Words by Walter George, Jr
Honestly, I’ve been pretty disenchanted with the rap game recently and it’s been difficult to get in a zone to listen to and review music on a consistent basis.Whereas last year had an abundance of great work, this year felt…bland, routine, and repetitive.
The Jay album was decent to listen to, but not anything really worth writing about, just more high class raps from a man who seems increasingly bored with rap, despite his interest in it.
The Kanye album was pretty interesting, but between all of the Kim Kardashian news and his fights with the paparazzi, I was honestly almost Kanye’d out. I listened to it, but it had too many throwaway tracks for a 10 track album in my opinion.
Long.Live.A$AP. was released so close to the end of 2012 that I basically treated it like a 2013 album, and while thinking about the albums of this year, I remembered some that I DID like (Tyler’s Wolf, Earl’s Doris, and Freddie Gibbs’ ESGN came to mind), but I just haven’t really felt inspired to write.
That being said, one of the few rappers that I’ll be here for for at least another year is Rick Ross.
Despite his misstep last year with God Forgives, I Don’t, his run from Deeper Than Rap to Rich Forever put him in my top 5 contemporary rap artists. Simply, he put out a lot of quality work, as did the artists on his Maybach Music label. While this didn’t translate to high quality studio albums (Dreams and Nightmares was a disappointment, as were Ambition and The Gifted, even though I didn’t mind the latter as much), my hope has always been that each artist would find a way to reconcile his personal style with the production that you gain access to through working with Rick Ross.
One of the solid points of the Maybach Music run has been the Self Made compilation series. Overall, they have been very enjoyable, even if Vol 2 was fairly redundant in terms of subject matter and beat selection. Given how much I liked Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, along with my respect for Ross as an artist and an executive, it only made sense that I’d give my thoughts on the latest installment, Self Made Vol. 3.
In an interview with Vibe, Wale noted that while “my album is my brainchild,” Self Made is “Ross’ brainchild,” and this is apparent throughout the album. The airy sounds from The Gifted are largely absent from the album, and the beginning of the album has that Lex Luger-popularized sound along with subjects typical of a Ross project; cars, drug dealing, and a hood lifestyle. This tried-and-true method — while slightly repetitive at this point — is still enjoyable. “Levels” has been getting play in the streets for a while, and “Stack on My Belt” is basically “600 Benz,” which was a solid track. I could do without the Boosie feature (#KeepBoosie), but “The Plug” was a pleasant surprise, as was the intro by Lil’ Snupe, the recently slain 18 year old rapper who was signed to Meek Mill.
While Meek pretty much shares the sound of Ross’ street records, there are moments where the album strays into territory occupied by the label’s other rappers; “Black Grammys” sounds like it’s straight off The Gifted, and “Coupes & Roses” reminded me why I was excited for a Stalley album release. The obligatory “let’s let Omarion get his sangin’ on” tracks are here, and again, they aren’t bad. Despite having a roster full of rappers, Vol. 3 still enlists the efforts of others, with some surprise features. For instance, I’m not sure if anyone was expecting Lupe to be on the album, Hit-Boy makes another appearance, and Fabolous drops some…forgettable bars. On a brighter note though, we get another (increasingly popular) Ric Flair sample on “Bout That Life,” & I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of those.
One of the good qualities about Ross is that he’s the rapper who dropped “B. M. F.” and “MC Hammer” on the same album that he dropped “Aston Martin Music” and “Tears of Joy” on. In other words, he’s got a diverse soundscape. On Self Made Vol. 3, this works to his favor as he can appear on “Poor Decisions” with Wale and Lupe, “The Great Americans” with Gunplay and Rockie Fresh, and “Stack on My Belt” without any of the appearances coming across as awkward or contrived. Vol. 3, as a whole. follows this work ethic, despite one of my main complaints about it. That complaint is that the transitions to the Omarion tracks is too abrupt. The transition out of the tracks jumps directly into the first Rockie Fresh track, which, while dope, isn’t what you’re ready to listen to after Omarion. For someone whose string of high quality work includes making a point of having great sequencing, that was a surprising mistake, but in general, the album flows well.
Overall, the album is a fairly solid project, but nothing too spectacular. Some of the tracks are reheas of earlier work; “Stack on My Belt” is particularly bad in that regard. The bangers on here don’t match up with “Ima Boss” or “Tupac Back,” but I can see “Stack on My Belt” getting some street play. The high quality tracks on here are actually pretty good, even if there aren’t really that many of them. The production is solid, the raps aren’t bad, and none of the features step on each other’s toes. There are a LOT of rappers on this album (over 10), but Ross has a knack for tying all of these voices together. When gathering this many rappers for one project, that may be all that one can ask for.
Standouts: “Black Grammys,” “The Great Americans,” “The Plug”
Words by Walter George, Jr