What is there to say that I haven’t already said about Rick Ross? This year marks 13 years since Port of Miami, the rapper’s 2006 debut album and introduction as the self-proclaimed biggest boss of rap. That declaration, over time, became more than egocentric bravado. As Ross rose to plateaus higher than most, the ground beneath the Dade County rapper’s feet began to tremble; not under the pressure of his weight, but the bulk of his status.
Rick Ross has consistently been a giant of summer and a gladiator of winter; a poet of opulence and a rapper of decadence; a warrior who survived both real and rap wars. There was no one like him before, and there will be no one like him after. But what is there left for Rick Ross to say?
The 43-year-old legend-in-the-making has given hip-hop plenty. Although he’s in the third arc of his storied career, Ross hasn’t slowed down. With the release of Port of Miami 2, his tenth studio album, hip-hop is gifted the spoken words of a kingpin once more.
In 2019, the victory isn’t album sales or a classic certification; the achievement is in the fact we still care to listen. Rick Ross has already won. The question now becomes: Does Port of Miami 2 extend a run that’s not guaranteed to last?
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “Act a Fool” ft. Wale
Sounds like the making of a banger. The money counter is one of my favorite rap textures. This record is 10 Hummers stacked on top of each other music. I’m not in love with this beat; it doesn’t equally match Ross’ enthusiasm. This is accumulated wealth. He’s enunciating these words with flavor. Ross loves to rap, man. It’s in the lyricism. Not the complexity, but the thrill of still piecing these verses together. There are quotes. These aren’t his best bars, but he’s having a lot of fun. Wale! He’s not coming to play. The high horse bar got a chuckle. Nice flow switch. The beat is holding this one back, though. Too long to be an intro. Ross rapped three verses. Not a bad start, but way too long. I need better beats, Rozay.
2. “Turnpike Ike”
I’m getting a throwback Trilla vibe. It’s so rich and smooth. These drums are a bit overwhelming. Ross is sliding, though. Only weighty rapper I’m sure can skateboard. Ha, I love the skit with the woman. Man, there’s a sample here I’m missing. Just checked the production credits, it's Jake One. He’s a monster. I know this is a sample, and I’ll hate myself for not being able to source it. Is it “Groundhogs Day” by Wale? I’m pretty sure they’re the same beat. That’s interesting. Ross has no urgency. He’s just waxing poetics about his life with casual flair. The big brags of a boss with all the time in the world. I guess that’s why he was featured on Pusha’s Daytona. I’ll have to revisit to see how much I like it.
3. “Nobody’s Favorite” ft. Gunplay
I can’t recall the last contemporary rap album that began with three four-minute songs. A nice heavy texture to Ross' voice. The delivery is weightless. Might be one of the best Ross flows I’ve heard in a second. The beat is perfect for him. It has the gravity of a giant. Yeah, this is it. “Life is such a dirty game when you walking through the flame.” Yep, this is a successful Kingpin album. Gunplay! He’s always a noteworthy guest. His voice is so distinctive. Man, he’s come a long way from snorting drugs on Worldstar. Best song of the album thus far. A nice Harlem shake swing on these drums. “My new house is on the river.” Keeper.
4. “Summer Reign” ft. Summer Walker
Summer Walker on “Summer Reign” is just poetic. I wonder what came first, the feature or the song title? She sounds good. I never considered her a rap songstress, but she might have the chops. Ross is good for smooth, R&B-infused rap records. His discography is littered with songs like “Diced Pineapples.” “Playing in your weave before I spark my weed” got a laugh out of me. Admittedly, I’m not in love. “Summer Reign” slows down the momentum picked up by “Nobody’s Favorite.” This is the single that should’ve been pushed to the radio and then placed as a bonus track. Not a bad record, but in context to the album, it doesn’t hold up. I’m skipping.
5. “White Lines” ft. Dej Loaf
I love how this one starts. The Maybach Music drop is timeless. Getting some serious Deeper Than Rap vibes. It’s in the lineage of “Lay Back” or “All I Really Want.” I like Dej’s backing vocals. I wonder if this song is based on a true story. Do women do cocaine around Rick Ross like it’s casual? Maybe? Not a bad song, the production is as warm as beach weather and the rapping is solid all the way around. Wish Dej rapped. Man, what happened to her? That’s one name I expected to see more.
