Tuesday August 22, 2006

Rick Ross: Port of Miami album review

album cover: Carol City Cartel The mythology behind Rick Ross is staggering: he began dealing drugs in high school, gradually transferring his profits into legitimate businesses: a record label (Poe Boy Entertainment), a lawn-care service, and condos he bought and rented out.

Now, a background in crime can be a useful asset in business, but it’s not a regular everyday thug that buys his first house at the age of 21, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom by 28. Mark that: he owned the Rolls before he had the record deal. What we have, then, is a guy with serious force of will, which happens to be the very thing that is most crucial for an MC.

Throughout his 20’s, Ross worked on his mic skills too, releasing mix tapes, ghost-writing lyrics for other rappers (he won’t say who), and building up underground cred. And so the release of his first album, Port of Miami, isn’t the result of a lucky break—it’s the product of a bidding war for his contract that Def Jam Records won. (And it’s interesting that as he transitions from businessman to rapper, he is aligned with Jay-Z, who has recently retired from rapping to serve as president of Def Jam.)

OK, so let’s cut to the chase: Port of Miami is a great; it stops just short of being a classic. The beats are slow and funky. The songs are mostly good; though cutting a few of them would have improved the album (I don’t know what it is about the hip-hop industry lately that makes everyone feel that they need to fill up the full 78 minutes of every CD released: some of the best albums of all time, including hip-hop albums, barely break 40 minutes); see for example the slightly new-jack-swing I’m Bad. But for the most part, fans of Hustlin’ will not be disappointed: similarly perfect beats, mostly slow and blunted, abound, and Ross has more then enough charisma to sustain interest. And the 808 is in effect throughout most of the album.

Occasionally clunky lyrics (like infamously rhyming ‘Atlantic’ with ‘Atlantic’ on Hustlin’) are mostly overlooked in the wake of better lyrics. Lil’ Wayne has the misfortune to have to deliver one of the particularly silly lines: “bullet-proof car got me feelin’ like a turtle.” Mostly, though, the few guest appearances are great, particularly Akon on Cross that Line and Jay-Z himself on a remix of Hustlin’. And yes, this isn’t just an album from Miami, it’s an album about Miami, references to the city are peppered throughout, and it’s fun to pick them out.


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  1. noneya    Wed Aug 23, 09:28 PM #  

    so, port of miami is the voice of the MIA…?
    well, it makes me happier than anything that rick ross is our spokesperson to the world. the glammy, plasticky, faux image of MIA has always depressed me and now i can relate to what the commercial-pop world makes us out to be, though i’m hardly a thug!
    anyway, this is better than miami vice! thank the heavens for the real thing…you know rick ross and the likes of him, i mean.

    ..oh, and of course…thank all the gods for CRITICAL MIAMI!!!

  2. alesh    Wed Aug 23, 09:40 PM #  

    um, thanks . . .

    well, the “is this the new voice of miami?” aspect is one of the things I thought about getting into and didn’t end up doing.

    Mainly because I don’t know. Contrary to what Cohen told me, some of the producers of the album ARE local Miamians (and here please correct me if in fact I’m wrong, but to the best of my knowledge:) The Runners, who produced Hustlin’ as well as a bunch of other songs on the LP are from miami; in fact, Hustlin was recorded before Def Jam got involved (yes? no? anyone?).

    The pathetic truth is that I don’t know enough about hip hop circa 2006/07 to say whether Port of Miami is distinct enough to lay the groundwork for a new “Sound of Miami.”

    Miami Bass is dead, so clearly there is a role to be filled there. Personally, I’d love it if 808-beats + organs/keyboards was to become some sort of new miami sound; hell, I might start producing hip hop (Hell yes I can sequence; holla!); unfortunately, though, I don’t think it’s going to go down like that.

    There’s too much of a Reggaton and house thing in Miami, and while I don’t have a problem with that shit, i DO have a problem with watered-down hybrids.

    Even more depressing then that is that for a “Miami Sound” to become an established thing in ANYONE’s mind, a couple more big records need to come out of here fast. And that? Well, i’m not holding my breath.

    For now, yeah, let’s be glad we’ve got Rick Ross representin’.

  3. cohen    Thu Aug 24, 09:04 AM #  

    the producers are local,,,,, the money behind Ross is not,.,.,,

  4. zoe    Thu Sep 14, 09:00 PM #  

    rick ross made miami more open when he rap you feel it its not rap that shit real i look up to him cause he came from the bottom and shoot up to the top