After the generally meh, sometimes spectacular Mastermind, the best thing that Rick Ross could have done was sit the fuck down. But we needed more proof that the title Mastermind has no relation to real life, so he decided to release a second album at the end of last year, Hood Billionaire. I’m just now getting to this second album because it slipped under my radar after Ross said it would feel a lot more street than Mastermind. Suffice to say that that sapped my enthusiasm, because the “I feel like Big Meech” version of Ross has never impressed me much. He picks bass-heavy but basic beats and his rhymes can’t possibly take than 5 minutes to write.
Now, with the review’s intro complete, let me tell you that that’s exactly how Hood Billionaire starts. Drug deals, fast lifestyle, the same old shit that Ross has been talking from his beginning. The hooks are as simple as repeating “I’m yo’ neighborhood drug dealer” over and over. Oh wait, every other time it changes to “It’s yo’ neighborhood drug dealer,” please forgive my gross oversimplification. The beats aren’t terrible but their slow tempo and sparse natures mean they really only on their drums for interest, and even those fail to compel. And Rick Ross tends to scale back all forms of lyricism on this kind of beat, so there’s none to be found here.
But my biggest problem is that Ross’ drug-talk all feels generic instead of personal. Phone Tap tries to be different by dealing with Ross talking to friends who’ve been jailed, but the beat is just as boring as the others so far, and Ross can only stick to his own story for two verses before the random boasts of money come back into play.
At this point we’re only 6 out of 18 (!) songs down, so I really might don’t make it. Project Pat drops a vintage verse on the otherwise forgettable Elvis Presley Blvd., then things shift dramatically. Movin’ Bass has the first beat that feels sufficiently different from the rest, anchored by a fast and insistent hi-hats and kick drum loop. Ross’ rhymes pick up as well, but not enough to really excite, and the Jay-z feature is wasted by confining him to the hook. But this is a start at least.
From then on, the rest of the album sounds like a relatively good Rick Ross album, in that the sound varies considerably between songs and there’s a lot of features. Unfortunately, none of the songs are all that good. Quintessential has a great, mellow beat but both Snoop Dogg and Ross sleepwalk through their verses, and Brimstone again wastes a feature, this time Big K.R.I.T., by only using him on the hook. Ross’ verses on these later songs are somewhat better than the stinkers of the first half of the album, but they never elevate near to the heights he has sometimes reached in his career.
Are these the best of the songs that didn’t make the Mastermind cut? Based on his interviews, yes. A lot of mainstream rappers make 30+ songs for an album that they then whittle down into a 12-track package. That seems wasteful to me, but to then package those leftovers into a whole new uninspired album is much worse. It’s cynical and greedy. But maybe the context is less important than the content, because Hood Billionaire is essentially the same thing as Nas’ Lost Tapes, an “album” that I loved. Maybe I wouldn’t be mad at all if Ross’ second album of 2014 was any good. Probably not, but it isn’t, so I’m not wasting any more of your or my time on it.