“Speedin’,” the first single off Florida rapper Rick Ross’s sophomore album, Trilla
, is now widely available. And this is a good thing. Predictably, comfortingly bombastic, it’s that same mindless crushed-white-linen Don Johnson-reload fast-life vibe that Ross trafficked in most successfully on his 2006 debut, Port of Miami
. Ross now claims that album was completed in the back of a promo van after “Hustlin’” blew up. But Trilla
got the big-budget treatment, as the guest list -- R. Kelly, Akon, T-Pain -- attests. At first dismissed as a clownish Young Jeezy facsimile, another disposable Lowest Common Denominator product for Def Jam to peddle, it’s clear that the label is now heavily vested in Ross’s success. In his recent Rolling Stone
cover interview, Jay-Z cites the breaking of Ross, along with Rihanna, Ne-Yo, and Jeezy, as proof of his success as an executive. And along with blowups of magazine covers featuring Jay and the Killers, it’s a cardboard likeness of a stogie-smoking Ross that adorns the label’s offices.
I was out of the country for the first part of the summer of ’06. When I came back, the ubiquity of “Hustlin’” was at nausea-inducing levels, but I was still slapping my brother’s hands away from the dial when it hit on our mom’s Volvo’s stereo. Cool & Dre’s sparkly production; Ross’s knack for a mouthy, well-turned phrase; and, perhaps most important, his and his producers remarkable familiarity with Ross’s limitations (as long as you ignore “Hit You From the Back,” a cringe-worthy “love song” that we shall never speak of again) meant Port of Miami
had -- still has -- replay value. I became a Rick Ross apologist.
Enough to the point, at least, where in the buildup to Trilla
, I actively sought out Rise to Power
. A quick cash-in odds-and-ends release from one-time Ross cohort, Suave House president and self-appointed “pioneer of the South” Tony Draper, only three of the twelve tracks are guest-free. Two of those are skits.
But when Ross is rapping, the album’s title is relevant. The rapper’s now assured, smooth boom of a flow is noticeably raspier, and his broad storytelling strokes suggest a hustler in gestation. Devin the Dude shows up for a Ross-aping guest verse on “Prove Me Wrong”; Pusha T chooses to bend the swirly nightclub beat to his own will on “B.L.O.W.,” weighting the track with trademark laments. Ross brags about being under federal surveillance, and skits clumsily brag about the largesse of his drug transactions. But the self-contented speedboat rap he pulls off so effortlessly on Miami and “Speedin’” is largely, and expectedly, M.I.A. And predictably, Ross isn’t nearly an interesting enough character where the gestation period has merit. So with that out of the way, at least some of us impatiently await Trilla