Rappers have glorified the lifestyles of hustlers, embellished the success of kingpins, and confronted the demons of addiction throughout the genre’s 45 years of existence. To create a complete image that accurately depicts the layers of an enterprise embedded with blood, greed, ghosts, and fiscal benefits, multiple voices, and vantage points are necessary.
It’s safe to say hip-hop has explored the nuances of drug dealing from every possible perspective, but there's always been something special about Rick Ross. Ross, 42, curated his brand of boss to resemble the first half of the 1983 film Scarface—the rise, risks, and rewards Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) experienced as he ascended within the underworld. Unlike Tony, Ross avoided the self-destruction of a dealer turned user and has spent a career portraying the luxurious living of a successful dealer turned rap entrepreneur.
Ross escaped from the expected fate of death or incarceration to live a happy ending few with his background are able to experience. While Ross’ questionable past is steeped in more hidden secrets than Area 51, the brilliance of his music is not how the Maybach Music Group head honcho has achieved his wealth, but how well he’s able to capture the very spirit of grandiose opulence.
There’s a poetry to his lavish lyricism, an art to how well he has mastered bragging and boasting. It’s not just his lyrics, but the rich atmosphere that gleams from his production. The Carol City, Florida-born boss being a phenomenal selector of sounds allows him to match beats that are as rich as the imagery he illustrates. The right collection of Ross’ records will make a Honda Civic feel like a brand new Maybach; a one-bedroom apartment feel like a fully furnished Bel-Air mansion; payday feel like the direct deposit of a winning lottery ticket, and not a minimum wage check.
After nine studio albums and 12 years as a hip-hop giant, it’s the perfect time to rank the 10 most luxurious records in Rick Ross' massive catalog. Thanks for the suggestion, Jazier.
10. “Magnificent” ft. John Legend (Deeper Than Rap, 2009)
Prior to the release of Deeper Than Rap, Ross was embedded in a messy public war with 50 Cent. Surprisingly, during this period where he was under a severe character assassination attempt, the biggest boss maximized the splendor. For the album's first official single, Ross enlisted the magic of John Legend and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League to make a song that sounds just like its title: “Magnificent.” The keys sparkle with a gold the same color of Goku’s Super Saiyan hair, John Legend’s voice is pure as Blu Ivy’s laugh, and Ross delivers three verses that would have you believe he's living his best life. 50 Cent may have disrupted Ross’ image, but he could not break his luxurious spirit.
9. “Oil Money Gang” ft. Jadakiss (2013)
“All I think about is oil money, these niggas barely gettin' tour money,” Ross boasts to close an opening verse that overflows with unapologetic braggadocio. The opening line is even better: “It's amazing to be alive when niggas wants you to die, mad at every check you deposit, I see it all in their eyes.” You can almost hear the taunting smirk on his face. “Oil Money Gang” is a rare, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced loosie that didn’t make the final cut of MMG’s compilation Self Made Vol. 3, but the record is far too good to be forgotten. Musically and lyrically, the song is expensive silk, smooth enough to moonwalk across.
8. “Cigar Music” ft. Masspike Miles (Deeper Than Rap, 2009)
The first song not produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League to make our list. Here, Norfolk, Virginia's own Bink! constructs the perfect cinematic canvas for Ross to paint his vivid reflections. Cuban cigars are the yachts of tobacco products, costly but a commonplace luxury item for anyone interested in swimming in wealth. Ross raps as if money is no object and life is grand, and though his past is dark, the shadow of his previous life will not eclipse the brightness of his presence. Bink!’s strings and Ross' laid-back flow are a perfect combination; “Cigar Music” sonically juxtaposes the paranoia of mafia melodrama and the relaxation of reclining in a Rolls-Royce.
7. “Rich Is Gangsta” (Mastermind, 2014)
“Rich Is Gangsta” presents a man who is targeted and wealthy, think Tony Montana meets Marlo Stanfield with a sprinkle of Luke Cage’s invincibility. You feel it when Ross requests war, the conviction of a warrior who believes death isn’t an option for a boss. “Death to you fuckboys, on my fourth Bentley,” is a lyric that John F. Kennedy would likely tweet if he survived to see life after November 22, 1963. “Rich Is Gangsta” isn’t driven by extravagance, but the Black Metaphor production is as majestic as a field of grazing unicorns. The trumpets, drums, and the soulful sample of Average White Band's “Soul Searching” makes for a beat that’s filled with infectious richness.
