Drunk Love.”

Unfortunately, I only see myself coming back for two more songs a year from now. Neither have to do with a Rick Ross anything. Dr. Dre comes out of hiding for “3 Kings,” but line after line Jay-Z steals the show. By the way, did y’all see the song’s fan-made video “visual piece?” Ugh…

On “Sixteen” Ross pats himself on the back thinking spitting more than 16 bars would entice listeners. Too bad he only elongated the song to eight minutes. Andre 3000 spits around the halfway mark, and murder she wrote. Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice comes up every time I let Ross’ verse play out.

Ironically, the best and worst thing to happen to Rick Ross’ career was “B.M.F.” Lex Luger’s beat was the highlight of 2010. But while other producers emulated the rapid snares and ear-drum busting 808s, Rozay fell in love with chant rapping. Some songs are good, but it‘s to the point where we know what to expect. “Hold Me Back,” “911” and “So Sophisticated” (no chant raps on here, though) come on one after another. They almost sound like one long song.

The rest of the cd is filled with foods, rags-to-riches talk, foods, and contradictions between persuading pity for being forced into the drug game (“Ashamed”) and boasting about his past illegal profits (the rest of the album). While the production was extraordinary at some points (J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League/“Maybach Music IV,” Jake One/”3 Kings,” Pharrell Williams/”Presidential”), they couldn’t save the album.

I remember the first time I heard “Blow,” “Money Make Me Come,” “Maybach Music,” “Mafia Music,” “Magnificent,” “Rich Off Cocaine,” “Face,” “Valley of Death,” “In Cold Blood” (figure out which Ross album is my favorite yet?), “Free Mason,” “B.M.F.,” “Tears of Joy,” “Aston Martin Music,” “Stay Schemin” and “Fuck Em.” None of the records from GFID hit me like any of those did.

Rick Ross has had a good run, especially for a rapper who isn’t known for his lyrical capabilities. He’s trying to keep his legs fresh with his MMG artists, but let’s face it; aside from Wale’s promise, Meek Mill might release one retail album and the rest of them are just there. People will still eat this album up, but unless there are some serious changes, Ross’ next project should be the beginning of his demise.

South, who got next?

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