*** (out of four)
As anyone can see, Rick Ross is a man with a prodigious appetite and a frame to match. The former corrections officer has become one of the most successful rappers alive, as well as one of the most notable owners of a celebrity label imprint, the lavishly titled Maybach Music Group. He opens his verses with a signature grunt and raps in a rumbling bark. He had two in-flight seizures in one day this fall. These things we know.
However, according to the content of his albums, including the new “God Forgives, I Don’t," Rick Ross is harder to pin down. On record, Rick Ross is a rags-to-riches drug kingpin. His drugs are ostensibly imported from Haiti, Colombia or Venezuela. He at one point had an empty fridge. He still carries a gun, which matches his watch. He has floor seats for the Miami Heat, which cost $20,000. A Rick Ross guest verse costs $100,000. He owns the following brands of cars: Porsche, Maybach (discontinued), Ferrari, BMW, Jaguar, Cadillac, Lamborghini and Land Rover. His aforementioned seizures were the product of receiving certain sexual attentions on a private jet. Rick Ross’ friends include the compulsively unlikeable Wale, but also Jay-Z and Andre 3000, who can both deliver jaw-dropping, unconventionally brilliant rap verses. Rick Ross owns a $24,000 toilet.
It's hard to say what's real and what isn't. Here's a hint, though: The drug kingpin stuff is not real.
Not that it matters—Ross basks in hip-hop's malleable narratives and reuses familiar archetypes as readily as a James Cameron movie, cycling through familiar hip-hop and pop culture personas. Ross's rap is escapist and opulent, although not as warm as it once was. He doesn't care if you don't find this album as good as his last album because Rick Ross is, above all, an idea of success. "God Forgives, I Don't" is a document of that idea, in all its fun, over-the-top and sometimes less-than-appealing glory.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic