Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
With the sound of a guttural “HUNH” heard from a country mile away, Rick Ross has once again arrived on scene. Though he fancies for the sports car in design, he prefers to move with the pace of an idling, current-swept yacht. Impervious to the breakneck pace with which his contemporaries scurry, Renzel allows each step to carry a sense of weight. Such is the image he has cultivated over long years and ten studio albums. That of a methodist, who stares in silence contemplating each purchase before pulling the trigger.
There may be no rapper alive, save for perhaps Future, who has blurred the line between fiction and reality like Young Renzel. His Boss persona has become ingrained within him, so much so that it has informed his very nature. It’s difficult to attribute any sense of hunger to him, especially after such a longstanding A-list tenure; how might we, when he’s prone to boasting of private, and possibly nude, personal chefs on retainer. What can you get for the man who has everything? Port Of Miami 2 may not hold the answer, but it serves as Rick Ross’ best attempt at resolving the question.
His contact list hasn’t necessarily grown, but consistency is a win unto itself. A testament to one of hip-hop’s undervalued skills – retaining friendships over long periods of time. For those guesting with Ross, it’s clear each one is present on their own volition. Loyalty to artists like Gunplay, Wale, and Meek Mill is rewarded with top tier performances, with the former in particular rounding out album highlight “Nobody’s Favorite.” Closer “Gold Roses” feels like a well earned moment of reflection between two veterans; in crafting his latest Drake collaboration, Renzel was cognizant of Drizzy’s strengths, allowing him space to shine without micromanagement. There are moments of torch-passing, in which Rozay allows Carol City’s Denzel Curry a valuable pulpit on “Running The Streets,” his co-sign quietly turning gears behind the scenes. Though slightly oversaturated on paper, Port Of Miami 2 never quite feels compilatory.
His ear remains largely unchanged; as a King prefers a brass-led coronation, so too does Rozay favor a luxurious sample. Having Just Blaze, J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, and Jake One on a first name basis ensures his soundscapes will be delivered as requested. The production on Port Of Miami 2 is as pristine as one might expect – for whatever adventurous qualities it might lack, it makes up for in sheer opulence. Such is indeed part of the expected Rick Ross listening experience. When one’s comfort zone is a mansion, lined with the pelts of different exotic creatures, what benefit might be gained from venturing into the wild? The amassing of power is not an inherently dull theme. Though Tony Montana ultimately found himself bored by his cocaine fortune, Rick Ross has discovered satisfaction. As a result, Port Of Miami 2 features some of Ross’ most personal lyricism to date.
That’s not to say Ross hasn’t opened up about his backstory. The tales of his hustling acumen are street legends at this point. Yet where he often took pride in exuding strength, he seldom had time for moments of so-called weakness. It’s easy to attribute this newfound willingness to explore his mortality to his recent brush with death, ground he covers on “I Still Pray.” Though still keeping his inner emotional workings at an arms-length, Ross provides enough perspective to satisfy the curious. “Wake up out a coma, frozen in the moment, you could have the biggest clique, but you gon’ die a loner,” he raps, insecure for the first time in recorded history. “Tubes down my throat, rules that I broke.” Are we to believe the breaking of his personal code was his waking thought? Maybe not, but as that old witch once said, be careful what you wish for. Seeing the Boss weep might shatter the illusion altogether, and such escapism is a priceless quality. As a result, lines must always be toed on Rick Ross’ music, and Port Of Miami 2 provides enough vulnerability for us to draw our own conclusions.
If there’s one thing Ross deserves full credit for, it’s his pen game. It’s a testament that his strongest tracks are often the ones in which he raps three uninterrupted verses. “Vegas Residency,” the album’s arguable peak, finds him going off in his own calculated fashion. Three lengthy verses, each one delivered with that same signature baritone – that slight hint of world-weariness might be a figment of your imagination. Yet seldom is Ricky Rozay ever openly included within the game’s elite lyricist circles, though he’s been relatively consistent in that department. Perhaps he’s hampered by his own self-imposed thematic limitations; in a world in which “write-what-you-know” remains sound advice, he’s simply playing the cards he has been dealt. To be fair, writing detail-rich luxury raps may seem like an easy task – doing so with credibility is a different beast altogether. And now comes a sequel. Ross remains at the height of his craft, older, wiser, and eloquent as any man. For those seeking innovation, Port Of Miami 2 will not deliver on that front. But for Rick Ross and his latest brand of big boy raps, the lazy river is as rewarding as the rapids.