Rick Ross Falls Back To Earth On God Forgives, I Don't

Rick Ross is a smart man. He's smarter than me, and probably smarter than you. He went from one of the most laughable men in rap music to one of the most powerful and respected, and he did it simply by betting on himself—or by betting on an imagined version of himself. More specifically, Rick Ross the person (government name: William Roberts) bet on his ability to convince the public of one of two things: that he is Rick Ross the character, or that it doesn't matter if he isn't. Despite predictions to the contrary, Ross the person was right, and with his new album God Forgives, I Don't, he's bet that Ross the character is a bulletproof brand. He's bet that he and his album are too gloriously big to fail. I can't help but wondering if he's fatally mistaken.

God Forgives comes on the heels of two of the best full-length rap albums released in the last 24 months: Ross' Teflon Don from 2010, and Rich Forever, his mixtape from this year that stands as the year's best statement of purpose. Teflon Don—and its two titanic street singles, "B.M.F. ("Blowin' Money Fast) and "MC Hammer"—laid out a new blueprint for Ross where synth n' hi-hat bangers were as awe-inspiring and intimidating as the lush, extravagantly ornate productions that are the bedrock of his albums. Rich Forever went even further, gathering a host of grimy beats in the style of the omnipresent Lex Luger; Ross sounds angry and aggrieved, like he can't believe anyone ever bet against him. His albums prior to Rich Forever conveyed a sense of untouchable wealth, but on Rich Forever Ross is suspicious and threatened. In turn, Ross the character—if not Ross the person—turned purely predatory.

Ross is still riding high off the supercharged Rich Forever. He is on the cover of the July/August issue of XXL, which calls him "the man with the golden touch" and proclaims that he "rules the game." Compare that to the summer of 2009, when the same magazine ran a feature titled "Rick Ross Up In Smoke." It's hard to argue with either of their most recent assessments—or at least it would have been prior to the inarguable misstep that is God Forgives, I Don't.

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