Rick Ross is one of the greatest Hip-Hop Mcs of all time. He’s intentionally recognized for his high quality and for his conduct as a business mogul. Ross’ run in Hip-Hop is almost unforeseen – there are many albums with better skill sets yet Ross’ discography somehow has more classics. What separates Ross from other MCs, is his musicality, how he oozes luxury and his incredible storytelling. Only a handful of rappers can create songs that motivate and inspire like Ross. On 17 songs, Ross manages to speak on his shortcomings, religion, dream-chasing (FREE MEEK MILL) and drug dealing (which he manages to do in a somewhat decoded manner). It’s truly a phenomenal work that’s stood the test of time.
Starting off with “Pray For Us”, Ross opens and focuses on the album’s religious meanings. Essentially, the track is a prayer for protection for the life of a hustler and those who have suffered early. He elaborates further on his struggles on “Pirates”. Incredibly detailed writing and most remarkably, Ross production choice – it’s signature Rozay sonically. Thereafter, “3 Kings”. This is pure ecstasy. Jack-One unleashes one of his most majestic beats yet, as Ross features Dre and Jay-Z for what is clearly a blockbuster moment. It doesn’t disappoint. All three artists tell of their rags-to-riches tales. A solid showing by Dre and Ross is impressive. Ross rhymes about his drug upcoming and his success, however, its outdone by a timeless Hov verse. As braggadocios as ever, Hov is on his Sean Carter shit. He’s beyond cloth talk, this is art talk. Mogul talk, indeed. “Been hoppin’ out the BM with your BM/ taking her places that you can’t go with your per diem/ Screamin’ carpe diem until I’m a dead poet/ Robbin Williams shit, I deserve a Golden Globe, bitch!”. Great wordplay on Hov’s part. His ability to reference unrelated events together to create an intended meaning or thought is somewhat unparalleled. Almost the entire verse is quotable.
“Ashamed” is another well-produced song. Made by Cool & Dre, it samples Wilson Pickett’s “Shameless”. The instrumental follows the sample’s soul inspired nature and interpolates Soul characteristics. Ross stresses multi-syllables words and creates intricate rhymes schemes all over. Ross is in his bag. “Maybach Music IV” follows and it features Ne-Yo. This is the soundtrack for every struggling person aspiring to be rich. It’s one of those songs you listen to and feel the noble lifestyle you have been dreaming of. It’s well-structured from the beginning and its transitions are smooth. Ne-Yo’s vocal dynamics add to the feeling of the record and enhances its dreamlike experience. Notably, its the first Maybach Music song from the series without a rap feature but it truly wasn’t a necessity. Ross killed this and if you know L.A Reid then his short speech is just as powerful as a verse from your favorite rapper.
“Sixteen” and “Amsterdam” cement his phenomenal run. These are my clear favorite on this project. It’s hard to not go a week without listening to these songs. “Sixteen” is timeless. How many artists can make an 8 minute whereby it’s still got incredible replay value and the content isn’t repetitive or lacks relations? Simply incredible. The song breaks conventional music structure as Ross explains that, “when you get some music that you really love or a track that you really love, sometimes sixteen bars is not enough to really express yourself”. Well, they made me love it. This is pretty much free-form Rap. Ross and André 3000 have amazing chemistry that’s easy to hear. This wasn’t forced and is an example of creative musicians joining forces to create greatness. Ross explained that “he [André 3000] pulled out a guitar and banjo on this one and he sang a little bit on the end of it.” Ross branded it a “classic” within a week of its release. He was right. On a J.U.S.T.I.C.E League instrumental, Ross and Andre drop mind-blowing verses. The Jazz-infused sound creates a sense of nostalgia. Ross’ pen is immaculate. It’s hard to mention better Ross verses but again, Ross is undone by his ear. His instinct to add André proves monumental. André delivers a gem. The verse is worth his weight in gold. André is known as an elite lyricist and remarkable guest verse run but this is as good as it gets. André is floetic (yeah, his flow is too poetic). He rhymes with ease. André illustrates his incredible storytelling, he is as detailed as ever, and he shines. With heavy and dense internal rhymes along with unexpected syllable stressing – the verse is flawless. Rhyming about issues faced in communities, André gets his shit off. To top of the extraordinary and abnormal verse, André makes the chorus incredibly smooth.
“Amsterdam” follows the fusion of Hip-Hop and Jazz. Its a very well produced instrumental by Cardiak. The vocals act as a necessity rather than a second thought. Ross has fun with it, as he flows perfectly and his tales sound really authentic. Ross’ cadence and tone carries a certain level of confidence that makes every story believable. Ross’ pays homage to the legendary rap group, the Fugees, and the red light district and coffee shops in Amsterdam throughout.
“911”, “Hold Me Back” and “So Sophisticated” are club bangers. Similar to Ross’ effort on Lil Wayne’s “John”, he seems to recreate that sonically, however, with a different production. The result is pretty hard hitting rap and trap-influenced lyricism. These are necessity on any Ross projects. It’s the sound that he crafted and gained popularity from. This is strictly for the streets. Meek Mill’s energy on “So Sophisticated” is also appreciated as his energy breathes life into the song. However, after being trap-influenced, the album direction changes to calmer tides.
