Epic Records
Epic Records

Being respected, revered and admired as an MC is what often elevates a rap artist from being one who merely strings together words that rhyme into a bonafide lyricist of the highest order. However, while there are a slew of spitters and scribes that have come along, the elite few who have found themselves mentioned in conversations and debates about the greatest rappers of all-time have one thing in common: a track record of consistently delivering albums that make the most of their lyrical abilities and serve as a piece of themselves.

When speaking of today's pack of hood orators, Rick Ross is one that has slowly ascended into a class of his own, continuously strengthening his resume and his position in the annals of hip-hop. With the release of his ninth studio album, Rather You Than Me, the Bawse comes through with a long player that is indicative of his tenure, growth and standing in the rap game. This collection of songs are filled with the depth, perspective and hunger of a legend with a few more milestones to reach.

"Apple of My Eye," the opening selection on the LP, is an apt introductory cut full of introspection and finds Ross giving listeners a glimpse into his mind state and the inner-workings of his MMG faction. Featuring R&B vocalist Raphael Saadiq and produced by Major Nine, "Apple of My Eye" includes Ross revealing a bit of advice he gave to his protege Meek Mill regarding his dealings with Nicki Minaj. "I told Meek, 'I wouldn't trust Nicki'/Instead of beefin' with your dog, you just give 'em some distance/We all make mistakes, let's not be too specific/We like, I rather be a killer than be a statistic," he raps, hinting that he may not have been as fond of the rap queen as one would assume.

Praised for having a refined ear for grand soundscapes that complement his imagery, Rick Ross stays true to his reputation with "Santorini Greece," a Bink!-produced composition that is among the richest selections he's spit on to date. He compares his fashion sense to that of legendary Bad Boy stylist Groovy Lew, and casually references exotic destinations. Ross is at his most ostentatious on what may be Rather You Than Me's most electric offering.

Casting himself as a boss and a man of honor and respect since his emergence in the mid-aughts, Ross makes time to take Bryan "Birdman" Williams to task on "Idols Become Rivals," one of the more scathing and transparent disses in recent memory.

"Damn, I grew up on that Cash Money/Bling bling, was well known to flash money," Rozay reminisces before sharing his disdain for his former collaborator-turned-foe's shady business practices. He also touches on his disloyalty toward artists, producers and others who have expressed dissatisfaction with the No. 1 Stunna. Listing former Hot Boy members Lil Wayne, Turk and B.G., as well as producers Mannie Fresh and Scott Storch as those who have fallen victim to Birdman's nefarious ways, with lines like "You would give us self esteem and motivate our drive/But was in our pockets by the time we count to five" painting a picture of deceit.

Ross' approach on Rather You Than Me may have been substance over style, but the creator of street anthems like "B.M.F." and "MC Hammer" also crafts enough fare to keep traps jumping and systems booming. "Trap Trap Trap," the Young Thug and Wale-assisted lead single on the LP; "Dead Presidents," which matches Rozay with Future, Jeezy and Yo Gotti; and the Gucci Mane-assisted standout "She on My Dick" all tread similar territory and although failing to trump previous instances of bombast, complements the more heavy material in a major way.

A sucker for soul samples, Rick Ross carries on tradition with "I Think She Like Me," which borrows from The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round.” Produced by J-Pilot and C Gutta and featuring Ty Dolla $ign on the hook, "I Think She Like Me" captures Ross sauntering over the track in his signature regal manner, resulting in one of the album's premier selections. More than capable of holding down the fort on his own, Rozay opts to spread the wealth on Rather You Than Me, calling in a few of his favorite co-stars to volley verses back and forth, including Nas, who pops up with heady couplets on "Powers That Be," and MMG capo Meek Mill, who makes his presence felt on "Lamborghini Doors."

High-profile cameos are aplenty throughout Rather You Than Me, but the album's brightest moments occur when Rick Ross is flying solo, such as on "Game Ain't Based on Sympathy." Harkening back to his humble beginnings and spouting reality raps, the MMG mastermind shines with poignant commentary. "Renovatin' the ghettos, movin' me elsewhere/Daddy didn't see pension, they took his healthcare/Affordable housin' and they fed us welfare/Showed us Tony Montana, teachers couldn't care less," he raps, dropping the most vivid set of stanzas on this long player.

One of the stronger songs on Rather You Than Me is "Scientology," a peak lyrical performance in the catalog of Ross. Produced by Bink!, the song includes gems revolving around family and the chess game that is the rap industry, and is powered by violins and ominous drums that make for an intense soundscape, which Rozay commandeers with a precision that's equally admirable and impressive.

Whereas his 2015 album, Black Market, revolved around entrepreneurship, ownership and authenticity, Rather You Than Me conflates all that we've come to love about Rick Ross, and includes everything from shots at politicians and talking heads like President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and actress-turned-talking head Stacey Dash, to brash tales of homicide, criminality and the trappings of success that are a byproduct of it.

Nine albums removed from anonymity, Rather You Than Me secures Rick Ross' slot within the list Top 5 of rap soloists to emerge from the South over the last 20 years, and is among his more cohesive bodies of work to date.

See 133 Rapper-Launched Record Labels From the Past and Present

More From XXL