Beats, delivery a mismatch on ‘Billionaire’
Rick Ross may never again reach the heights of “Teflon Don,” the 2010 album that announced his arrival as one of hip-hop’s essential characters: a mountainous man with a mountainous ego with the mountainous songs to match. Maximalism was his mode, and it served him well.
Yet for some reason, he’s never been quite so large since. He’s tried introspection. He’s tried a return to scraped-up street narrative. And now, on “Hood Billionaire,” his seventh album, he’s turned into a curator of eclectic sounds.
Maybe that was Ross’ true weapon: an ear for the unexpected. When he worked with Lex Luger all those years ago, he staked out a sound few others were prepared to use. But not all inspiring sounds are the right ones, and “Hood Billionaire” is a collection of beats that don’t always suit Ross’ skill set.
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Mostly on this album, Ross turns slow and syrupy. The title track is a turned-down version of his old megahits. (No wonder; Luger is one of that song’s producers.) “Trap Luv” is velvety and calm underneath paranoid lyrics. On “Elvis Presley Blvd.,” Ross is shouting atop a flamboyantly slow soul beat. “Quintessential” creeps along at snail’s pace.
When the beat has attitude, Ross knows how to complement it, as on the staggering, clangorous “Coke Like the 80’s,” or on the weepy “Family Ties,” which showcases Ross’ aptitude for narrative, one of his skills that’s sometimes overshadowed by his gift for boast.
But not all the songs here are so well matched. Ross is trying hard to find new ways to present himself, making this an ambitious album, but not always one with the right ambition.
Jon Caraminica, New York Times