Much like the real John “Teflon Don” Gotti himself, Rick Ross has been able to maneuver around personal pitfalls throughout the last five years without his career suffering an abrupt ending. This same resiliency has subsequently allowed us to anticipate new material from the rapper rather than write it off with questionable expectations. Still, despite three albums and a handful of notable hit records, Ross has yet to put forth a full length project that truly defines his legacy within Hip Hop. With his latest effort, Teflon Don, the Floridian takes on the task of solidifying his status while balancing out appreciation from fans and critics alike.
Ross has always had a great ear for beats as evident on Port Of Miami and Deeper Than Rap, yet the illustrious production done for Teflon Don may be his best selections yet. “Maybach Music III” continues the series by collaborators J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who this time around trade in their beat machines for a full orchestral composition that is undeniably excellent. Taking a rock-tinged route, Ross and Jay-Z use “Free Mason” as a way to compare their grandiose demeanor to that of the alleged occult organization. Denouncing his rumored affiliation, Hov rhymes, “It’s amazing that I made it through the maze that I was in / Lord forgive me I never would have made it without sin / Holy water, my face in the basin / Diamonds in my rosary shows he forgive him.” Of course, Ricky Rozay would be in violation without the addition of a street-anthem on his new disc. Rightfully so, the bass-heavy banger “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” from new-coming producer Lex Luger fills the void perfectly as Ross and Styles P trade motivational bars about living life in a different tax bracket.
Although Rick Ross doesn’t necessarily come across as the introspective type, he elicits confessional time with “Tears Of Joy” . Over soulful production from No I.D. that begins with a short-but-warranted audio clip of Bobby Seales reciting Huey P. Newton’s definition of “power,” Ross attempts to put his successful life into perspective. “All The Money In The World” treads similar territory as he touches on his fathers passing. Opening up on the personal tragedy that occurred 10 years ago, he says, “I can hear my daddy saying, ‘Lil’ nigga go get em’ / Passed in ‘99, cancer all in his liver / Shit, difference since we last spoke your son a little richer / I’d never rap again if I could tell him that I miss him.” Still, even with a heavy heart and concerned conscious Ross throws caution to the wind as he celebrates the fruits of his labor with Kanye West on “Live Fast, Die Young” . Making a strong comeback since last year’s MTV Music Awards incident, ‘Ye confidently raps, “I’m back by unpopular demand / At least we still poppin’ in Japan / Shopping in Milan, hopping out the van, screams from the fans / ‘Yeezy always knew you’d be on top again!’”
Ross does get side-tracked at times by catering to other featured guests on his album. Case in point: his collaborative record “No. 1” with Dream Team brethren Diddy. While the record’s high energy vibe could find its way booming out of club sound systems, the actual performance comes off as contrived and uninspired. Also, it’s rarely the occasion that a Diddy verse (“First one to write a check in an earthquake / Same motherfucker that’ll make the earth shake”) will enhance your record. Slowing down the tempo, “Aston Martin Music” rides in as an ode to the ladies. Willing his hoarse voice to fit the lush production provided by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Ross inevitably takes a back seat to hook contributors Chrisette Michele and Drake.
Aside from an atrocious guest appearance from Gucci Mane on “MC Hammer,” Teflon Don flows thoroughly well. Lyrically, Ross hasn’t progressed since Deeper Than Rap. With that said, he has found a way to incorporate more into his music without compromising his mission as evidenced by a shortened track list and less dependency on tall tales about cocaine dreams. Ross prominently references his desire to become a “larger than life” figure, and in due time that characterization may be fulfilled. For now though, making quality music at a respectable rate will do just fine.