Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Teflon Don is the fourth studio album by American rapper Rick Ross, released July 20, 2010 on Maybach Music Group and Def Jam Recordings. Production for the album took place during 2009 to 2010 and was handled by several record producers, including Clark Kent, No I.D., The Olympicks, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Lex Luger, Danja, The Inkredibles, The Remedy, and Kanye West.
The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 176,300 copies in its first week. It attained some international charting and produced three singles with moderate Billboard chart success. Upon its release, Teflon Don received generally positive reviews from most music critics, earning praise for its cinematic production and Ross's lyrical persona.
"Yeah, it's 2009, but criminality, or at least perceived criminality, is still as important as ever. Case in point: Rick Ross takes his recording alias from the name of a famous drug dealer, and Teflon Don is a nickname for the infamous John Gotti. Reportedly, part of the reason for Teflon Don's existence is so that Ross will have a place to repudiate the allegations made about him by 50 Cent and say "yes, yes I did sell drugs. I too am street." It's always about authenticity in the end." - Prefixmag
"Ultimately Teflon Don is about two things: Rick Ross flossin' his wealth and Rick Ross flaunting his friendships. For those of you with no interest in listening to someone take the better part of an hour to reaffirm their self-worth by showcasing how hard they're shining: Teflon Don is going to be lost on you. But if you have no qualms with returning to an era of rap that celebrated ridiculous levels of decadence: you've come to the right place.
"Blast my record out the windows of your Honda Accord," Ross recently suggested in an interview with Billboard. "And if anyone gives you grief, you look them right in the eye and tell them Rick Ross told you wealth begins in the heart." That's fine advice, but once you've reached such a level of wealth as Ross has, he'd likely suggest you ditch the heartfelt sentiment, get some iced out jewelery, and start ridin' deep. Opening with the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced "I'm Not A Star," Ross wastes little time in showcasing his egocentric view on the world, casually revealing his self-perceived place in the the industry, "If I died today remember me like John Lennon." Despite its title, "I'm Not A Star" is essentially just three minutes of Ross explaining why, in fact, he is a star. Then there's "Maybach Music III," the third in a series of songs copping its name from the absurdly elite German car (though to say they're just "cars" would be doing a Maybach a disservice), "B.M.F." (which stands for "Blowin' Money Fast"), "Aston Martin Music,"and "MC Hammer," where Ross reveals in detail how much money he spends, "Bitch I'm MC Hammer, I'm about cream." But don't get Rick Ross wrong, he's grateful for his lifestyle. "Becoming a young millionaire you can lose sight of the things that's important to you" he explains in the introduction to "All The Money In The World." Then again, the references to gratitude are definitely in the minority here.
Serving to complement the album's lyrical focus on money is the rich roster of talent that joins Ross on Teflon Don, including Raphael Saadiq on "All The Money In The World." "I'm fortunate enough to socialize with some of the greatest musicians around" he reflected in the same interview with Billboard. Damn right he is. T.I., Jadakiss and Erykah Badu join the MC on the aforementioned "Maybach Music," Trey Songz & Diddy accompany Ross on "No. 1," Gucci Mane sits in on "MC Hammer," Styles P on "B.M.F.," Drake and Chrisette Michele on "Aston Martin Music," and even Cee-Lo Green makes an appearance with "Tears of Joy." Two collaborations rise above the rest however, together standing as the album's strongest tracks: "Live Fast, Die Young" with Kanye West and "Free Mason" with Jay-Z and John Legend.
Ross isn't a lyrical slouch on "Live Fast, Die Young," but the song is primarily held steady due to Kanye's verse which, while maybe not warranting a "Kanye's Back!" chant, suggests that his upcoming Good Ass Job? release will have some serious flow to it. "My outfit's so disrespectful/You can go ahead and sneeze 'cause my presence bless you." On "Free Mason" Ross once again leads the way, this time branding the song as being "For the soldiers that see the sun at midnight." By no means does the Inkredibles' production take a back seat to the two superstars however, as an inspirational feeling is added to the track with the tightly knit beat. It's not until Jay-Z's verse that the track really peaks though. Lashing out at the reaction which was aimed at his "On To The Next One" video - its abstract symbolism was greeted with accusations of satanism and Freemasonry - Jay immediately digs in, "Niggas couldn't do nothing with me, they put the devil on me... Fuck all these fairy tales/Go to hell, this is God engineering... Bitch, I said I was amazing/Not that I'm a Mason... He without sin shall cast the first stone, so y'all look in the mirror double check y'all appearance... Bitch, I'm red hot/I'm on my third six, but a devil I'm not."
