On Friday, March 17, Rick Ross will release Rather You Than Me, his ninth full-length album and his first since leaving Def Jam for Epic Records.
Now in his 11th year in the music business, and having created a successful resume for himself in a variety entrepreneurial endeavors, will the MMG head honcho still be judged by album sales? In an effort to rack up album sales, Ross has always made sure there wasn't a shortage name brand guest features along for the ride, but has that repeated decision hurt his ability to craft an acclaimed album? And while we have no reason to believe it will be his last album, how would Ross be remembered if Rather You Than Me was his “final shot”?
To answer these questions, we touched based with Brendan Varan, Managing Editor at DJBooth; Yoh, Senior Editor at DJBooth; and Kennith B. Inge, the founder Dead End Hip Hop.
1. Every Rick Ross album since 2010's Teflon Don has sold less than it's predecessor. 11 years into his career, do album sales still matter for Rick Ross to be a success?
Brendan: I think that even with the release More Life, Drake can’t do much more to—wait, this isn’t about More Life? There’s another release this week? Damn. Well, as for Rick Ross. I don’t think he needs great album sales at this point to be a success, as Rozay’s already been a star for over a decade now. I figured by now he’d be well on his way into transitioning from full-time rapper to strictly label boss, and based on how MMG seems to have fallen from such early promise, that is the bigger disappointment than any lackluster first week sales.
Yoh: Rick Ross should worry about the lack Wingstops in China before stressing album sales. His career is in its 11th year and fans still care, especially when most hip-hop fans figured he wouldn’t move another copy after the 50 Cent beef. Even if Rozay goes triple floppy disc, terrible music would hurt his legacy more than low sales.
Kennith: As a mainstream artist, Rick Ross is measured by vanity metrics such as sales, streams, downloads, etc., so there is a certain level expectation attached when it comes to album sales. If he was known primarily as an underground artist, his sales wouldn't matter as much, but a guy like Rick Ross has to put up respectable numbers for people to take him seriously. Unfortunately, if you’re not selling, you’re wack to this new generation hip-hop fans.
2. There are 14 guest features on Rather You Than Me, including Nas, Future and Chris Rock. Has Rick's DJ Khaled-like dependency on guest contributions positively or negatively affected his ability to craft acclaimed full-length albums?
Brendan: Positively, by far. Rick Ross albums have always been like a fancy state dinner, where, course, you’re there to pay respects to the host, but you’re also there to see who else is going to show up. (At least that’s what I think a state dinner would be like.) The better the guest list, the better time you’re going to have.
Yoh: Ross has always had a collaborative spirit, I’m assuming it stems from his past as an fensive lineman for the Carol City Chiefs. Like football, there’s no “i” in album, so it wouldn’t surprise me if subconsciously he tries to build the best team for each project. Ross tends to have strong features so I don’t think employing strong rappers over superb production hurts an album; if you ask me, Ross’ albums tend to suffer from too many songs, too much fat―the former biggest boss can have all the features he wants if he trims down the tracklisting.
Kennith: Yes, it has negatively impacted his ability to put together an acclaimed full-length album. While Rick Ross has a good ear for beats, his albums, at times, can come across sounding more like a compilation than an album. Ross is about putting together a hot album that will sell and less about sequencing a number tracks that will tell his story. When you work with a high volume artists on an album, the product ends up lacking the cohesion and depth needed to achieve acclaimed status. You really just end up with a bunch records with popular artists tagging along.
3. Rather You Than Me is the ninth full-length album Rick Ross' career. If it is his last—and we have no reason to believe it is—how will Rick be remembered?
Brendan: Rick Ross should be remembered for having one the greatest ears for beats all time, one the greatest rap voices all time, proving nobody cares if you’re a fraud as long as your shit bangs, for Wingstop, for lemon pepper wings, for crab meats (plural), for his “Devil In A New Dress” verse, for “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” for the way he said “I’m not a staaaaaaaaaaaaaar” and hopefully for this outfit too.
Yoh: He’ll be remembered for an impeccable ear for beats, a shady background, for being one rap’s greatest entrepreneurs, and being the biggest boss to ever walk on water—his verse on “Devil In A Red Dress” is a biblical miracle.
Kennith: In an art form where authenticity is valued and celebrated, Rick Ross somehow managed to survive the one thing that could’ve ended his career—his fake gangster past. His ability to overcome that one event signaled a change in the minds hip-hop fans and their expectations rappers, but that’s a conversation for another day. Rick will be remembered for turning Maybach Music Group into a reputable label with high-prile artists, Wale and Meek Mill. At the end the day, though, I think surviving his beef with 50 Cent and overcoming his past as a correctional ficer will go down as his greatest accomplishments.
By Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Epic Records