Recording information: Ardent Studios, Memphis, TN; Jungle City Studios, New York, NY; Le Royal Monceau, Paris; Multi Alumni Studios, Atlanta, GA; Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA; RSK; Starland Studios, Atlanta, GA; Swisher Suite Studios, Miami, FL; The Pink House Studios, Miami, FL; The Soundtrap, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: David Cabrera.
With the November release of Hood Billionaire, platinum rapper Rick Ross had put up two albums in 2014, having already dropped the superior effort Mastermind in March. This album's lumbering and epic single, "Elvis Presley Blvd." with Project Pat, also leaked in the summer, making the whole year feel like a Maybach Music festival, where cocaine and caviar were in endless supply. Whether or not this justifies the padding and shagginess found on Hood Billionaire all depends on the listener's hunger for Ross and his slick brand of thug music, and yet the album is quite self-aware, putting a two-minute intro up front to act as hater repellent. Then, there's a taped, jailhouse phone call from Miami dealer Kenneth "Boobie" Williams woven throughout the LP, a hood endorsement that fans will relish as it makes the Ross mythology all the more real, but the real wins here are all the long, stretched-out "Elvis Presley Blvd."-styled bangers and the new creative opportunities they allow. On the hallucinatory, heavy, and haunting "Quintessential," special guest Snoop Dogg sounds truly renewed, and that's even considering his recent reggae rebirth, while "Brimstone," with Big K.R.I.T., is an excellent and organic funkster somewhere in the vicinity of George Clinton's Parliament or Raphael Saadiq. When it comes to the tried and true, "Keep Doin' That (Rich Bitch)" with R. Kelly is inspired by a woman who appreciates both backdoor action and smart real estate buys, as if Caligula and the condo life were longtime friends, then producer Timbaland joins the show with "Movin' Bass," a kinetic highlight in the spirit of "Tom Ford," which also features that track's maker, Jay-Z. Still, being 16 tracks long and Ross' second album of the year means mixtape gimmicks like "Heavyweight" ("I step into the ring/Ding! Ding!") get to graduate to an official track list and muddle up the flow. They only keep the often surprising Hood Billionaire off the top shelf of Ross releases, so bring some patience as this mixed bag is certainly worth sorting. ~ David Jeffries
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