“Presidential”. The production screams affluence. One would think that Pharell’s signature four-count star would be easy to identify but this instrumental doesn’t sound incredibly Pharell, however, it’s beautiful. Elijah Blake’s vocals are perfect. When Pharell explained his process in making the song, he said “I’m just tryna make Mario Puzo tell his story”. Well, Mario is the author of Ross’ favorite movie, The Godfather. With that in mind, Pharell created this strictly for Ross’ luxury raps. Ross shows love to his favorite watch, the Rolex Presidential. That’s such a Rick Ross thing to do. Anyhow, their chemistry is extraordinary. Pharell described the song as, “really special”. I can’t disagree. The use of the vocals in the melody is spectacular. It provides a great foundation for Ross to rap and he excels with well-timed flows. Two of the world’s greatest ear finally collaborated and they delivered. Ross sounds inspired by Biggie. It should be noted that Notorious B.I.G is credited on the song.
The album continues to see Ross deliver smooth love songs. “Touching’ You” featuring Usher is a good love song. Picking Usher was a pretty good move as he has the ability and the endearing status in the R&B. “Diced Pineapples” was a Billboard chart hit but more importantly, it’s timeless. The song’s aged wonderfully. Wale starts the song very poetically and he delivers on a song that’s well-suited for his high rhyme density. Ross’ verses is memorable, he’s changed his cadence and flow to suit the piano-infused instrumental. Also, the signature Ross’ grunt is always notable. Huuuuh! Moreover, Drake kills the hook of the song. This just another of many Ross-Drake collaborations that are timeless. Their output as a duo is underrated.
“Ice Cold” is an easy skip. That’s not to say that it’s bad but it’s mediocre at best. The instrumental is basic and Omarion’s inclusion is a mere afterthought. In fact, in hindsight, Omarion’s inclusion on the album is only because he was signed to Ross’ Maybach Music Group.
“Ten Jesus Pieces” featuring Stalley. J.U.S.T.I.C.E League make every instrumental so irresistible. Exceptional chemistry between rapper and producer. Ross touches on socio-political situations that impact his every decision. He elaborates on his drug-dealing days and the instrumental helps enhance the sense of nostalgia. The references to blood diamonds and religion are inextricably linked. The hook is great. Ross is an underrated as connoisseur of fine hooks as he pays homage to Rakim, Eric B and the Pharycade. Ross shows he’s a true student of the game with every reference. Stalley, a now-former member of Ross’ MMG, drops a great verse too. He also pays homages to those before him. He mentions Nas, Jay, Kanye and Notorious B.I.G. Referencing similar context as Ross, he speaks of his gang dealings and his commitment to being Muslim.
“Triple Beam Dreams”. Oh man, oh man. On any other album, this moment would be seen as “saving the best for last”. Unfortunately on a high quality album such as God Forgives, I Don't, that statement holds no weight. Ross and Nas team up again but take inspiration from the Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M”. The song plays on their drug dealing experiences. Both verses are abnormally long and detail the effect of socio-economic circumstance in their doings and communities. Nas uses a cynical tone and sense of realism whilst Ross’ verse is a detailed narrative that sees the rise and falling of a cocaine kingpin. Their verses are exceptional and J.U.S.T.I.C.E League’s production perfectly suited those visually stimulating lyrics.
In conclusion, this is my favourite Ross album and his best to due. It used various rap styles and excelled in every format. The album’s impact was huge as was later nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards. It was a huge commercial success but more importantly, it is an incredible body of work. It’s well-produced, filled with great lyricism, excellent fusion of elements, great chemistry, vast impact and the replay value is phenomenal. Moreover, Ross' curation of the album tracklist is excellent. The album direction and track ordering is superb. 6 years after its release, it’s safe to say – this is a classic.
“Millions on the wall in all my rooms/ Niggas couldn’t fuck with my daughter’s room/ Niggas couldn’t walk in my daughter’s socks/ Banksy bitches, Basquiat” (Hov)
“Fabricate bout your fortune, all my fabric’s imported/ Fornicate in my fortress, 40K still my mortgage/ 24K my toilet, all my taxes reported” (Ross)
“Fishscale made me major profit margins, I’m a prophet stuffing my pockets, you niggas starving!” (Ross)
“You know the crib on the water now/ the Maybach stay watered down/ Project niggas givin’ orders now/ The gold presidential just to sport around” (Ross)
“Walkin’ on Jewish marble, hand painted the ceilin'/ Happy Hanukkah nigga, it's a wonderful feelin'" (Ross)
“Versace shirt, Jesus layig on the chest/ Man, I swear Big did it the best/ I mean, ‘Ye did it fresh but man, Big did it the best” (Stalley)
“Ex D-boy, used to park my Beamer/ Now, look at me, I can park in my own arena” (Hov)
“Been hoppin’ out the BM with your BM/ taking her places that you can’t go with your per diem/ Screamin’ carpe diem until I’m a dead poet/ Robbin Williams shit, I deserve a Golden Globe, bitch!” (Hov)
“New Maybach, after it was discontinued.” (Ross)
“Lyor like how I move, Warner right in my lap/ I made a few mills, ain’t mentionin’ Meek/ Went and bought a new crib, the weekend Wale released” (Ross)
“She yelling that selling’s a sin/ Well, so is telling young men that selling is a sin/ If you don’t offer new ways to win” (André 3000)
“A project-minded individual criminal tactics/ Us, blacks kids born with birth defects, we hyperactive/ Mentally sex-crazed, dysfunctional, they describe us/ They liars, the end of the day, we fucking survivors!” (Nas)
But fuck it, the whole album is quotable.