CD review: Teflon Don

Rick Ross represents the antithesis of everything I love about rap music. His subject matter, to say the least, is one-dimensional (drugs and drug money). He has an annoying vocal tic (continually repeating “Rawse” or his new nom de plume “Ro-zay”). He is a phony of the highest order (exposed as a former prison guard, not the dope-slanging tough guy he wants you to believe). And he’s bitten the style of one of the greats (Biggie).

But damn if that fat bastard doesn’t make some great records.

His latest, Teflon Don, is another banger filled with the best production money can buy, the reason that anyone with any taste in rap can tolerate Ross’ ramblings. What Ross has done is continue to expand the sonic landscape of his previous albums, giving Teflon Don an orchestral, cinematic quality that elevates generic crack rap into something much more.

Considering that most of today’s gangsta rap sounds as if it was produced on your kid’s Casio keyboard, and underground heads are severely limited in sampling due to clearance costs, hearing a sonically diverse CD is a welcome relief.

The other vibe the production gives off is that of 1980s soft-rock music. Imagine if Christopher Cross had made beats for a rap album and you get the picture of several of Ross’ smoothed-out songs. Producers The JUSTICE League, No ID, and Kanye West really lay on the dramatic, bombastic sounds, and it works.

And whatever fakery Ross has perpetrated for his rap persona, it hasn’t damaged his street cred one iota. A constellation of stars appear on the record, from Jay-Z to Kanye, Cee-Lo to Erykah Badu, each delivering strong efforts that again serve to make Ross a much better artist than he actually is.

Take Jay-Z’s blistering verse on “Free Mason” – a lyrical diatribe that you kind of wished he had used on “The Blueprint 3” instead of here. Then John Legend comes on and nails a perfect hook. How in God’s green earth does Ross pull this kind of stuff off?

“Maybach Music III” featuring T.I., Jadakiss and Erykah Badu and “Aston Martin Music” with Drake and Chrisette Michelle are like cousins – buttery-smooth production with sharp raps from the guests and adequate performances from Ross. I suggest seeking out the extended version of “Aston,” which makes the song feel more like a Drake than Ross song, but the truncated version works fine as well.

While Ross’ strengths lie in the kind of 80s, coked-out Scarface music that fills the majority of “Teflon,” that’s not to say he’s not adept at coming up with high-octane street bangers as well. The sonically similar “MC Hammer” – with a somewhat tolerable appearance from Gucci Mane – and “BMF” with Styles P are guaranteed to be pulsating from whips for the rest of the summer.

Without a doubt, however, the album’s centerpiece is “Live Fast, Die Young,” a 6:13 masterpiece masterminded by the one and only Kanye. Flipping the “Uphill Piece of Mind” sample, Kanye provides he and Ross with an epic backdrop for their tales of braggadocio.

Clocking in at a relatively brief 11 songs, Ross doesn’t overstay his welcome, making Teflon Don the rare rap record that leaves the listener wanting a bit more. I’m ashamed to say this, but that’s the case. Rick Ross has done it again.

~ by Elliott on July 21, 2010.

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