While not on the same level as "Free Mason," the most telling track on Teflon Don might very well be "Tears of Joy." The song's introduction casts an unusual tone early on as we hear a recording of a speech originally delivered by Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers, "Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner." This is followed by a series of statements that act as a call to violence to spark change. The words offer little but lost sentiment though as Ross fails to honestly address the recording in the song. Rather, working alongside Cee-Lo's ever-stunning vocals, he continues with the same flow that is felt throughout various other parts of Teflon Don, appearing to show appreciation for what he has, yet still sneaking in the occasional conceited reference: "Biggie Smalls in the flesh." By all means he's a good rapper, but Notorious B.I.G. he is not.
The reason that "Tears of Joy" might best represent Teflon Don, despite being cast among such a quality stream of tracks, is because it displays how truly one dimensional the album is. Even when blatantly trying to shift the song in a new direction, Ross' lyrics come back to focus on personal wealth. If you were to measure Teflon Don's lyrical substance on a scale of 1 - 10, you'd end up with a negative number: there simply isn't any. But if you measure the album on its ability to showcase a non-stop flow of tremendously tight beats, mixed in with some consistent contributions from some of today's biggest names, and capped off by a memorable showing on the mic from The Boss, Teflon Don is scoring high." - Culturebully
Rolling Stone (p.80) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Here Ross surrounds himself with big-name guests and pours out smart rhymes over sleek, synth-heavy beats."
Entertainment Weekly (p.85) - "Ross' ear for lush, expansive beats has become keener..." -- Grade: B+
XXL (Magazine) (p.142) - "[I]t's Ricky's ties with superb beatmakers that keep him on top of his game. The rapper enlists Kanye West to craft the backing for 'Live Fast, Die Young'..."
Pitchfork (Website) - "There are still plenty of villainous synth vamps that cater to Ross' halting, self-satisfied delivery. But the real fun is hearing TEFLON at its most indulgent."
Recording information: Avex Recording Studio, Honolulu, HI; Blakeslee Recording Company, North Hollywood, CA; Bull Dog Studios, Sag Harbor, NY; Circle House Studios, Miami, FL; D-Block Studio, Yonkers, NY; F.A.T.E. Music Lab; PMCK Studios, Toronto, ON; Roc The Mic Studio, New York, NY; Solitaire Studios, Atlanta, GA; We The Best Studios, Miami, FL; Westlake, Hollywood, CA; Zenith Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: Jonathan Mannion.
Losing none of the momentum put in motion by his 2009 effort, Deeper Than Rap, Rick Ross keeps a very good thing going on Teflon Don, arguably his best album to date. You want rap-style luxury? Then Deeper is the better fit, but Teflon plays up the chilled and soulful elements of its predecessor, meaning Ross has graduated to a level where words like "organic" and "poignant" come into play. The former is best represented by "Mayback Music III" and it's swirling, `70s-flavored dreamscape created by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production team. Ross allows guests T.I. and Jadakiss to go first on the cut, then grabs his cigar for an uplifting story of ghetto triumph that goes from pushing to pleasing the folks ("Parents never had a good job/Now it's black American Express cards"). When it comes to "poignant," the evidence is dotted throughout the album with the rapper reflecting on where he's been, and he often questions his own lust for fame. He chants the title to the opening "I'm Not a Star" as if it was a remindful mantra, but it's his new love of contrasts that's really interesting, following Kanye's swaggering on "Live Fast, Die Young" with "Seems to me we gettin' money for the wrong things/Look around, Maseratis for the whole team/Look at Haiti, children dyin' round the clock/I'd send a hundred grand but that's a decent watch". The familiar party and thugging tunes work too with "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)," "No. 1," and the mixtape favorite "MC Hammer" -- now with added Gucci Mane verse -- all coming correct. Add all the Illuminati references in the Jay-Z team-up ("Free Mason"), a decent smoking song ("Super High"), and a track where Cee-Lo's performance just might make you misty ("Tears of Joy"), and it's obvious Ross' albums are no longer just vessels for his singles. ~ David Jeffries
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