I love all sorts of music, and appreciate the opportunity I have to listen and review so much great stuff. I am also blessed with two kids who share my love of music and have taken things I played for them and ran with them to discover new artists and areas to enjoy. For my older son Danny it is the love of Rap and Hip-Hop, initiated by my playing stuff from NWA and A Tribe Called Quest for him, and now taken to the point that he has an iPod full of the genre and is in touch with the whole scene from the pop end to the underground.
Here is Danny’s review of the new album God Forgives, I Don’t by Rick Ross (also known as Rozay):
Long awaited 2012 release from the Hip Hop heavyweight. Rick Ross (AKA Rozay) earned respect the hard way by ruling Miami’s underground Rap scene, and then came out of the shadows to make the three biggest scores of his career: when his first three albums all entered the Soundscan chart at #1 in 2006 (Port Of Miami), 2008 (Trilla), and 2009 (Deeper Than Rap). God Forgives, I Don’t includes production from Just Blaze, Lex Luger, The JU.S.T.I.CE. League. In addition, an all-star lineup of guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake and the Maybach Music Group team (Meek Mill, Wale, Omanon, Stalley). Deluxe edition includes two bonus tracks.
God Forgives, I Don’t (GFID from here on), Rick Ross’ fifth official album, was one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of the summer. The financial and critical success of Teflon Don, Rozay’s last LP, as well as the release of two popular mixtapes, Ashes to Ashes (including single “9 Piece” featuring T.I., who was later replaced due to his incarceration by Lil Wayne on the official remix) and Rich Forever (“Stay Schemin'” with Drake and French Montana), not to mention the very recently released Self Made 2, a collective album from Ross’ Def Jam imprint and creation, Maybach Music Group, built the tension and left a burning question: will William Leonard Roberts II, aka Rick Ross, aka Ricky Rozay’s new album live up to the hype?
The simple answer is, in fact, yes. Ross shows growth in lyrics, rhythm, track selection, and even guest slots, ensnaring rap superstars on some of his tracks. Not only is this the best Rick Ross album yet, it’s one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve heard all year.
The album begins and ends on strong points. Considering the title, starting the album with a prayer that concludes in gunfire is extremely appropriate. The first actual song, “Pirates” is pleasant and the production end is enjoyable, and includes the hints, if not full spectrum, of the lyrical and technical upgrades Rozay brings to this LP. In addition, “Ten Jesus Pieces” is an energetic, powerful closing, with Stalley in turn contributing to the Bawse’s wonderful perfomance – bringing together the rest of the album to leave you in a good place.
Other stand-out tracks include “3 Kings” – named such for bringing together Ross, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z (while Jay-Z admittedly has the best part on the track, Dre and Ross hold their own with strong verses, making the listening experience an exciting one) – and “Sixteen”, with Andre 3000 completely owning the track, mesmerising the listener with his incredible flow, lyrical content and rhythmic awareness; even though Ross puts in a good effort, the sheer presence of Three Stacks almost drowns him out.
However, the pinnacle of the album, the climax of this dark, intriguing story, lies in the deep mystery of “Amsterdam”, where weed references tangle with contemplations on his career and the boasts of a man on top of his game. His performance on this track trumps my other favorite verse of his – on Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress” off of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Rozay’s flow is at his best, as are his lyrics (some extremely memorable for their strangeness: “Now I piss on Europeans/ You would think it was porn”) and shows that he has control over intelligent rhythm when he puts his mind to it. This is the peak of a shining mountain that GFID is.
A shining mountain with a few bumps and rough spots, that is. “Hold Me Back”, the third single, is a Lex Luger-style thump-down, which in itself is not so bad. However, for a good chunk of the last verse, the lyrics consist of nothing but the words “pussy-ass nigga” and “pussy ho”. Thankfully, similar thumper “911” suffers no such lapses – however, for the best club- or pimped ride-worthy track, look to “So Sophisticated”, the second single released, which features Meek Mill.
This brings me to another problem. Those three aforementioned songs are back-to-back. The shift from “Hold Me Back” to “911” is so small, you’ll be checking to see if they are the same song, even though “Hold Me Back” fades out. There is a similar problem with the quiet, lady-wooing end: the Usher-assisted first single “Touch’N You” (which comes close to but fails to reach the magic that “Aston Martin Music” had) and “Diced Pineapples”, featuring Wale and Drake (a track that excels where “Touch’N You” falls flat) are on top of each other. Other imperfections come from less memorable songs, such as “Ashamed” and “Ice Cold”, the last of which is not saved by an excellent but not very catchy hook from Omarion.
Production-wise, this album is magnificent. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, a personal favorite, completely owns the album, with three of the 14 songs (“Maybach Music IV” featuring Ne-Yo, “Sixteen”, and “Ten Jesus Pieces”), as well as one of the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition (“Triple Beam Dreams” featuring Nas, which along with “Rich Forever” featuring John Legend, were both memorable stand-outs from the mixtape Rich Forever that were brought over to GFID), followed by Cardiak with two (“Amsterdam”, “Diced Pineapples”). Both of these producers offerings were masterful and enjoyable. Pharrell William’s production was quite good and fun to hear on “Presidential” featuring Elijah Blake, as was Jake One’s production of “3 Kings”.
Overall, God Forgives, I Don’t was an excellent album, moving popular hip-hop and rap in a wonderful direction. It delighted me to see the album felt more like Wu-Tang Clan than Young Money, with the occasional flashbacks, both good and bad, to where MMG had been before this album. Rick Ross has stepped up on both a technical and mental level, and has brought even more respect to himself as a rapper. The guest spots are superb, even though they occasionally distract from the star of the album. There was not a single song I did not like or enjoy, but I did have problems with several songs. As a hip-hop fan, I can see traces of Rick Ross’ inspiration – Tupac, Biggie, Puff Daddy – more than any of his previous works. This is Rick Ross’ masterpiece, and will, more than likely, be the most memorable hip-hop and rap album from 2012.
Ross concluded a press conference about God Forgives, I Don’t with three words: “I will deliver.”
In the end, incredibly, he did.
Here is a video for the song Amsterdam:
Review: Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
Where to Buy: iTunes or Amazon.com
What I Like: Visible growth and maturation in Rick Ross’ style; Incredible guest spots; Wonderful production; Improved rhythm and wordplay; Ross’ flow is smooth and easy to listen to; Beginning and end package the album nicely
What Needs Improvement: Incredible guest spots occasionally can’t save a track or drown out the rest; Track placement is sketchy – songs are in blocks with other similar songs; Lyrical growth occasionally falters
Source: Personal purchase