Hood Billionaire is the second album of 2014 for Rick Ross. This stands in contrast to 2014s now well documented trajectory of A-listers holding back on their projects until 2015. Instead, Rozay is stepping out to the forefront with a project that is a diluted version of his initial 2014 offering Mastermind, which itself lacked the mythic grandiosity of his previous works. In that way, Hood Billionaire, offers itself as an example of good concepts that do not strike the chord they are meant to.
It begins with a sketch of two men attempting to dig up four bags of money at eight million apiece. The scene immediately sniffs of Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas where, driving in the middle of the night to go dig a hole for their fresh kill, the three amigos lay waste to the schlub in the trunk one final time before Henry Hill’s voice shoots through the fog and he says, “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” This, too, is Ross’s narrative. From Port Of Miami on down, Ross has been a different protagonist in different versions of that storyline. On the aforementioned he was a young Tony Montana, evoking images of rising through the ranks of Miami’s infamous cocaine cowboys’ with tracks like “Push It,” and “Hustlin’.” This imagery continued through to his 10’ magnum opus Teflon Don where he balanced his now enormous super-stardom with sobering introspection. The bombast remained (“B.M.F.,” “M.C. Hammer,” and “Maybach Music III”) but songs like “Tears Of Joy” used Cee Lo’s crooked tenor to connect to your humanity. It succeeded so well because beyond the singles, Ross was a person living the American dream. “Last night I cried tears of joy / What did I do to deserve this? / Young rich motherfucker, still uneducated but damn a nigga made it.” That album closed with “All The Money In The World,” where Ross drafted a song to himself, reminding him of what was important: his daughter, his lady, his journey to power and not the power itself. All of that is missing on Hood Billionaire. Instead, we get a caricature of a protagonist who feels, essentially, bored.
The narrative of a man (perhaps his accomplice) calling from prison (perhaps because he took the fall) laces itself as the backbone of the album. But Ross never includes him in any of the stories on the records. Instead, it’s more of the same from Rozay: money, women, drugs and excess. “Hood Billionaire” may be the most egregious example of this, where his lyrics act as a listicle of pompous statements like, “I went and bought your bitch a washer and dryer / I see it in your son’s face I’m the one that he admires.” The rest is a lot of this sprinkled with more entertaining versions of itself. The singles “Neighborhood Drug Dealer” and “Movin’ Bass” featuring Jay Z work as the more entertaining copies of the title track. Though “Movin’ Bass” may be Jay Z’s least admirable work on a hook in forever, it still plods along satisfactorily. Then there are the high points. “Coke Like The 80’s” reminds you of vintage bawse, but lacks any real emotion, and it was just good to hear Project Pat’s voice on the very catchy “Elvis Presley.” “Phone Tap” is dark but elicits no real fear, unlike the Firm’s 90s masterpiece, and “Nickel Rock” featuring Boosie Badazz borrows Baddazz’ energy to make for a lively retelling of their coke-boy beginnings. The best song on the album pound-for-pound is the closer “Brimstone” featuring Big K.R.I.T. as it borrows K.R.I.T.’s pastor like ability to convey lament. The albums saving grace, though, is the production. As it features heavy hitters like Metroboomin’, Lex Luger, Timbaland, Beat Billionaire and K.R.I.T. himself.
Beyond those halved moments, the behind the boards wizardry and K.R.I.T., the album skips along predictably and offers nothing much outside of Rozay’s usual narrative. He drops George Zimmerman’s name strangely on “Burn,” almost as a way of speaking to absurdity. And that inmate making the call spends all of his time telling Ross how great he is, and how fantastic he’s done to make it where he has. The album, however, shows that the king of Maybach Music and one of the most prolific entrepreneurs in Hip Hop already knows. In an interview with the Breakfast Club Ross says this album would be the companion piece to Mastermind, and would be his “Geechi Liberace.” Yet, it does not quite reach the lap of luxury of it’s designer.