While mostly relics of the 90s (back when anything could sell with a No Limit tank on the cover), posse albums are still something of a tradition among rappers hot enough to justify releasing major label "mixtapes". Rick Ross proves that he does in fact have that heat with Self Made Vol. 1. Unfortunately, the rest of the group upholds another tradition by struggling to get out from under their leader’s large shadow.
Rick Ross and Wale provide the most name-recognition in Maybach Music Group, so at least one of them anchors nearly every track on Self Made. This works well enough for Ross, but ends up defeating the purpose for the other emcees who all seem content to simply tune their style to sound as much like The Bawse as possible. No one would outright confuse Pill or Meek Mill with Ross, but their flows and concepts on "Pacman" or “Tupac Back” respectively, are heavily Ross-influenced.
Even Wale falls into the trap on “600 Benz” (with Jadakiss) sounding way more like the rest of the group than what we’ve come to expect from him. The production tells a similar story—a few beats from Lex Luger or The Inkredibles, but mostly a lot of other producers doing their best to sound like Lex Luger or The Inkredibles. Wale and the various producers had a big opportunity to help keep the project afloat, but they don’t seem to have taken the task seriously.
There definitely are good tracks to be found—“Rise” with CyHi Da Prynce provides the laid-back, introspective balance that we all love from Ross’ solo albums (even though he’s not actually on it). Meanwhile, even if “600 Benz” is questionable for Wale, it works in spite of itself. In fact, Self Made mostly lives up to whatever expectation anyone would have of it. It’s just that simply meeting a low standard doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme.
Self Made Vol. 1 isn’t bad, but it still comes off more like a mixtape hosted by Best Buy than a true official album. The headliners don’t seem like they’re really trying, so even when the other acts are, they’re still smothered by their leaders’ apathy. If you’re waiting for the next Rick Ross solo album, this will do, but the rest of his crew still has a lot of work to do to make themselves into something more than sidekicks.