REVIEW: Rick Ross – ‘Black Dollar’

Rick-Ross-Black-Dollar-review

Artist: Rick Ross
Album: Black Dollar
Label: Maybach Music Group

Blurring the lines between albums and mixtapes, Black Dollar is the Rick Ross release fans have been waiting to hear.

The last few years have been wild for the leader of Maybach Music Group. In addition to a string of solid singles and lackluster albums, Ross has found himself being shot at, arrested and questioned over his supposed wealth. It seems as if the one-time prison security guard has finally begun to embody the persona he first thought to develop prior to Port Of Miami hitting the streets in 2006, for better or worse, and now the man and image are one in the same. This adds a nice dose of reality to Black Dollar’s endless parade of drug, money and gun talk, but it’s the other stuff Ross wants to talk about that makes his latest something to remember.

There is an urgency to Black Dollar that is nowhere to be found on Ross’ previous releases, and it never becomes more apparent than on “We Gon Make It.” Opening with audio from protests in Missouri earlier this year, the track takes aim at the numerous incidents of police brutality that have swept our nation over the past year. Ross touches on the pain he feels, and how elsewhere on the record he even admits to crying while alone, and he uses his frustrations to forge new connections with his audience. Ross may be a decade into the rap game, but aside from a few bars scattered across his earlier discography the MMG heavyweight has rarely revealed the truth of the man that exists away from the spotlight. This isn’t an attribute that Ross carries alone either, of course, as most of hip-hop’s finest prefer to talk wealth and excess over real emotion any day of the week. Still, knowing Ross is choosing to reveal this side of himself at a time when he could easily deliver more of the same is nonetheless notable.

Those hoping Black Dollar would feature more of the ego-fueled street anthems that have become synonymous with Rick Ross, fear not. Black Dollar is littered with club-ready bangers, and most of them feature notable guest stars. There’s the classy vibe of “World’s Finest” with Meek Mill, the gritty “Turn Ya Back” with Gucci Mane, and my personal favorite, “Beautiful Lie” with Wale. The latter is a bit more of a chillwave track than something you would expect to hear in a club, but there is a groove that is guaranteed to keep a party going late into the twilight. “Money Dance” and “Bill Gates”–both of which appear early on–are also likely to inspire spur-of-the-moment dance parties in the street.

Black Dollar’s biggest fault is its length. Blame it on the album’s likeness to a mixtape, or perhaps indecisiveness on the part of Ross, but 17 tracks is far too many for this release. With a few subtractions, like “Money & Powder” and/or “Knights Of The Templar,” the record would be a more concise and thrilling venture. No song is altogether terrible, but with many songs that could potentially chart in the future it would have made sense for the tracks with no commercial or lyrical appeal to be left on the cutting room floor. Their presence doesn’t ruin the listening experience altogether, but it does add unnecessary blemishes to an otherwise great release.

It may have taken a decade of time in the industry, but Rick Ross is finally making the kind of big, complex records fans have long believed he was capable of creating. Black Dollar is not the peak of Ross’ career, but it does point to a bright future that could very easily find him becoming something more than a radio record rapper. He might not reach the heights of Drake or Kendrick in terms of depth, but he’s developing into something more than the sum total of his music up to this point. I don’t know if anyone would have guessed that was even a possibility three years ago, but here we are, and I for one cannot wait to hear what comes next.

SCORE: 8/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Shawn Baxter

    Great review! One point of correction – I think you mean Maryland instead of Missouri.

    “There is an urgency to Black Dollar that is nowhere to be found on Ross’ previous releases, and it never becomes more apparent than on “We Gon Make It.” Opening with audio from protests in Missouri earlier this year, the track takes aim at the numerous incidents of police brutality that have swept our nation over the past year.”

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