Rick Ross Gets Larger Than Life On Rich Forever

When will Rick Ross stop improving? All bets are currently off, because right now—as in right this very moment, in the immediate aftermath of Rich Forever—Rick Ross is the best rapper alive. Not too long ago, he was arguably the worst. Lots of other rappers have made The Leap from distinctly unpromising beginnings, but it's hard to think of many who have traveled as far from as lowly an origin point.

Ross is all about big gestures, though. Rich Forever, his latest absurdly generous slab of Maybach Music, is twenty tracks long, runs well over an hour, and boasts features from Diddy, Nas, John Legend, Kelly Rowland, Pharrell, and more. It's produced entirely by MMG's production team—Beat Billionaire, The Inkredibles, Justice League—which means that it sounds bigger and more expensive than anything you can remember. And Ross has given it away for free. If he had released it commercially, it would have certainly have gone gold. But Ross insists this heaping platter is just an "appetizer" for the main course, which will be his delayed fifth studio album God Forgives, I Don't. As far as appetizers go, it's like being served a T-bone steak for two before the chef wheels out an entire pan of lasagna.

As far as rap characters go, Ross embodies capital-A Appetite. He's The Man with the Bottomless Gut. Observations that he's two-dimensional are 100% accurate; you do not experience the full range of the emotional spectrum listening to Ross. You experience one emotion—exhilaration—pumped through a firehose. From the very beginning of his career, he trafficked in gangsta-rap-as-summer-blockbuster, but as he's gained steam and momentum, he's moved away from emulating Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich and inched his way closer to having a genuinely Spielbergian sense of wonder.

Snort if you want; Ross invites, even encourages, snorting. On Rich Forever's "High Definition," he bellows, "Got a forty by my dick/ I keep on pissin on the hammer." On "Triple Beam Dreams," he opens with "It's time to take you to the other side/ The side you gotta watch A&E cable television for, homey," which is about six degrees removed from making any kind of sense. On the non-album track "Mafia Music 2," he says, "What's behind the moon? Gangster city." Over vibraphones. In a talk-down. Rap often rewards flamboyance, and great pop art demands that you run the risk of ridiculousness. For Ross, though, ridiculousness doesn't even feel like a risk. Excess is just his character.

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