“Teflon Don” (Maybach Music/Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam)
That someone would revive the memory of MC Hammer’s glory days and use it as an enthusiastic metaphor for modern-day rap excess was inevitable. That it would happen on an album that also samples a Bobby Seale speech is unexpected. That the rapper who’s pulled this off, and successfully at that, is Rick Ross is one of the great unlikely hip-hop success stories of the past decade.
“Teflon Don” is Rick Ross’s fourth solo album, and the one that establishes him as one of rap’s most potent and creative forces. He’s a ferocious character, an impressive rapper and, as heard on this strong album, a clever and loose thinker, willing to try out new poses.
There’s “MC Hammer,” of course, the bombastic celebration of the rap good life, on which he boasts, over a martial Lex Luger beat, “I got 30 cars, whole lotta dancers/I take ’em everywhere/I’m MC Hammer.” But that comes on the same album as “Tears of Joy,” one of Mr. Ross’s most striking songs to date.
Following the clip of Mr. Seale, Mr. Ross begins delivering lines in a measured fashion reminiscent of spoken-word poetry — “Looking in the mirror but I don’t see much/Still running the streets so I don’t sleep much” — the gaps between them adding heft to the emotion. Singing the hook, Cee-Lo taps back into the grit of his Goodie Mob days, delivering genuine ache. On the beat, oceanic drums and a wailing guitar, brought together by the producer No I.D., evoke a funereal mood.
It’s a vast leap for Mr. Ross, who just a few years ago was compensating for his lumpy street talk with imposing personality. Now he’s grown. “Teflon Don” isn’t the consistently sumptuous affair that his last album, the magisterial “Deeper Than Rap,” was, but it’s just as confident, a reminder that hip-hop social climbing isn’t monochromatic.
He raps movingly about his parents on “All the Money in the World.” “Live Fast, Die Young,” featuring and produced by Kanye West, has the winning naïveté of Mr. West’s early work. “Aston Martin Music,” produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League — responsible for most of the sensuous production on “Deeper Than Rap” — has the seductive allure of quiet storm R&B.
And joining Mr. Ross is a smart selection of guests: T.I. and Jadakiss on “Maybach Music III”; a sinister Styles P on “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”; and the always witty Gucci Mane on “MC Hammer.” (“Diamonds moving on my chest, doing the Hammer dance/70 grand make my jeans sag like some Hammer pants.”)
Mr. Ross has his mind on some other (alleged) peers, though. “I think I’m Big Meech/Larry Hoover,” goes the hook of “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” — that’s one of the heads of the Black Mafia Family, now serving a 30-year sentence for running a drug trafficking organization, and the rumored leader of the Gangster Disciples of Chicago, serving a life sentence.
Mr. Ross has always happily played around with ideas of authenticity. He borrowed his name from the former Los Angeles drug lord Freeway Ricky Ross, who recently tried to secure an injunction against the release of this album in connection with a lawsuit over the use of the name. (He was unsuccessful.)
Mr. Ross, whose career has survived the release of a photo of him as a correctional officer, remains unbowed. “Self-made, you just affiliated,” he raps here. “I built it ground up, you bought it renovated/Talking plenty capers, nothing’s been authenticated.” Depending how you look at it, it’s either the sound of rich irony or of the triumph of being atop the new pecking order. – JON CARAMANICA
View Source Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/arts/music/19choice.html?_r=1
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