6. “BIG TYME” ft. Swizz Beatz
Swizz Beatz is so… Swizz Beatz. I love that Just Blaze made the album! Yes! This record is like being dropped kick by a size 20 Timberland boot. Why are Ross’ vocals mixed like that? They feel, muddled? He’s underneath the beat instead of water walking. Still, despite that inconvenience, this song is great. Ross is in that mode. Blaze took him to a place where he is larger-than-life. He’s rapping with all the breath in his body. With a better mix, this record should’ve been the intro. “I was washing the dishes now I get the toast.” If I was working the dishwasher at a restaurant, this lyric would mean the world to me. It’s worth noting, this song deserves to have its title in all caps. I need rappers to stop making their caps big for songs that aren’t worthy. Keeper.
7. “Bogus Charms” ft. Meek Mill
Not having Meek Mill on “BIG TYME” was an oversight; that beat was made for him as a feature. Yeah, “Bogus Charms” doesn’t scream Meek Mill. Interesting atmosphere. I like Ross on this, though. These keys are great. This vocalist? That’s what I don’t like about it. It has that Skylar Gray feel. Meek just appeared and took over. “I only remember nights that were post-traumatic.” Now that is how you start a verse. Meek, much like Ross, sounds so amped to rap. He has so much to say. I do not like the hook. Ross hasn’t phoned in a single verse. A lot of passion. “Look at all these rappers wearing bogus charms.” Rappers hate anything fake—fake friends, fake women, and fake jewelry.
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8. “Rich Nigga Lifestyle” ft. Nipsey Hussle & Teyana Taylor
Oh! Is this a Jay sample? It’s from American Gangsta. It’s a solid flip. “We need some better books stacked in the schoolhouse.” Yeah, Ross is talking that talk. The always wonderful Teyana Taylor is living up to her name. Oh man, that’s Nipsey’s voice. I’m not ready to hear Nipsey. Man. He should be here for this. This would’ve been such a big moment for him. If this weren’t a 1 Listen, I would’ve skipped this track. He gave Ross a verse, though. Second Ross verse is no sleeper. I like the Teyana hook, but I feel like this album has a weird synergy. The beat, themes, and hooks aren’t all aligning. Teyana’s little run on the back-end is cool. Worth revisiting after some more time has passed.
9. “Born to Kill” ft. Jeezy
Man, remember when these two were beefing? I was certain Jeezy and Ross would never be cool. Ross had arrived as the successor of trap-banging summer anthems. That was Jeezy’s throne. In retrospect, I understand the competitive nature of their relationship. The beat isn’t bad. It has a nice, bass-heavy bounce. Mafia talk. “Bomb under my car like I was Al Pacino.” The flow is fluid. Jeezy’s here. His voice used to have more grit. Eh, I just wish he had that fire behind his delivery. I know there’s a version of Jeezy that would’ve made these words dance. I wish Ross would have switch-ups. If you’re going to rap three verses, there has to be a shift in energy. This one is too long. Don’t plan on revisiting.
Oh yeah! Now we’re talking. This soul sample is setting the stage. Great build-up. Wanted a bigger pop from that drop, but this one jumps into your bones. Need an album of Ross over these beats. He needs the Knxwledge pack. MMG should just sign Knx and let him do the G.O.O.D Music seven-track EPs with Wale, Ross, and Meek. Rap Twitter would melt. Ross is skating. This is Bow Wow in Roll Bounce. You could place the entire album’s lyrics over this beat and I wouldn’t flinch. He could rap forever and I wouldn’t complain. I want him to keep going. “I got chills going down my arms.” Me, too, Ross! This record feels like a tribute. “I feel alone, all alone.” Man, he gave us his heart on this one. Classic Ross. This is so good.
11. “I Still Pray” ft. YFN Lucci & Ball Greezy
It’s a news report about Ross being in the hospital. I’m not sure if it’s an actual news report or a recording for the song. It sounds like a recording. I like the potential theme here; it’s building into something special. “You can have the biggest clique, but you gonna die a loner.” The album’s entire tone just changed. The lavish talk has become very introspective. “Your president on Twitter while my people in the streets.” The hook. Yep, it’s already a hood classic. Lucci! I have a soft spot for Lucci. He has grown on me. This verse isn’t bad. Sheesh. Did his homie shoot him? Man, that’s a lot. I hope all rappers have someone to talk to. These verses don’t magically heal all that pain.
