Album review: Rick Ross' 'Deeper Than Rap'
With early forecasts prognosticating a third consecutive chart-topping debut for Port of Miami-sized rapper Rick Ross, it’s a safe bet that neither the potentially damning Smoking Gun Report that revealed his past as a corrections officer, nor the withering attacks launched by 50 Cent, have put much of a dent into his career.
Maybe it’s because questions of credibility have always been a moot point with the avuncular and ursine Ross, whose coketasias are so comically chimerical as to make Gene Simmons look like a self-effacing neo-realist. In the first song alone, “Mafia Music,” Ross mentions himself in the same breath as Bob Marley and Martin Luther King Jr., then proceeds to boast that he “scoops Emmy winners, like kitty litter.”
On “Deeper Than Rap,” Ross’ formerly lubberly lyrics reveal a fresh step, as he either discovered the world beyond ABAB schemes that rhyme “boss” with “Ross,” or Def Jam ponied up for a top-tier ghostwriter. Indeed, while "Port of Miami” and “Trilla” tripped on William Roberts’ lead-tongued laissez faire, “Deeper than Rap,” boasts nimble, almost adroit rapping.
Not to say that Ross is living up to the hyperbole implied in his album’s title. Few albums are as shallow as “Deeper Than Rap.” Self-explanatory songs include “Yacht Club,” “Rich Off Cocaine,” and "Gunplay" -- odes to conspicuous consumption ostensibly intended to soundtrack a “Gossip Girls” plot line involving Blair Waldorf hitting Splash Bar, and discovering the difficulties of dancing to Vampire Weekend in the club.
Titular aspirations aside, Ross’ goals are actually minimal: to provide absurdist and escapist sunshine rap that sounds good in a Maybach, for people who can’t afford to drive a $344,000 car. Enlisting hit-makers du jour J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, the Runners and the Inkredibles, the sumptuous production shrewdly mirrors Ross’ surf-and-turf aspirations, providing “Deeper Than Rap” with an equal balance of blindingly bright synth bangers and lush neo-“Blueprint” soul. Guest turns from Kanye West, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, the Dream, and Nas, inject a hypodermic charge into Ross’ monotonous money-mongering.
Treated with the same suspension of belief accorded a summer blockbuster, “Deeper Than Rap” succeeds in its baroque but basic goals. Even if by the end, you're convinced that Ross is less “Boss” than “Baron Munchausen.”
-- Jeff Weiss
"Deeper Than Rap"
Island Def Jam
*** (three stars)