6. “Oyster Perpetual” (2014)
The Dav & Don-produced “Oyster Perpetual” is another rare Ross loosie of album-cut quality. It’s a scientific fact that soul beats are to Rozay what Hennessy is to J.R. Smith—a match made in heaven. As a man who has always been physically heavy, the weightlessness of Ross' voice when he decides to levitate has always been impressive. “Oyster Perpetual” is only one verse with no hook, but the short record is a water-walking performance. Rarely is Ross acknowledged as a rapper who has aged far better than many of his peers. Somehow, the veteran Florida rapper has only gotten sharper.
5. “Amsterdam” (God Forgives, I Don't, 2009)
“Amsterdam” is an incredible deep cut from Rozay’s fifth studio album, God Forgives, I Don’t. The music is exquisite, Cardiak freaks the Cortex "Prélude à 'Go Round" sample in such an angelic way; Ross rapping is unblemished (“Crack game, champagne, kilos on the stock exchange / Rolls-Royce, new Ghost, that's a nigga pocket change”), and the floating background vocals are sweeter than Ashanti dipped in honey. "Amsterdam" is the sound of being on top of the world, and refusing to be knocked from the gold-encrusted throne.
4. “Santorini Greece” (Rather You Than Me, 2017)
Rick Ross is at his best as a lyricist when vivid imagery is pouring from his soul as a fluid stream of consciousness. It’s not unfocused rambling, but rather a concise musing that has a magnetizing effect on listeners. The Bink!-produced “Santorini Greece” is an audio masterpiece; the dynamic jazz-inspired production perfectly compliments Rozay’s detailed precision. The beat allows him to travel from thought to thought, from the deeply personal to the humblest brags. The Ross who appears on “Santorini Greece” is less a rapper and more like a sculptor carving an intricate mansion from marble. It’s a song that compels you to walk through the halls, exploring each and every room.
3. “Aston Martin Music” ft. Chrisette Michele & Drake (Teflon Don, 2010)
The late, great Prodigy of Mobb Deep was the king of opening bars, but Ross has his share of iconic lines. One of his very best kicks off the second verse of “Aston Martin Music”: “Pull up on the block in a drop-top chicken box, Mr. KFC.” The genius of calling his coupe a chicken box cannot be overstated.
“Aston Martin Music” is quote-worthy, but the vibe is what sells the song—the lush, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production paired with the warmth of Chrisette Michele and Drake’s charismatic combination transports listeners into the sinking seats of a luxury two-seater. This is what summer sounds like when you live in a city only touched by the season once a year; when you have a partner whose love is eternal, and a car worthy of being in the music video for Big Tymers' “Real Big.” “Aston Martin Music” will live on as a Ross classic.
2. “Super High” ft. Ne-Yo (Telfon Don, 2010)
Part of Ross' evolution as an artist has been how well he's been able to strike a balance between being a “singles” artist and being an “album” artist. Strong singles with radio appeal dot his lengthy catalog, but they always add value to their respected projects. One of the best, most enthralling Ross singles is the Ne-Yo-assisted “Super High.” The record wasn’t a success on the Billboard Hot 100, but it has aged like Phylicia Rashād drinking fine wine. It’s soulful, funky, and luxurious, a song perfect for a black exploitation film based on some alternative future where cars actually fly when you hot box in them. “Super High” is a three-minute trip to audio paradise.
1. “Maybach Music" (Series Entries I-IV)
The biggest misstep of Ross' career might be his decision to create “Maybach Music V” without production by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. From the very first “Maybach Music,” which features a guest appearance by JAY-Z, through the fourth edition, featuring Ne-Yo, the "Maybach Music" series was flawless. Ross had perfected a brand—billionaire bars to match the billionaire musicality. Each edition is like moving into a bigger home, leasing a nicer car, upgrading to the next tier of excellence while still admiring the past. What DJ Premier is to Nas and what Boi-1da is to Drake, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League are to Rick Ross. The acclaimed production team has built a bulletproof rapport as the builders of musical beds that are as smooth as the taste of champagne and as eloquent as the poetry of Langston Hughes.
The "Maybach Music" series will go down in rap history for its dedication to grandeur and opulence, setting the bar for what luxury raps should sound like.
By Yoh, aka, Maybach Y aka @Yoh31