Rap's own Jordan Belfort doesn't have to be likeable to impress
Quick show of hands: who here has seen The Wolf Of Wall Street? Chances are that most of you have, and also that you heartily enjoyed it – it was, after all, such a hot ticket for a while that cinemas throughout the land were unable to meet the demand for tickets. However, there’s also a slight chance that some of you may have shared the view that it wasn’t actually that good. That, with all the elements of the film turned up to 11, the drug-taking, the flaunting of material goods, the profanity, the loveless sex and nudity, the film was actually quite tedious. And even if these things aren’t boring, the central fact remained that the ‘hero’ Jordan Belfort was a bit of an arsehole.
This is the problem with Rick Ross. He is, in many ways, the rap equivalent of The Wolf Of Wall Street, a personification of excess and the emptiness of it. Indeed, many of his lyrical concerns are the same as those aforementioned motifs – the obsession with status and wealth, the profanity and, to a certain extent, the drugs (thankfully, Rick steers clear of the nudity – he’s not in the best of shape). As a result, Rick Ross records have a tendency to make him sound like a bit of a Jordan Belfort.
One of the main problems with Rick Ross as a rapper is also the central problem with the movie – namely, he’s not especially good. This isn’t a problem in itself – a great many of the most successful MCs in the game right now, among them Lil Wayne and French Montana (both of whom show up here) and most definitely 2Chainz, are terribly limited MCs. This isn’t necessarily an issue if the beats they are riding are brutally on point, but when Rick Ross is on autopilot, being boorish and repetitive and uninventive in his flows, you can’t help wondering how much the track would benefit being entrusted to a Pusha T or a Sean Price, or, closer to home, a Blizzard or a Tony D.
There’s no doubting that the beats on Mastermind, as you would expect from a production roster including Kanye West, Jake One, JUSTICE League and The Weeknd, are exceptional, lush and bombastic and full of zaftig soul samples. So, really, it’s all down to Rick and whether he shows up. And he does. On The Devil Is A Lie, on which Jay Z also kills it, he is almost possessed, roaring and gasping his lyrics. West’s contribution, Sanctified, is a glorious snail’s-pace gush of braggadocio (not convinced that being “the fresh David Koresh” is much of a boast though), likewise the ragga-heavy Mafia Music III. In fact, if the album had wrapped up after Sanctified, rather than dribbling to a close with the weedy Walkin’ On Air and Thug Cry, then Mastermind would be pretty much wall-to-wall bangers. And not, thankfully, the kind of bangers you see too much of in The Wolf Of Wall Street.