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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rick Ross - Teflon Don: B-

I have never heard a rapper embody exhaustion quite like Rick Ross. The moment the man appears on any track of Teflon Don, it sounds like he's been on a week-long rapping bender right up to that point, and is attacking the track with the vigor of a death wish. The best moments of Ross's new album are when he plays into that exasperated ethos, rapping hysterically over stubbornly unchanging beats that revolve around ascending key changes.

To Ross's credit, Teflon Don's second half does just that, moving from certified trunk-rattler, "No. 1" through string-laden "MC Hammer" and its doppelganger, "B.M.E. (Blowin' Money Fast)" to the Drake-assisted "Aston Martin Music". However, the approach proves to be a catch-22, because, with so much nonstop hustlin', the album begins to sound like gansta overkill.

Variance is essential, and the songs of Teflon Don that provide it are extremely hit-and-miss. The self-depreciating humor of the Kanye West-produced "Live Fast Die Young" wouldn't sound out of place on The College Dropout (sample lyric: "They say we can't be livin' like this for the rest of out lives / Well, we gon' be livin' like this for the rest of tonight") while "I Got a Bitch" capitalizes on an uninspired "Pimpin' All Over the County" premise and features one of the most half-assed choruses I have heard in my lifetime. "Super High" and "I'm Not a Star" both feature by-the-numbers production cliches, but, where the former relies on a bland R&B/rap hybrid, the latter plays to Ross's aforementioned strengths, to enjoyable effect. The cinematic scope of "Maybach Music III" fits T.I. and Jadakiss's guest spots, perfectly, but Gucci Mane's slow drawl is hilariously out of place on the sonically relentless "MC Hammer".

Lyrically, Ross is just as inconsistent. Other than a few scattershot lines, the man is only particularly quotable on "Free Mason" (sample lyric: "Right now I could rewrite history / I stopped writing so fuck it I'll do it mentally"). His performance overall is pretty unremarkable and can sour easily, like when he unleashes his tone-deaf singing voice on closer, "Money in the World".

The best of Teflon Don ("Live Fast Die Young", "No.1", "I'm Not a Star") can prove to be extremely effective party fodder for the playlist that will accompany whatever is left of your summer. The rest is fine for occasional listens, but would be greatly aided by some serious editing and a more potent lyrical presence. Ross has been on somewhat of a career arc since his first album, so there's a chance he can still improve his craft and finally make a lean product. For, now, treat Teflon Don as another transitory step and take the good tracks and run.


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