Rick Ross' Mastermind album became available to stream on iTunes this week, and the Bawse's long-awaited sixth album is full of club bangers and massive beats, as well as some reggae inflections and some more soulful sounds. With the album sounding markedly different than some of his other recent projects, XXL spoke to six of Ross' producers about their roles in helping to craft the beats for Mastermind, from the creation of the beat, to Rick Ross' lyrics, to DJ Khaled's involvement. Let the beat build. —XXL Staff
Black Metaphor: It all came together last year. My manager had hit me and told me that Ross had recorded to one of my tracks. So I was like, cool. But as the year went by, I didn’t get any word from him. So I think he had a couple release dates that they pushed back. So when they pushed it back the final time, they contacted me on December 23rd, right before Christmas, telling me that they was going to use it.
"Rich Is Gangsta"
I’m really one of them producers who just make a lot of beats. So I just happened to find a good sample [Average White Band, “Soul Searching”] and I wanted to take it and give it kind of a musical feel. At the same time it's still hard. I still wanted the drums to be on. [But] He definitely took it to another level.
It’s cool; the process is pretty simple and straightforward. It wasn’t a whole lot of difficulty or anything. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more work with him in the future.
Bink!: Well it's crazy. It started over a year ago; I did the record for Dr. Dre, for Detox. Dr. Dre hired Ross to write his verse for him. So Ross wrote a verse for him and a verse for himself, and then he was supposed to put Rihanna on the hook. But, you know, Dre never revisited the record, and then Ross came back about a month and a half ago and wanted the record for himself. So I had to ask the Good Doctor for clearance. I actually made it WITH Dre; I was in Vegas with Dre working on it at the time. They brought Ross in later.
"Mafia Music III" featuring Mavado and Sizzla
Actually, Khaled called me. He was just ranting and raving about Ross' verse—his exact words were, "Ross caught the Holy Spirit." He kept saying that Ross had caught the Holy Ghost, "We gotta have that, we gotta have that." So I was like, you know, I gotta call up Big Homie and see if he'll let it go, 'cause I knew he was back in Detox mode again. I didn't know if he was gonna hold onto it or not this time around.
Dre was basically like, "Ask him to send you a copy of the record, and if you like it, I'm with you. I'ma let you make the call." Which is flattering to me, but at the same time that's what Big Homie told me. So I called them, they sent me the record, which they was very nervous about, because of course these days for some reason, when you send a rapper the music, they feel like their lyrics is worth more than the beat, and they don't send the song back. [Laughs]
I still have yet to hear it. 'Cause when I heard it, it was just Ross and Mavado, but now they added Sizzla to it, so I still haven't heard Sizzla's verse. There's a serious disconnect, to be honest with you, with the music. It's not like it used to be.
Mike WiLL Made It
Mike WiLL Made It: DJ Khaled, man, he reached out to me that Ross was working on his new project. He knew me and Ross had previous hits before with "Tupac Back," "King Of Diamonds” and “Marble Floors.” He actually did all three of those records at the same time. Khaled reached out to me and told me he had a list of who Ross wanted to work with. I [got] to work with Rick Ross, he’s a legend and his albums are always crazy. We make great music together.
"War Ready" featuring Jeezy and Tracy T
I came to Miami to fuck with Ross and Khaled and went to Ross’ house and went through some beats but he didn’t hear anything right away. He reached out to me and said that he needed something crazy, with the crazy 808s, the meanest beat you can possibly do. "I’m about to do a song with a game changer, someone who you might not even think I would do a song with." I had a idea that it was Jeezy. So I went through some beats and sent it to him. He told me he heard one right away and was excited about the song. At the end it came out good. I was proud of the song. I started working on the 808s, then Jeezy sent his vocals in. We just kept mixing the record. Everybody had their opinions until down to the wire with the way they wanted to sound. Everybody just worked hard when it came to this record. We knew that it was going to be a moment in hip-hop. It’s always good to see rappers come back together when people don’t think that they work with each other anymore.
Reefa: I’m just in the era from the 90s, the early 2000s, the whole New York era, the feel good music. Me and Ross had a relationship before. And we still have a relationship. I was in the studio with French. I played French the joint, he laid a hook to it, and he ended up sending it to Ross. Ross was like, we going to keep it for the album. Before that I did the “Ice Cold” beat on God Forgives, I Don’t. It’s almost like the same kind of drum patterns or same kind of sound I’m trying to really push out with my whole ATM Company.
