While Rick Ross may not have released a solo project in 2011, his appeal is arguably at a career apex thanks to a series of high-profile guest spots (“I’m On One,” “Lord Knows,” “John”) and a revamped Maybach Music Group roster that is steadily coming to fruition. “Rich Forever” doesn’t necessarily hinder Ross’ momentum for the oft-delayed God Forgives, I Don’t, but it also doesn’t establish a convincing tone that the album is as flawless as the Bawse would have us believe.

This isn’t to say “Rich Forever” is void of any gems. Teaming up with Nas on “Triple Beam Dreams,” the two emcees recollect earlier days of corner life over vivid production from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The title-track offers a more pensive yet triumphant Rozay, and with the addition of John Legend’s piercing soulful vocals bringing the record full circle, there’s a clear indication that Ross and Legend have found lightning in a bottle with their collaborations. Ross then plays the right role on Kelly Rowland-assisted “Mine Games,” while “Keys To The Crib” appropriately enlists a colorful wall of sound that The Inkredibles have been lacing Ross with since Deeper Than Rap.

With this small window of exceptional versatility exhibited, the biggest issue with the mixtape is that it’s frankly too much and too little at the same time. 19 tracks is a lot to burn through, and with Ross lyrically fixated on the power of the dollar (hence the title), “Rich Forever” reverts back to an arduous dose of rubber band stacks and ambitious dealings that seemingly blend together. Pick and choose your favorite production out of “King Of Diamonds,” “I Swear To God” and “MMG Untouchable”; the results are all the same, and the listener walks away none the wiser. His lyrical dexterity comes to screeching halt on “Yella Diamonds” when every one of his bars ends with the same noun. Take them out, and he’s literally just snarling over a sinister beat.

In other instances, it’s almost as if Ross is discarding records for the sake of keeping his industry buddies in good spirits. No better example of this comes on “New Bugatti,” where an inevitable train wreck accelerated by Diddy’s gaudy rhymes (“Fuck a chick all in the shower like I’m trying to drown / Turn my back just like a king I’ll let her wipe me down”) takes a turn for the worse. Similarly, “Off The Boat” is saturated with the type of negligent, simple-minded methodology that would make Waka Flocka blush, and “Ring Ring” fails right from the first note of Future’s deplorable hook. Blunder after blunder, you get the feeling one too many records were created during the process of his new album.

To Ross’ credit, “Rich Forever” is the epitome of what a mixtape can be; a project created to gauge feedback prior to a major release and adjust accordingly. It’s something he did with the Albert Anastasia EP in 2010, which paid dividends for Teflon Don through “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” . There are a handful of records here that could have a similar impact for God Forgives, I Don’t. However, in an era where artists have transformed mixtapes into celebrated relics, the replay value for “Rich Forever” won’t last much longer than a few months.

DX Consensus: “Just a Mixtape”

Listen to Rick Ross – Rich Forever