8 June, 2011@3:35 pm
Rick Ross has seen an amazing turn in his career over the last year or so, turning accusations of being a correctional officer irrelevant, instead fashioning himself as the biggest boss that you’ve seen thus far, literally. Large in both physical stature and industry status, Ross has shot past rival 50 Cent in terms of popularity, releasing easily one of the best gangster rap albums of last year with Teflon Don. Now, he sets his sights on building his empire, the Maybach Music Group, snatching up established up & coming emcees Wale, Meek Mill, and Pill to flesh out his roster.
The album is set off by the Just Blaze banger “Self Made”, which harkens back to the material found on Teflon Don, as each member of the crew introduces themselves over a soulful, victorious track. But while Teflon Don had a surprising amount of substance in terms of production, it’s most popular track was it’s most ignorant, “B.M.F.”, a stomping Lex Lugar track, a sound that’s found too many times on Teflon Don.
Rick metaphorically assumes the roles of other historical heroes (and villains) on Self Made, much like he did with Big Meech, Larry Hoover and M.C. Hammer last time around. The audacious “Tupac Back” attacks in similar fashion, as Ross and Meek Mill assume the role of the late Makaveli, which ultimately is a guilty pleasure defined. The Lex Lugar sound really begins to overtake the album during it’s first half, as tracks like “600 Benz”, “Pac Man”, “By Any Means” and “Fitted Cap” – which play consecutively – all carry the sound made popular by “B.M.F.” Strangely, Lugar produced none of them, but Ross and company have no problem beating the listener over the head with this abrasive, monotonous sound for twenty minutes. While this kind of thing does hold merit in a smoke-filled whip on a Friday night with your crew, the gimmick wears thin pretty quickly.
By the time the mellower selections come in, the listener has been tenderized like a piece of meat, and is almost worn out – making it the equivalent to Onyx opening for Yanni. Which is a shame, because some of the album’s cooler tracks come in the second half. Curren$y and CyHi Da Prynce commandeer “Rise”, while Wale really gets to return to form with “Running Rebels”, a Teedra Moses propelled track that shows hints of his D.C. go-go background.
The real breakout star on Self Made Vol. One however, is Meek Mill. The young spitter completely overtakes “Tupac Back”, his ferocious style being the perfect compliment to Ross’ laid back delivery. The same can be said for “Ima Boss” and “Pandemonium”, both of which revert back to the album’s earlier abrasive style, but clearly putting Meek in the spotlight.
As a group album, the most dominant voices belong to Ross and Mills, as the two clearly overtake the record in terms of both sound and style. There is still room for Pill to carve out his own identity, and we already have an idea of what a Wale solo record sounds like, so ultimately Self Made Vol. One sets the stage for the Ross conglomerate. While it’s not perfect, hopefully each member’s respective solo releases will allow them to set their own paths, rather than drudging in monotony.
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