Atlanta Producer R!O Says Rick Ross’ “Maybach Music V” Was Scrapped From ‘Mastermind’
Rick Ross' sixth solo album, Mastermind, became available to stream on iTunes on Wednesday (Feb. 26). The same day, XXL published a story pulled from an interview with the three producers from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, where the trio spoke about why Mastermind did not contain a continuation of Ross' "Maybach Music" series, which has showed up on each of his albums since his sophomore effort, Trilla (the last installment, "Maybach Music IV" from God Forgives, I Don't, featured Ne-Yo). As each of the previous four installments was produced by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, logic followed that they would be involved in making the fifth track as well.
"[Ross] pushes the envelope so much, and he trusts us so much that there’s no 'Maybach Music V' on this album because he understands that," Rook from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League said in the original story. "It was a joint vision that we had between J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Rick Ross. There’s nobody else who can touch that. We felt that this time we just needed to give people a break. Give them Mastermind and we can come back and change the world again with 'Maybach Music V.'"
The absence was disappointing, especially because Ross had tweeted back in November that the track was actually being made and was set to feature the legendary Bobby Womack. But according to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, the music never actually came together. "Every time [a 'Maybach Music'] dropped, we wanted to ensure that it’s a musicality that hasn’t been reached before in rap and hip-hop," Rook said. "And to outdo yourself for the fifth time in a row, creatively it’s not the easiest process."
After the story was posted, XXL received an email from Atlanta-based producer R!O—who has been behind the boards for tracks like Tank and Chris Brown's "Shots Fired" and Meek Mill's "Ooh Kill 'Em"—claiming that "Maybach Music V" did, in fact, exist, and that the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League had nothing to do with it; instead, R!O was the one who was behind the production. According to R!O, the track was supposed to appear on Mastermind—thus Ross' public statements about the song—but was cut when R!O and Ross' team couldn't agree on a production fee after months of semi-negotiation.
"I think it was Dec. 19 when Def Jam contacted me and were asking for the credits of everybody that participated in the record—the choir, the bass player, all that stuff," R!O told XXL during a phone call Thursday, Feb. 27. "They contacted my manager, and basically they told us that DJ Khaled had informed them that I had agreed upon a fee. We never even spoke to Khaled. So we basically hit Def Jam back and told them that we had never talked to him and we had never agreed on a fee, and that [the price] was totally too low."
R!O said that he had originally submitted the beat to Ross' people two years ago, trying to get a placement on God Forgives, I Don't, but then got a call in late spring of last year saying that his beat—for which he'd spent $3,500 on a live choir alone, in addition to live session players to craft the track—was set to become "Maybach Music V." As Ross' album got pushed further and further back, more details trickled out, until Def Jam contacted him in December. After more than a month of trying to get in contact with Khaled to discuss the production fee, R!O got word in February—Khaled said take it or leave it.
"I felt like, it wasn't the number that he threw at me, it was the fact that you wasn't even listening to what we wanted," R!O said about the final offer. "Didn't even say, 'What do you guys want?' So when they said take it or leave it, we basically said, we're leaving."
R!O got in touch with Ross, who said he still wanted the track, but by that time Def Jam had released the official tracklisting, which didn't include the song. So R!O took the beat and placed it with another rapper, letting the matter go—until he saw the words from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The group had tweeted after the tracklist came out that there was to be no "Maybach Music" this time, because they "must ensure that, musically, it is something that has never been done before in Rap," adding it to Instagram with the words, "Quality over quantity."
"That's something that I took as a subliminal shot right there," R!O said about the Instagram post. "Like, come on. And then the line of, 'Something that's never been done before'? You've got samples, you're just replaying things over. And this is all original, never been done, never been heard."
R!O—who, he says, cut his teeth as a battle producer—didn't feel like he was stepping on the trio's toes by crafting the fifth installment after the first four were helmed by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. He's not even upset with them, nor with Ross nor Khaled. Instead, he wanted to set the record straight.
"I don't have a problem with any of them, I'll work with anyone," he said. "It was just that, listen more on their offers or whatever. You can't put a price on somebody's art. That's like going to Picasso and saying, 'Yo, I think that joint is worth four bucks. Take it or leave it.' You can't say that... Basically, the track was done, but J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League didn't do it. We couldn't meet in the middle ground, so that's what ended up happening, from what I saw... So I can't say—maybe they said, 'Well, who is this dude? He's not the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, leave him off, whatever.' A lot of people were like, 'You should've took the [money].' What if I took the [money] and the track still wasn't used? I wouldn't own it. I look at it that way." —Dan Rys (@danrys)