We know the streets love it, but will [lastfm]Rick Ross[/lastfm]’ new album Teflon Don be a classic? Flip the switch to see what Billboard and The New York Times had to say about it…
New York Times Album Review
“Teflon Don” (Maybach Music/Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam)
“That someone would revive the memory of MC Hammer’s glory days and use it as an enthusiastic metaphor for modern-day rap excess was inevitable. That it would happen on an album that also samples a Bobby Seale speech is unexpected. That the rapper who’s pulled this off, and successfully at that, is Rick Ross is one of the great unlikely hip-hop success stories of the past decade.
“Teflon Don” is Rick Ross’s fourth solo album, and the one that establishes him as one of rap’s most potent and creative forces. He’s a ferocious character, an impressive rapper and, as heard on this strong album, a clever and loose thinker, willing to try out new poses.
There’s “MC Hammer,” of course, the bombastic celebration of the rap good life, on which he boasts, over a martial Lex Luger beat, “I got 30 cars, whole lotta dancers/I take ’em everywhere/I’m MC Hammer.” But that comes on the same album as “Tears of Joy,” one of Mr. Ross’s most striking songs to date.
Following the clip of Mr. Seale, Mr. Ross begins delivering lines in a measured fashion reminiscent of spoken-word poetry — “Looking in the mirror but I don’t see much/Still running the streets so I don’t sleep much” — the gaps between them adding heft to the emotion. Singing the hook, Cee-Lo taps back into the grit of his Goodie Mob days, delivering genuine ache. On the beat, oceanic drums and a wailing guitar, brought together by the producer No I.D., evoke a funereal mood.
It’s a vast leap for Mr. Ross, who just a few years ago was compensating for his lumpy street talk with imposing personality. Now he’s grown. “Teflon Don” isn’t the consistently sumptuous affair that his last album, the magisterial “Deeper Than Rap,” was, but it’s just as confident, a reminder that hip-hop social climbing isn’t monochromatic.
He raps movingly about his parents on “All the Money in the World.” “Live Fast, Die Young,” featuring and produced by Kanye West, has the winning naïveté of Mr. West’s early work. “Aston Martin Music,” produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League — responsible for most of the sensuous production on “Deeper Than Rap” — has the seductive allure of quiet storm R&B.
And joining Mr. Ross is a smart selection of guests: T.I. and Jadakiss on “Maybach Music III”; a sinister Styles P on “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”; and the always witty Gucci Mane on “MC Hammer.” (“Diamonds moving on my chest, doing the Hammer dance/70 grand make my jeans sag like some Hammer pants.”)
Mr. Ross has his mind on some other (alleged) peers, though. “I think I’m Big Meech/Larry Hoover,” goes the hook of “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” — that’s one of the heads of the Black Mafia Family, now serving a 30-year sentence for running a drug trafficking organization, and the rumored leader of the Gangster Disciples of Chicago, serving a life sentence.
Mr. Ross has always happily played around with ideas of authenticity. He borrowed his name from the former Los Angeles drug lord Freeway Ricky Ross, who recently tried to secure an injunction against the release of this album in connection with a lawsuit over the use of the name. (He was unsuccessful.)
Mr. Ross, whose career has survived the release of a photo of him as a correctional officer, remains unbowed. “Self-made, you just affiliated,” he raps here. “I built it ground up, you bought it renovated/Talking plenty capers, nothing’s been authenticated.” Depending how you look at it, it’s either the sound of rich irony or of the triumph of being atop the new pecking order. – JON CARAMANICA
Billboard Album Review
Releasing a rap album with a guest list that reads like the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 is a common move, but not without its risks. Big-name guests can move units and chart positions, but many rappers get overshadowed by their more famous counterparts, and the person who should be the lead winds up coming across as an understudy.
Rick Ross, however, avoids that impression on his new album, “Teflon Don,” due July 20 on Maybach/Def Jam. It’s no easy feat to hold one’s own against Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake and T.I., but Ross manages to keep the album’s focus squarely on himself.
“I’m fortunate enough to socialize with some of the greatest musicians around,” Ross says. “So it made sense for me to go ahead and get them on my record. I wanted to pay attention to all the fine details on this album-I could have gotten someone no one had heard of to sing on certain tracks, but I wanted the best in the business.”
With such an impressive list of guests and an outsize reputation to match his outsize size, it would’ve been easy for his label to sit back and let “Teflon Don” sell itself. But Island/Def Jam senior VP of marketing Chris Atlas says the label is rolling out an aggressive marketing effort.
“We took the fact that he had so many people working with him on the record and captured it on film and video, which we are releasing around the Web,” Atlas says. “Rick has been working nonstop since the last record [2009’s “Deeper Than Rap,” which has sold 434,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan], feeding stuff to his lifestyle and street base. He’s put out three or four mixtapes, and there is constant messaging to his core.”
Atlas says Ross is on a 10-city promotional tour and making club and radio station appearances. Those visits seem to be paying off: The first single from “Teflon Don,” “Super High,” is No. 32 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while new single “B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast)” moves 39-27 on the list. The video for “Super High,” featuring Stacey Dash (whom Ross calls a “classy young lady”), has 900,000 views on YouTube; MTV, among other outlets, has just accepted the video for “B.M.F.” The label will also release a limited run of Ross action figures, a nod to his passion for collecting them.
“Teflon Don” is also the subject of a heavy outdoor, online and TV advertising push. Atlas adds that Ross is starting to work with brands, due in part to his recent co-management deal with Sean “Diddy” Combs.
“We’re opening him up to working with brands,” Atlas says. “He did some smaller stuff before, and he’s been doing some things with Ciroc [a vodka brand Combs endorses]. But now he’s starting to attract attention from some bigger names. For instance, he’s using the nickname ‘Ricky Rozay,’ so some champagne brands are expressing a desire to do something.”
Ross is mostly concentrating on dispelling some of the negative press that has dogged him and steering the focus back to his music. He seems unperturbed when discussing a recent trademark infringement lawsuit filed by similarly named former drug dealer “Freeway” Ricky Ross. Ross the rapper says the suit was dismissed and even seems forgiving of the reformed kingpin, saying, “It’s not personal. He’s down on his luck.”
As for a beef with Young Jeezy, Ross says it’s a figment of the media’s imagination. “I’m always a phone call away from Jeezy, and he’s never called me,” he says. He’s also not planning on reigniting a long-running and often hysterically funny feud with 50 Cent, which at one point found 50 taking the mother of Ross’ son shopping and Ross responding with gay-baiting dis tracks.
At this point, Ross would rather just enjoy the good life, cruising in his Maybach and getting his season tickets to see LeBron James play with the Miami Heat. And he offers advice to fans who haven’t yet made it to the “livin’ large” lifestyle.
“Blast my record out the windows of your Honda Accord,” he says. “And if anyone gives you grief, you look them right in the eye and tell them Rick Ross told you wealth begins in the heart.”