Rick Ross returns with Mastermind; his highly-anticipated sixth studio album and follow-up to 2012’s God Forgives, I Don’t. On his latest project, Ross continues his musical trademarks; the ones that have served him so well up to this point and helped to establish his persona. Rozay is still very much into excess and he wallows and revels in it. Wealth and consumption are at the forefront of his mind, yet again, and depending on your taste, it can sound either invigorating or woefully tiresome by the time you get mid-way through Mastermind.
With a roster of producers that includes Jake One, Kanye West, JUSTICE League and The Weeknd, the Miami rap don has quite the enviable sonic backdrop to share his tales of wealth and crime. But for those who worried after God Forgives … that Rozay had run out of things to say; their fears may be quietly affirmed here. When he sounds like he’s into it, Ross is still one of the more charismatic rhymers in rap. But when he’s phoning it in, his limitations lyrically become all too obvious. And the fact that he hasn’t expanded that far outside of his money and power wheelhouse is hard to miss.
Ross and Jay Z shine on “The Devil Is A Lie,” one of the album’s clear standout tracks, as is the psych-gospel of West’s “Sanctified.” But throughout Mastermind, it starts to feel like Ross is on autopilot, so used to giving the fans what they want, that somehow, he’s forgotten how to challenge himself artistically. On “Rich Is Gangsta” Ross raps that “Before the crib you gotta clear the guard’s gate/Elevators like Frank’s on Scarface.” Structurally, Mastermind continues Ross’ penchant for crafting cinematic albums that sound like a whole entity, and he retains his flair for the melodramatic in his storytelling.
Mastermind slightly dials back the bombast and Ross proves he still has what it takes to deliver a competent album. But it is a slight disappointment that he didn’t try to break out of his box a little more. Nonetheless, the album holds up to repeat spins and, if nothing else, reminds everyone that there are very few craftsmen as consistent as Rozay in contemporary hip-hop.