Written by: The Bro
Rozay’s Return To The Director’s Chair
I’m not sure if Rick Ross has ever touched an MPC or fiddled with Pro Tools and yet he is one of the best producer/rappers to touch the mic. There’s a big difference between simply making a beat and producing a song. For a decade, Ross has displayed a talented ear for beats and an Oscar winning director’s talent for putting the right sounds and people in place to elevate his works. On his latest album, Rather You Than Me, Ross once again brings his tales to life with cinematic zeal.
As Nas once said, the feature opens with this young black child. Apple Of My Eye slowly unravels, revealing layer after layer – a bassline here, introspective raps there, as Ross recounts his life past and present. “Another tree stump, happy with his free lunch” who eventually made good in his momma’s eyes. Raphael Saadiq is cast for the hook, and like Scorsese, Ross gives him space to shine. This could almost be a track on a Saadiq album. It’s not simply a hook purchased for a dollar amount and repeated 3-4 times, it’s an actual collaboration.
For his next scene, Ross reveals an overhead shot of a private yacht sailing into the sunset with an assist from soul master Bink!. Santorini Greece is a standout, where Ross addresses haters who want to take his block, and those who want to prevent him from buying it. All while floating over an immaculate beat that pulsates with an 80s-esque sax. These lush landscapes are often where Ross is at his best, and the track definitely compares well with previous classics like Amsterdam and Rich Off Cocaine.
As with any great director, Ross is a master of drama. Idols Become Rivals is more than a diss record airing out petty disputes. Every man must have a code, and I can’t think of two label heads at more opposite ends than Ross and Birdman. While MMG has lost most of the steam it once had, you never hear Ross’ artists accuse him of theft or record deal trickery. This stands in stark contrast to Birdman and is a major reason why the record works so well.
Earlier this year Remy Ma released her own version of the classic Nas diss, but I’d venture to argue Ross channels the real potency of Ether here. The slick and disrespectful lines about Jay Z’s looks were fun, but it was Nas’ utter disappointment and disgust towards Hov that left a bigger impact. Nas sonned Jay, “like a proud dad watching his only son who made it,” from a place of love. Similarly, Ross paints Birdman as his Fredo, with a kiss on the forehead and a shot to the back of the head. A selfish fraud who has robbed his artists, including his so called son Wayne, Birdman is indicted from on high (“publishing is a sin”) and cast down.
With his antagonist deposed of, Ross spends much of the rest of his cinematic feature celebrating his accomplishments. A classic sample provides the canvas on which Ross and Ty Dolla $ign lace I Think She Like Me with some shit for the ladies. It sounds like it would be a hit song in a past time, but for now will settle as just a dope song. Later the God MC himself Nasir Jones provides a cameo on a track that sounds like theme music for late night cruising through Tokyo. Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to their previous collabs but is still serviceable.
At his core, Ross is a storyteller. Whether rapping or talking, his voice paints pictures. Lamborghini Doors comes alive between Ross’ vision and Meek’s hunger (and one of my favorite hooks of the year). The track is also another example of Ross’ impeccable ear, which doesn’t fail on the album when it comes to picking beats. If he drops the ball anywhere it could be in the length of the album, which kind of drags, and the disappointing Mayback Music V. After four previous segments with interesting features from Kanye West to Erykah Badu, V provides us with a cool but not particularly noteworthy DeJ Loaf appearance.
While I’d be curious to see a director’s cut, Rather You Than Me is definitely one of Ross’ best projects. Lyrically he has expanded beyond just the dope lines, his focus more on ownership than ever before. And not just owning cars or mansions, but real estate. It would be foolish to doubt his vision at this point, and I look forward to the sequel.