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Album Review: Rick Ross' God Forgives, I Don't

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by Aarica West

If you've got it, flaunt it; and even if you don't, front like you do. At least, this is what Rick Ross successfully embodies. Although much of what he raps about seems to be a fabricated, fanciful lifestyle, it's clear that Ross has raw, undeniable talent; and enough confidence to show us how "bawse" he is, or claims to be. After dropping his mixtape, Rich Forever, which some regard as the best rap of the year, he's back this summer with the highly anticipated album God Forgives, I Don't. Though it leaked online six days before hitting the stores, Ricky Rozay didn't trip. He took the leak as an opportunity to further promote his fifth studio album. He sent out a slew of tweets which featured hashtags such as, "#GFID Scorsese approved. #GFID Scorsese approved. #GFID."

According to xxlmag.com, this fifteen-track album has eleven features, thirty-seven Maybach Music drops, and a whopping eighty-seven of Rozay's infamous "huuughs". Approaching the album like Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino would approach a film, Ross delivers. With God Forgives, I Don't, he is able to make a motion picture type masterpiece that flows from scene to scene. From the beats to the content of the songs, this album puts him over the top, just as he hoped it would. If you're not a Rick Ross fan, you might jump on his bandwagon after giving this album a listen. If you doubted him in previous years, GFID may make you change your mind and have you bobbing your head. If you have been a fan of his since day one, you'll enjoy hearing how he has evolved as an artist. No matter where on the spectrum your opinions lie, get some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show that is God Forgives, I Don't.

"Pray For Us"

Produced by Harry Fraud and taken from the movie Baby Boy, this is a scene in which Jody (Tyrese Gibson) and Sweetpea (Omar Gooding) are praying to God for forgiveness of sins committed in the past, like Jody cheating on his second baby's momma, and sins that have yet to be committed; this is the scene before Jody and Sweetpea head out to kill Rodney (Snoop Dogg). It's the perfect prelude to the album.

"Pirates"

At first, you may not get why the song is titled, "Pirates"; I certainly did not. He only makes one reference to being a pirate - that reference being, "We pirates out here, trying to stay afloat". But after listening to it a few times, it's easier to see what RR is trying to do here. A pirate is a thief of the seas involved in dastardly activities. Like a pirate, RR talks about the Machiavellian activities in which a hustler is involved -such as breaking down kilos, importing marijuana, and "putting people to sleep" when necessary - all of which help the proverbial pirate "stay afloat". He allows the hustler to develop from the song's start to its end. In the first hook, Ross says, "Young n*gga, nineteen, four or five bricks," but in the next hook he switches it up to, " young n*gga, nineteen forty-five bricks," showing that this young hustler has put in his work and managed to multiply his stacks. Overall, this is a hard-hitting opening track and definitely sets the tone for GFID.

"3 Kings" (f. Dr. Dre & Jay-Z) *

Teaming up with hip-hop legends, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z, this Jake One production is pretty fly. RR is sandwiched between the two features, with Dr. Dre going first and Jay-Z finishing up the song. RR's verse is on the shorter side, which could be the reason the two overshadow him. Even the verse he most likely wrote for Dr. Dre was better than his. This song is a classic, mainly because of the vintage 90s hip-hop feel of the beat and because of Jay-Z. He takes the cake for the best verse in this song, neither Dr. Dre nor RR hold a candle to his content. Irrespective of his seemingly careless flow, I was glad to hear him anchor on the track.

"Ashamed"

Cool & Dre produced the song, sampling the beat from Judy Collin's "Shameless". RR starts off by venting about the troubles of hustling. Nevertheless, regardless of these tribulations, he is ashamed to say that he will continue to hustle until he finds something else that will "put the pain away". The beat has a chill vibe; you'll want to blast this in your speakers when you are riding around.

