I’m not a Rick Ross fan in the least sense (which may or may not hinder me writing this “Rick Ross Rather You Than Me Review.”) During his “hustling” days, I passed Ross off as a one-hit wonder, a gimmick, a Vanilla Ice who was going to melt faster than Vanilla Ice. When Snow rapped about “Informers” in the early 90’s, he was merely forecasting what was to become of Rick Ross with Jim Carrey accurately depicting him as an “Imposter” posing as a rapper/kingpin when he really played for the opposite end.
These were the grounds that gave me every right to ignore what Rick Ross was to presumably become. However, as cliche as it sounds, hard work and longevity eventually silenced my bias that was formed by the blogs, social media, and general perception created by the public. Though his beef with 50 Cent was comical, it didn’t diminish the rising difference of opinion I was starting to form about Ross.
So, prefacing this review with the above info, I think it is safe to say that I am in a neutral position. I do not ‘not’ like Ross nor am I a ‘super fan.’ If I’m not an enemy or ally to his music, then the question is this: “why did I listen to this album?”
And I have an answer for that: curiosity. Ross has been in hibernation since his last album Black Market in 2015. I also think there have been rumors of retirement, or at least a career shift for something different. Either way he hasn’t been noticeable on the market; guest features, mixtapes were scarce to non-existent between December 2015 to now.
Yes I am strongly curious. I want to see what’s been on his mind through the music. It’s great to hear a Breakfast Club interview with him expressing his dissolved relationship with Baby, but how deep did that go? That compelled me to listen to his new opus, Rather You Than Me with an open mind and different focus discarding my knowledge, history, and personal taste about Ross and his music.
The album opens with “Apple of My Eye” featuring former Tony Toni Tone and Lucy Pearl frontman Raphael Saadiq. Ross immediately opens his heart to the listener rapping, “Tears running down a n**** face/in a room full of failures/I feel outta place.” It’s a line that implies Ross’ general determination, ambition, and setting up this new album for success. Raphael Saadiq brings 90’s harmony to an already emotionally charged instrumental creating the mood for an already reflective tone set by Ross.
“Idols Become Rivals” you could say he lets Birdman have it, but I beg to differ. I think it’s more of an analysis of what’s wrong and proposal of how to make things right.
Speaking of tone, the first song sets it. And speaking of themes, the album is critically reflective and contemplative. There’s this balance on the album that may or may not taken Ross time to perfect, but it feels like a breath of fresh air. Depending on who you ask, mumble rap is contaminating the lyrical oxygen we breathe from our favorite artist. Depending on who you ask, Future is the father of this problem. I’m not sure how true that is, but I will speak on this. In a Zane Lowe interview, Future states that on his self-titled project, he gives the hive all of him.
Though I am a fan of his self-titled work, I completely disagree with what he said. Future gives us more of the same. There is nothing deep, or introspective on the “gold” album about his real personal life. Future gives us what he wants us to know about him.
Future’s claim bares more witness for Boss Ross. With Rather You Than Me, Ross willingly shares his honest opinion, thoughts, feelings on current situations, relationships, and more intertwined in with radio and street records. “Idols Become Rivals” you could say he lets Birdman have it, but I beg to differ. I think it’s more of an analysis of what’s wrong and proposal of how to make things right. Ross expresses this desire in “Summer Seventeen” featuring Yo Gotti as the chorus chants, “I want my n***** rich by summer seventeen.” It’s not a “can’t we all just get along,” but “I want to see all my people win.”
“Trap Trap Trap” featuring Young Thug, Jeezy, and Future…whoa…now this is an absolute banger!!! Frankly it’s not the star power of Young Thug or Future that makes the song; it’s a reinvigorated Jeezy that masterfully handles the hook and delivers a high quality verse that seems absent from his last 3-4 projects. This song is super fun to listen to; I was in my house cleaning when I had to stop and immediately stand in place to turn up. I can only imagine what it’s going to do in the clubs.
Rather You Than Nas
For myself, anytime I see a Nas feature that’s an instant plus…alas “Powers That Be” subtracts not necessarily from the album, but the song itself. Chris Rock puts up a magnificent alley-oop with his “Lord is my witness” commentary with Ross breaking the glass. But Nas gets the rebound, dresses up in a throwback 70’s NBA outfit delivering outdated “Son of man, Son of God” bars often referring to himself as this false, Egyptian deity figure. While he manages to stay on subject with the direction of the song, the faithful fan continues to be bombarded with lines we heard since the 90’s. And if you’re a new listener, then you are just told to bow down and pay respects. Not cool Nas.
Another downside to the album is its samples. “I Think She Like Me” is a fantastic, classically structured R&B-rap composition as Ty Dolla $ign delivers magic to the hook (catchiness is the obvious goal). The overused “People Make the World Go ‘Round” is hit or miss. Released as a single back in January with over six million views and a terrific like to dislike ratio on Youtube, it’s clear the song is set for victory. But in a time where custom dark, trippy, original atmospheric instrumentation is trending, the sampling is a huge gamble…not necessarily bad, but just a gamble. Only time will tell.
Aside from all that, the album on it’s own is a pure testament of Ross’ present skills, reputation, character, emotional condition, artist chemistry and sustained charisma. With hilarious intros from Chris Rock, perfectly placed features on the album, and all the other stuff, this is a hands down win for Ross the Boss. Honestly you don’t have to be a Ross fan to enjoy this album. If you’re a fan of rap period, this is worthy of your time in 2017. In a time where streaming raises the bar for focus, I had no reason to leave the album to sample other releases on my Apple Music Library.
And if you’re part of that Future hive, you may make better honey from this album.