Available on: Def Jam LP
It’s not surprising that Rick Ross’s fourth full-length is named Teflon Don. Of all of the last decade’s street rappers he’s probably had to take the most flak, and up until now he hasn’t had a great deal to launch back at his detractors. It should have been a lot easier; a Southern rapper, Ross achieved success early on with his Gold selling debut Port of Miami and took the right steps to set up his own Maybach Music imprint. A slew of mixtapes and street singles had the core audience sewn up, but being among only a handful of Southern rappers who have never been incarcerated, his search for credible beef backfired when he set his sights on 50 Cent. Eventually Rozay’s embarrassing past as a correctional officer was revealed, and while the rapper has still only fleetingly alluded to it, the damage was done and his seamy criminal tales were suddenly framed in the third person.
So with all of this in mind, Teflon Don is a self-fulfilling prophecy – by claiming he can withstand all the mud-slinging, Ross has emerged stronger than ever before and with an album that manages to out-shine any of his perceived weaknesses. The rapper has always had a knack for selecting big tunes, but Teflon Don trumps all of its predecessors with its enviable selection of talent. It’s almost more telling looking for who’s not on the record (got beef? Well you’re off the speed dial). With Jay-Z, Drake, Raekwon, Erykah Badu, Kanye, T.I., Diddy, Gucci, Trey Songz and more, a weaker rapper would no doubt be swallowed up by the wealth of talent and spread of styles, but Ross holds his own like a stubborn breezeblock. His flow is shockingly invigorated and his glossy street tales, while at odds with his shadowy past, sound assertive and are cleverly juxtaposed with the boastful fuck yous as he ploughs through tales of diamonds, bitches and yachts. Even when pitted against the witty, widescreen talents of Yeezy on album-highlight ‘Live Fast, Die Young’, Rozay’s throaty low-end bling seems like the perfect foil to Kanye’s excitable stream of conscience.
Sadly the album isn’t all quite so successful; the first half is blighted by an over-indulgence in post-Blueprint rap-soul that can be as trying as it was previously endearing. While it no doubt panders to an audience that still exists, Ross sounds noticeably uncomfortable on these slower and more pondering jams as if he is waiting (as we are) for something a little meatier to sink his teeth into. This is minor concern however; almost made up for by the fact that Ross has provided us with a genuinely lean record. Weighing in at a meagre (for hip-hop standards) forty-nine minutes including an iTunes bonus track, it never outstays its welcome, so even with a few duff moments it rarely feels like a chore to trawl through. By the time you reach the dark and peculiar closer ‘Audio Meth’ you’ll already be reaching for the rewind, and Teflon Don is an album that improves with each and every hit.