The humorously gaudy façade Rick Ross molded early in his career has morphed into a gigantic mansion with pillars of both hubris and delusion. But quite frankly, those attributes make Ross’s music irresistibly entertaining.
It’s well exhibited on the sumptuous God Forgives, I Don’t, Rozay’s fifth solo effort that’s triumphant, haughty, and self-exploring. Its lush production switches between shimmering strings to bellicose thumps, while its stories flex both elements of realism and imagination.
Greeted with the marching oomph of “Pirates,” Ross wastes no time making threats (“Any nigga want rumble, somebody hand me a shovel”) and sets the tone for his album’s bombastic, yet opulent mood.
And what better way to exemplify wealth than by featuring two of rap’s economic elites? On “3 Kings,” Ross stands alongside Dr. Dre and Jay-Z, with Dre shamelessly promoting his headphones, and Jay disclosing details on his contract renewal with Live Nation. Then, the Bawse briefly takes a moment to recall his mother’s struggle as a minimum-wage laborer, and justifies the lifestyle of a drug dealer on the Cool & Dre-produced “Ashamed.”
Cueing into the cinematic highlight of the album [and the fourth chapter of the acclaimed “Maybach Music” series], “Maybach Music IV” illustrates a gorgeous mise en scène thanks to J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s production, which accentuates Ross’s flamboyant descriptions of haute living. The ensuing transition from “Maybach Music IV” into “Sixteen”—arguably the strongest record on the album—is commendable in execution. And as expected, Andre 3000’s presence on “Sixteen” doesn’t disappoint; it’ll certainly go down as an addition to his long-expanding list of top guest verses.
By midpoint of the album, the sound shifts into the ominously assaultive zone with which Rozay has become synonymous in the past few years. “Hold Me Back,” a panting record filled with detailed steps of Ross prolonging his stay in the drug game, eventually finds the author succeeding in the trade. This is followed by “911,” in which Ross pleads God’s will to let him drive his Porsche to the pearly gates—a classic theme of redemption often pondered by gangsters.
Stunting (“Presidential”), sex (“Touch’n You”), ostentatious thug loving (“Ice Cold”), and an incredible title for a love song (“Diced Pineapples”), balance out the commanding exterior boasted in the initial segment of the album. This creates a fine equilibrium of album craftsmanship Ross has become famous for since Trilla.
Due to the Teflon Don’s immense success, and critical praise, comparisons will inevitably arise. But if Teflon Don was a buffet-style feast with deluxe entrées laid out for the listeners, God Forgives, I Don’t is a full-course dinner that starts with a plate of bruschetta and ends with a zeppole. The former savors the palate and fills the belly, but the latter is what’s carefully planned to create a gastronomic harmony. Although Ross doesn’t completely succeeds on this mission, he’s very close on accomplishing such an audible feast. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)