The first thing to know about Rick Ross’ new Rich Forever mixtape is that it doesn’t sound like a mixtape that he should be making at this sky-high point in his career’s arc. Unless it’s financed enough to replace a full-length album, the average rap mixtape nowadays suffers markedly from poor mastering and/or lack of focus. Rich Forever doesn’t face either of those problems; it sounds nuanced, labored-over, expensive, and expansive. It’s also good to know that Rich Forever is merely a pit-stop on the way to Ross’ recently deferred and highly anticipated fifth studio album, God Forgives, I Don’t, because this is a more coherent showing than a lot of big-time rappers’ most recent full-lengths (I’m looking at you, Doggumentary and Lasers).
By now, every Ross fan should know that the Florida native’s persona is something of a faÃ§ade; he probably couldn’t sell you a ki straight off his iPhone, and he might not even zip around in luxe speedboats all that often. That said, listening to Ross can be pure fantasy, and Rich Forever thrives on that notion: “Me and LeBron got the same whips/Me and Dwyane on the same strip,” goes a typically hubristic couplet. Ross has been increasingly nimble on the mic lately, and while he doesn’t show that much here, he mostly belts out brusque, hashtag-spawning lines about his power in the rap game. He never really gets boring. That can’t quite be said about his rapping on 2006’s Port of Miami or 2008’s Trilla.
One of the reasons Ross can justifiably call himself rap’s boss is that he tends to brings out the best in his collaborators, and that‘s illuminated here. “Stay Schemin’”, featuring Drake and French Montana, became a trending topic on Twitter right after Rich Forever dropped, partly because it’s one of the best tracks here and partly because Drizzy subliminally sucker-punches Common with his bars. While it’s no “B.M.F.”, the obligatory Lex Luger-produced track “Off the Boat” hits as hard as half the Luger tracks from Waka Flocka Flame‘s game-changing Flockaveli. Speaking of “B.M.F.”, the brass-powered “Keys to the Crib” grabs that track’s collaborator Styles P, and is a triumphant reunion. Even the resurging Nas shows up in top form on “Triple Beam Dreams”. These are Friday night anthems, readymade for the hours and hours of cruising.
That said, Rich Forever doesn‘t boast any potential mega-hits. But that’s actually a good reason to give this a spin; the songs here are strong without shooting for the stars, hopefully because Ross is saving that kind of stuff for God Forgives. Consider this a rousing sneak-peek to what could be rap’s biggest event-album of 2012.
Essential Tracks: “High Definition”, “Keys to the Crib”, and “Stay Schemin’”