"What A Shame" featuring French Montana
I just caught a vibe, I played the melody, and I have a producer on my team his name is stats, he laid all the color around it and we just went from there. I had the drums going for a while but I just wanted it to knock the right way. People ain’t really hitting their head. It ain’t that mood no more.; that whole 90s kind of mood. So I kind of wanted to bring a little bit of that back with a current sound. When I’m messing with Ross or whoever, I try to give them something that everybody else wouldn’t do. I tip my hat off to Ross and French, they know what they’re doing. It wasn’t pressure or whatever, it was a real collaboration. A real song put together from start to finish
I had dinner with my lawyer Xavier at Del Frisco. This before [Mastermind]. I had sent [Ross] some beats. He knew my previous resume from “It's Okay (One Blood),” to the Fabolous [work], to the Gucci Mane [work]. I sent him some joints, and three months later [Xavier] hit me and was like, "Yo, I think we got a joint on God Forgives, I Don’t." I was like, cool. I ain’ hear the song until it was time for the album to mix. After that we kept our relationship. We kept seeing each other, we kept being in the studio. The French Montana album, I had produced two records on the album and co-produced one record. I’ve just been working. Me and Ross, we’re in a great space.
I knew it was crazy from just the beat. When I heard the hook, the hook took it to a crazy other level. I knew it was one of those types of joints when I first did it, that it was gong to be crazy and something that special.
Scott Storch: Essentially, when I am making the beginnings or nucleus of the tracks, I’m doing most of that stuff on my own in my room. I have certain people that I hear the tracks for. Whether I am making it for them in the beginning or somewhere halfway through, this could go to this person or this would be hot for this person. I think a lot of beatmakers and producers, after making something and realizing, “Oh, this would sound awesome for this person.” Something that we all do. Just trying in your brain [to] visualize them on the track and their patterns and their tones. Who’s going to sound good on what.
I remember when we did this record, we ran it right to him and he immediately felt it. He was like, “That’s mine right there.” He got on the mic immediately and that was when the real joy comes in. You actually get a chance to hear them. And it was sort of tease. We brought it to his house and he jumped on the mic and we listened to him record on it. I mean, he’s real fast. He writes in like, seconds. I watched him in the studio one day writing for other people. He had like three or four different artists for Cash Money that he was writing hooks and did a verse for. Man, it was awesome. He’s a beast with that.
My partner and I watched him record to the track and it was obviously getting late and time to go. He was one verse deep. This, that and the other. I had to wait for a long time to listen to the final product, which I finally got a chance to hear just recently. Man, it’s dope.
What I am getting from it is he made a record that I think will reach not just the dudes. Out of the whole body of music on that album, it's definitely something where he’s talking about all the fly shit. I think it’s something that the girls will connect to, too. There’s that one and the one he did with The Weeknd, “In Vein,” as far as universal, everybody likes it, type of record. A lot of the stuff on the album is really dark. Amazing, but it’s one of the brighter records on the album.
Barto: Ross has sort of chosen to keep fucking with us because the chemistry is obviously there. Whether it be during the beginning stages of his projects or the ending stage of his project, we always kind of get in with him or get in contact with him about final touch ups or whatever. I think we all know that there’s a chemistry there.
"Thug Cry" featuring Lil Wayne
Ross tends to gravitate towards the music that we make that most people don’t know what to do with. They might be scared of it or they just don’t know what to do with it. He has a history of just picking off the beaten path basically. He’ll pick the tracks that nobody else picks and everyone is mad at us because we didn’t send them that beat or whatever. Most of the time, they just didn’t take that beat.
Rook: He likes to push the envelope. As far as his audio and visual presence is. You know what I mean? And so do we. He recognizes that.
Rook: ["Thug Cry"] is awesome.
Barto: We was actually just in our normal studio. We heard the “93 'til Infinity” come on and I remember that joint when I was a kid. And I loved it. I was like, “Yo, it’d be cool to bring that back.” We kind of brought it back in a different kind of way, kind of like we would do it. We did the hook on there. We already had the hook on there.
Rook: The hook was sung by Betty Idol. You gotta remember that the beat was made in 2013. So it was the twenty year anniversary of “93 'til Infinity.” So we did that. It was paying homage. That decade year long classic. We got Betty Idol to write and perform the hook on it. It was undeniable. We just went ahead and sent it off to Ross. You know Ross likes to push the boundaries, like we said earlier. Once you hear the hook? Ah, shit. That shit’s crazy.
Colione: He knows everything there is to know about rap music and being an artist. He takes that fully seriously. Super cool to see someone that talented and that focused on his craft to be able to get that music to masses for people to enjoy. It’s pretty fucking cool.
Rook: You said it yourself, [Wayne and Ross] do a lot of songs together, right? But the last song they did together over a J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League track was “Luxury Tax,” and that was a classic. That was a classic. You know what I mean? The next track they do together? Is a classic over a J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League track. Understand that. We don’t fuck around.