12. “Running the Streets” ft. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie & Denzel Curry
Some great keys. Ross is on a run on the album’s back-half. Organ keys. Another honest record. Man, this is some of the most sincere Ross verses I’ve heard. He has a lot to say. I wouldn’t mind a soul-leaning, introspective album. I couldn’t say that after Rather You Than Me. Probably my favorite Ross album of all time. The Hoodie is here. I like A Boogie. Cool feature. A bit of an odd placement as far as song structures go. I know Curry is going to rip this. Yep, he’s taking off. So glad he’s on the album. If this were 2011, Ross and MMG would’ve made him a star. Speaking to his unborn son. That’s one thing I love rappers to do, record these moments for history.
13. “Vegas Residency”
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League tag. Ross has found the bag. He’s giving the people what they want. A Kanye mention. “Went from battle raps now we wearing MAGA Hats.” Ross does not hold his tongue. He jumped up in Wayne’s defense. He’s still doing it for lil' bruh and them. Whoa. What was that Bill Cosby line? Man, self-aware Rick Ross might be my favorite Ross. These lyrics feel very thoughtful. I need to play it from the top. I love this. If Ross dropped an album full of these records, they would call him a conscious rapper. Whatever that means in 2019. A keeper, and we still have two more minutes. I love the textures on the last verse. This record is Ross making a masterpiece. There’s not a moment where your attention waivers. “Vegas Residency” is an audio fire hazard.
14. “Maybach Music VI” ft. John Legend & Lil Wayne
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League with another one. Ross said you had to wait for the gold. Love the build-up. Feels magical. Is that John Legend? Ross and John have great chemistry. Bring John to MMG. Musically, this is gorgeous. Ross starts the show. Ha, the erotic label line. HA! The attorney/shooter bar is a BAR. The way his voice slides over these beats is something else. One of the most legendary series in hip-hop. Weezy F! I love that they have stayed close. Wayne is in a nice bag. The Target line made me laugh. I’m ready to have a conversation about third career arc Wayne. He’s pouring it out! Bravo.
15. “Gold Roses” ft. Drake
A Wayne verse into a Drake verse? That’s divine. Drake and Ross are a killer combo. Drake has one of the most seamless deliveries in hip-hop. The words don’t have any weight, and his voice never fumbles the cadence. He steps into a particular zone. As a lyricist and performer, Drake must be considered a great rapper. The blasphemy line. The double-jointed line, too. Scorpion needed “Gold Roses” more than Port of Miami 2. I love the GRAMMY line that Ross begins with. “Still blowing smoke as angels float above us.” Nevermind, this is the kind of verse to close out your album. It’s leaving a great last impression. Ross should not have released this record as a single. Does he care about radio? “I’m always at the top of barbershop gossip.” I’ve never been to the barbershop and discussed rappers. Must be nice. But shoutout to my guy Malik who used to have the bootleg movies playing while he lined you up.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Rick Ross' Port of Miami 2
The gift and curse of a long rap career is regularity. After years of listening, fans know all your tricks. They remember your musical highs and what made those highs noteworthy. The competition isn’t against peers, but the ghost of yesterday’s expectations.
On Port of Miami 2, to the surprise of no one, Rick Ross doesn’t remake himself. The seasoned rap star does everything he’s supposed to do. His production palette is rich with color, and the language of his lyricism is affluent as ever, but in staying true to form, there are notable stumbles and shortcomings.
Most of the missteps occur on the album’s front half. Countless songs are reminiscent of records from Ross’ past (“Summer Reign,” “Born to Kill”), but they aren’t as strong. They have all the right characteristics, but they fall short of absolute excellence. Ross rectifies these shortcomings on the back-half of POM2. The album has a shift in focus that’s refreshing. Not only does Ross find all the right words, but he also finds the right sound. The production value soars with “Fascinated” and he goes on a six-song run to close out the album.
Ross should have cut a few third verses to cut down on the overall runtime, but there’s joy in how much he still has to say. The introspective lyricism is some of his best. Atop his ivory tower and upon his many yachts, Ross is paying attention. He is a man of contemplation. That perspective, more than any other aspect of his artistry, is why Rozay is still relevant. No one says it quite like him.
By Yoh aka Maybach Music Yoh aka Yoh31