In review: “Mastermind”

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After meager success with his last two albums God Forgives, I Don’t (2012) and Teflon Don (2010), Miami rapper Rick Ross, slowed down his huge involvement in getting his own recording label Maybach Music Group (MMG) off the ground, and began focusing more on delivering a sixth studio album that would truly live up to the hype set by himself.

After announcing that his new album would be titled Mastermind, news soon emerged of the presence and influence surrounding the project and despite a number of delays, the music world has been eagerly waiting its March 4th release date.

As executive producer, P. Diddy brings a lot of experience and consequently a lot of expectations to the table, but is Mastermind truly a master piece?

On the technical side of the album, the sound is among the best, though not surprising considering Diddy’s resources to some of the best sound production in the world. Diddy’s work on the introductions is also notable as they flow smoothly.

Instrumental wise, there’s a surprising amount of variety from the usual hard-core street anthems with some experimental beats. The end product is pleasing while still delivering those traditional Ross tracks we’ve come to know and love.

As one of many artists well-known for a specific style and persona, Ross can often find himself under scrutiny regarding creativity and style. Mastermind does for the most part stick to the formula that’s gotten Ross to where he is today but overall the verses are his best yet. A lavish lifestyle is still the focus of his lyrics although some of the metaphors are easier to relate to this time around which is much appreciated.

By far the biggest accomplishment of Mastermind is the impressive and expertly crafted lineup of features. Each beat is perfectly matched to the featuring artist not only showcasing Rick Ross’s range of ability, but also allowing the talent of the featuring artists to be used in the best way possible. Some of the musical stars gracing Mastermind include Kanye West, The Weeknd and French Montana.

Big Sean, another featured artist, provides a solid hook while Kanye satisfies with a full quality verse on “Sanctified” although disappointingly Meek Mill doesn’t quite meet expectations on “Walking on Air”. The Weeknd takes up most of “In Vein” but no complaints here, taking a brief back seat was a smart move for the MMG Boss. On another bonus, Lil Wayne gives us his best verse in a long time and French Montana thankfully avoids auto-tune for his appearances.

With all the high quality components going into this album, Mastermind is without a doubt the best hip-hop project so far of 2014 and of Rick Ross’s career.

Hopefully, creating this album with Diddy, something good has rubbed off on Ross and his next projects will be just as masterfully pieced together. When appreciating all the details within Mastermind, its lineup of talent and its progression from past albums, it definitely deserves to be considered a masterpiece.

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