"Maybach Music IV" (f. Ne-Yo) *

This is a continuation of a great series. The fourth track of the Maybach Music series, it is the first without a feature, although Ne-Yo and LA Reid are on the outro. If you've been a fan of RR from the beginning of his career, you'll note that the lack of features is a big change up for the series. The other tracks include many of hip-hop's top contenders like Lil Wayne, T.I., Jay-Z, and Kanye West. He flips this one and solos over the beat, showcasing his growth as an artist. If you listen to the full series, playing the songs in sequential order, it's easy to note his progress as a lyricist. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and RR team up again to produce another classic. The beat dips often, which RR loves, and then manifests into something greater than when it first drops. If RR wanted to end the series with this one, he would be going out on a high note. But this song leaves you in anticipation of a "Maybach Music V" if only to see what he has up his sleeves to top this.

"Sixteen" (f. Andre 3000) **

By far, this is my favorite track off the album. From the beat to Andre 3000 being the feature, it's on another level. The long intro to the beat, which has a soothing saxophone over it, foreshadows that something great is on the way. The beat drops elegantly, with strings coming in to give it more of a grandiose feel; yet again, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League does not disappoint in any regard. Beat aside, the idea of the song is fantastic, and one to which other artists can relate. RR and Andre 3000 complain about only having 16 bars to tell listeners about their thoughts, their struggles, and their life. They say it only gives fans a glimpse of what they want to convey. However, on this eight minute long track, they go for far more than 16 bars. I was upset that RR did not come hard on "3 Kings", but he shows us his kingship with his verse on this track; he even ups the caliber of his metaphors. Andre 3000's voice is perfect on the chorus and bridge. He goes hard with his verse as well - his guitar solo over the outro, on the other hand, is a little suspect. Despite his lackluster guitar solo, 3K's flow is crazy and his lyrical content is amazing. Yeah, 16 bars is definitely not enough for this track.

"Amsterdam" *

On this Cardiak composition, RR talks about Amsterdam's Red Light District, but spins the topic to show that, "being a boss, you gotta get approval for a green light." By this he means, before you can make a move on him, you're going to need permission; getting that clearance might take a long time, as RR boastfully affirms on the outro. This is another song with a beat for you to vibe to while kicking back or cruising around in your car.

"Hold Me Back" *

This song is a definite "hood" anthem. "Hold Me Back" hits you hard from the start. When you have this song on blast, the bass will bang in your headphones and car speakers alike. RR wanted the second half of the album, the "I Don't" part, to "represent the street aspect of life". This song represents that shift to the streets, a shift well done. RR attacks the beat with his guttural voice as if attempting to encapsulate the struggle many people face on the streets. He takes on the persona of someone who has to grind in order to overcome that struggle. Going from soup to steak, Taurus to Lexus, he shows us that anyone can triumph; even if you don't have much coming up, your upbringing does not determine the trajectory of your life. Yes, the end of the song does get pretty repetitive - he repeats the word "p*ssy" fourteen times within a span of 30-seconds before going back to the chorus, which could also be considered pretty mundane after a while - but the message is clear: don't let anyone hold you back from doing you.

"911"

If you've listened to "Hold Me Back", then you've essentially heard the beat to this song. "Hold Me Back" and "911" flow into one another very well, a little too well; they are exceedingly similar. Despite being produced by two different people, G5Kid and Young Shun respectively, there is only a slight variation in the chords that dominate the two beats. The most drastic change seen on the beat of "911" is the addition of the police sirens. The sirens ringing in the background are befitting because of the title, though the song refers to a Porsche 911 as opposed to the police; RR is asking God if he can let the top down to his 911 on the highway to Heaven.

"So Sophisticated" (f. Meek Mill)

This is my least favorite track of the album. The beat is reminiscent of Meek Mill's "House Party", which was released in early 2012. The beat lacked originality, but RR and Meek Mill offer respectable punch lines, exhibiting the sophistication of their word play.

