Things are constantly changing and shifting in Hip-Hop. Trends, sounds, and interests differ one month to the next, and between the release of one album and another the entire landscape of rap can change. The only thing certain in rap is irrelevance unless you’re Jay-Z of course. This seems to be the case with Rick Ross right now. After the success of Teflon Don things have gradually stalled for him. His Maybach Music Group is chugging along, but that crew has never been as interesting as the individuals in it. Wale is working on his Seinfeld project, Meek Mill is trying to stay out of jail, and no one else is worth mentioning. The Boss himself is starting to look weak, but this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2009, Rick Ross was still propelling upwards towards the top of rap’s elite. Deeper Than Rap was the point he reached his plateau. I know many will say Teflon Don is his opus, but those people were swept up in the event of that album and not the actual material on the disc. Deeper Than Rap is easily Ross’ best work to date.
Before DTP, Ross was a pretty big deal. He had two solid albums under his wide belt, and he made Hustlin’, the biggest rap song of 2006. Trilla was a solid follow-up, and it’s single The Boss got a ton of radio play (although I personally loved Speedin’). By 2009, Rick had established himself as an important figure in rap. His sudden beef with 50 Cent almost legitimized his relevance, but when he was outed as a former Corrections Officer people saw the end of The Boss. It should have been, but rap fans were more interested in the music than authenticity. Ross was on a roll and by the time his album was out he had shrugged off 50’s attacks and seemed more confident than ever.
The album is far from perfect, Face, Lay Back (eh), Murda Mami and Bossy Lady are all skip-worthy, but that leaves 10 songs that are between decent and great. The start of this album is almost unprecedented. Mafia Music is a great lyrical showcase, diss track and album opener. Maybach Music II is arguably the best in the series and has Kanye, Wayne, and Ross all delivering great verses. Then the album’s lead single, Magnificent, brings the gangsta rapper to the elegant rhymes he executes so well. The streak continues with Yacht Club, a reggae-infused track, that was clearly meant to be fun and it’s just that. Usual Suspects is easily on Ross’ top 10 and has a spectacular verse from Nasir. He starts the onslaught with “And still my talent has yet to be challenged..” and continues to turn The Boss’ first verse into mush. After that gem, there’s All I Really Want, another strong single released for the album. Rich Off Cocaine is a smoother, more personal cut, and another highlight in his catalog. These are the first seven songs on the album!
“Good dick make a chick wanna cut class.” – Rick Ross
The second half of the album is obviously not as strong, but with Gunplay, Valley Of Death and In Cold Blood, it’s clear why I hold this album in such high regard. Rick is as gangsta as you’ll ever hear him on Gunplay, and the rapper Gunplay delivers the best verse he’s ever written. Valley Of Death is a soulful track and has Ross addressing much of the controversy swirling around at that time. In Cold Blood is just a solid end to a nearly flawless album.
The production is top notch and Ross is doing his best rapping. The stars aligned for Deeper Than Rapper, and like any solar eclipse, it didn’t last long. He captured some of the same magic with Teflon Don but was really riding off the momentum of DTP. Free Mason and Life Fast, Die Young may be higher peaks than anything on DTP, but what it offers is to consistent to ignore. God Forgives, I Don’t was good, but forgettable, and in 2014, he released Mastermind and Hood Billionaire. Unfortunately, that magic just isn’t there anymore. Ross was never very versatile and it was clear he plateaued lyrically with DTP. Obviously, he has great production to fall back on, but that only lasts for so long. Ross may never reach the height of his magnum opus, but it was fun to witness.