On his 2006 breakout single, “Hustlin,” Rick Ross declared himself a “boss.” He continues to live up to that self-appointed title on his fifth solo album, God Forgives, I Don’t.
Delayed nearly nine months because of three highly publicized (and reportedly life-threatening) seizures, the album finds Ross breathing fresh life into his cartoonish gangster persona by adding a sense of realism and vulnerability to his lyrics. Sure, the Miami emcee still boasts about his stacks of money, beautiful women, and luxury cars, but you get the sense his brush with death has given him a new appreciation of his over-the-top lifestyle. “At this point in my life, I’m just tryna survive,” Rozay confesses on “Pirates,” while “Ice Cold” finds him “running away from my obituary.”
Ross has also moved beyond his customary repetitive beats, using melodic arrangements that would seem more at home on an R&B album—“Maybach Music IV” incorporates a spiralling blues guitar riff, and the same smooth saxophone that snakes through the soul-fueled eight-minute track, “Sixteen.”
The album still boasts its fair share of classic Rick Ross street anthems. The simple, catchy beats on those tunes, combined with the bonanza of star-studded cameos (from Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Drake, Meek Mill, and others) emphasize that even after almost meeting his maker, Ross is still one of mainstream hip-hop’s top dogs.
Playlist picks: “Sixteen,” “Maybach Music IV,” “So Sophisticated”