"Presidential"(f. Elijah Blake)

I was happy to hear the "Get Money!" over the beginning of the beat. Throughout the album, RR makes references to hip-hop legend, Notorious B.I.G., often comparing himself to the prior right hand man of Diddy (or whatever he goes by these days); this comparison fits somewhat. Just like Biggy's commanding presence, RR is on the heavy side, but has a little more confidence and displays his stomach way more than Biggy did. With two seizures back-to-back last year, RR needs to calm down and eat more diced pineapples so he doesn't end up becoming a legend the same way that Biggy did, through his death. RR will have to put in more work in the rap game in order for the comparison between himself and Biggy to fully stand. Nonetheless, he is on the right path towards attaining that legacy status. The song's feature, Elijah Blake, is a newly signed R&B singer songwriter for Def Jam Records. Haven't heard of him? He wrote Usher's hit "Climax". This song marks the divergence from the street aspect of life towards RR attempting to appeal to the ladies. Blake aids in setting the mood right for this departure. Produced by the beat-making titan, Pharrell Williams, the song is about a girl who is "strictly presidential" and the top-notch lifestyle RR leads.

"Ice Cold" (f. Omarion)

This song is a minor hiccup on GFID. I'm not saying this is a bad song, but its meaning is hard to interpret and the track lacks dominance as compared to the rest of the album, yet RR holds up his end of the song. It features Omarion, who signed to MMG in early May; if you did not know that, you may think his appearance is arbitrary and out of nowhere. The meaning of the track would be a lot easier to decipher if Omarion did not wail incoherently on a chorus that was meant to tie the song together. Spending your time trying to figure out what Omarion is saying over the chorus, takes away from the potential allure of the song. Despite the many attempts you'll make at figuring out what Omarion says on the adlibs, don't expect to fully understand what he is saying there. The track deals with being cold-hearted. In its entirety, the song is about an apathetic dope boy with an icebox heart; he keeps people at a distance, even though these people are ready to embrace him with "arms wide open".

"Touch'N You" (f. Usher) *

"Touch'N You" was first track off GFID to hit the airways. Released in May, this track can be described throughout with one word: sexy. From its start, the warped beat gets you in a trance. With Rick Ross on the deep end and Usher's highest of high notes, they'll have you hooked. This club banger is sure to remain a favorite off the album.

"Diced Pineapples" (f. Wale & Drake)

When RR had two seizures last year, his doctor suggested for him to eat more fruit. His fruit of choice was diced pineapples and for the three weeks that followed, he woke up to them every morning. This is where the concept of the song came from. Joining forces with Wale and Drake, RR had the idea to say, "She could be my diced pineapple. This special lady, she could be what I wake up to every morning and help me get by every day." Everything in the song compliments each other, even the distinct, intentional delay of the piano keys that are played during the second part of each verse and nicely flow into the chorus. Wale's poetic word play to start the song and Drake on the chorus, could easily be seen as cliché, but I think they both do a great job of aiding RR over this Cardiak & T-Minus production.

"Ten Jesus Pieces" (f. Stalley) *

This song does a great job of wrapping up the album. The beat has a street feel and the saxophone helps give it a smooth-jazz appeal. The content alludes to RR being thankful, needing to be forgiven by God, and to being such a next-level "bawse" that he needs to wear ten Jesus pieces. In an interview with MTV News, he expresses what he was going for with the title by stating, "Of course, one Jesus piece was always fly, but I just wanted to go to that next level." After Stalley finishes up his verse without rhyming, the song ends with two guys speaking foreign languages. The first language is "Wolof", a Niger-Congo language spoken in Senegal. The second language is Spanish. When both foreign snippets are translated to English, you'll note that their messages are in accordance to everything Rick Ross represents: a YOLO mentality, a hustler's ambition, the desire to be rich forever and lastly, that God forgives, but he doesn't.

Rick Ross - 911 Lyrics
Rick Ross - Amsterdam Lyrics
Rick Ross - Sixteen Lyrics
Rick Ross - Ashamed Lyrics
Rick Ross - Diced Pineapples Lyrics
Rick Ross - 3 Kings Lyrics
Rick Ross - Presidential Lyrics
Rick Ross - Hold Me Back Lyrics
Rick Ross - Rich Forever Lyrics
Rick Ross - So Sophisticated Lyrics
Rick Ross - Triple Beam Dreams Lyrics
Rick Ross - Maybach Music IV Lyrics
Rick Ross - Ice Cold Lyrics
Rick Ross - Pirates Lyrics
Rick Ross - Pray For Us Lyrics
Rick Ross - Ten Jesus Pieces Lyrics
Rick Ross - Touch'N You Lyrics