For 10 years, Rick Ross was hip-hop’s most indefatigable boss. Seizures? A secret past as a corrections officer? The Teflon Don brushed it all off with wry humor, obscene fantasy and a matter-of-fact rapping style that made every word sound like it was highlighted and underlined. Ross’ eighth album, though, raises doubts about how he’ll fare in the era of the confessional, emotionally bare rap superstar. The man who once boasted 10-car garages and uncollected favors from dictators is now trafficking in the same honesty that made Future a critical smash and J. Cole a commercial one.
Ross spent a week in jail over the summer, but his lyrics seem like they involved months of reflection. The shadows of his exes loom large, whether he’s brokenhearted or grousing; a soaring Cee Lo Green chorus bolsters a song about seeing his mother smile; Ross still drives a foreign car, but now he wants to use it to drop his daughter off at school. Even his usual talk of raking in comical amounts of money seems more down-to-earth, detailing the joys of publishing or working in real estate. Of course, there is a such thing as oversharing, and Ross doesn’t seem to have the filter to notice when he’s being mundane (he raps way too much about Twitter and Instagram), or saccharine (Mariah Carey stops by to sing the hook of Taylor Dayne’s 1990 hit “Love Will Lead You Back”) or just making a bad decision (“Sorry” offers an Auto-Tuned Chris Brown another chance to apologize for being a shitty boyfriend).