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Rick Ross' 'Black Dollar:' First Thoughts

This is Tony Montana looking down from the World Is Yours blimp with a bowl of Wheaties in-hand.

Adrien Vargas // REVOLT

If Rick Ross is in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear. It’s just that simple.

As ostentatious as it might be, that quote is something the Maybach Music capo has proven through and through since stepping off the Port of Miami with his 2006 debut. Whether it’s shaking off the ridiculous stigma surrounding Southern rappers by charting back-to-back No. 1 albums, dodging a barrage of bullets aimed his way in a drive-by shooting or overcoming the huge odds left off by his corrections officer past — hell, the guy outmatched rap’s bad guy 50 Cent in their infamous 2009 rap war (a feud that continues to take a toll on the latter) — at every turn, Rozay continues to put the “R” in resiliency. So with legal troubles currently crashing down his marble floors and MMG’s armor showing signs of flaw, the Bawse answers to the Bat-Signal and returns with Black Dollar. Luxurious, uplifting, and arguably the synesthetic equivalent of Tony Montana looking down from the “World Is Yours” blimp with a bowl of Wheaties in-hand, Ross stands tall and on top with a brilliant opus.

Just like The Albert Anastasia EP, Ashes to Ashes and Rich Forever, Rozay’s latest free-release is another lavish mafioso-esque ride, but unlike its predecessors the boastful luxurious bars here are paired with his take on social injustices, the trials of fame, and more importantly the real life s%$@ that causes him to yell out “Drive a n%$#& crazy” like on the Jake One-produced track of the same name. Opening up the project, all of that is addressed over the lush J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League strings pulled together for “Foreclosures.”

“Foreclosed on my past life, the white man call us stupid niggas / We spend it all nothing for our children / Had it all, now it’s reposted/ Can’t feed the clique, cutting bad checks,” he so poignantly raps. On “Icon” he makes no mistake about the power that lies within his position. “Crack dealers need me as their motivation, started at the bottom, blind leading the blind,” he spits, before adding on, “I did it by myself so it took me some time, No Dr. Dres, no Eminems, no Neptunes, no Timbalands / Just doing him, and I’d do it again.” Weaving in and out between boastful materialism and true-to-self consciousness, Ross strikes a fine balance that altogether comes off effortless.

Before closing the proceedings, Ross takes time on “Bel Air,” which features a reworking of SWV’s “Rain,” to offer a toast of sorts:

“This is the very best of the best, this is top shelf, the caviar of hip-hop…

Between the earlier-mentioned “bear” quote and this said line, Black Dollar couldn’t have been summarized any better. Can’t knock the Bawse’s hustle.

“We Gon Make It”

Billy Jean, oh Billy Jean…

Opening with a news bite from the Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Gray, Rozay gets introspective real about the matters of social injustices, speaking wholly from his point of view. Offering enlightenment, he raps, “They say we just a bunch of thugs, don’t stand for nothing / Disgrace to our race, don’t belong in public / It was us against the world from the first day.”

“Geechi Liberace”

Say what you want about Ross and the many coke-fuel fantasies that gets pushed around in-rhyme, but what makes him standout is his ability to make listeners feel like they too are basking in the cocaine mist alongside the Bawse. Simply put, these “dream fantasies,” as he notes on “Foreclosures,” end up feeling believable and you’re own (wishful) reality. That much is displayed on this Jake One-produced banger, where he illustrates, “I fell asleep half naked, I woke up to a sexy Jamaican / Penthouse suite 59th floor, the other 58 were totally vacant.” Later, he goes, “I once made love to a princess / For security reasons lets call her impress.” Only, Ross.

“Icon”

He got the blueprint. With Anthony Hamilton by his side, serving as his one-man choir, Rozay delivers a strong and poignant collaboration that could only be rivaled by the ballad he served on “Rich Forever” with John Legend. “Real n@#$% born, Carol City raised / See you niggas scorn, I wasn’t phased…” he issues, while chronicling his rise. “Did it by myself so it took me some time / No Dr. Dres, no Eminems, no Neptunes, no Timbalands — just doing him” he continues before later announcing, “No longer a Don, a f$#%#&$ icon.”

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