By Jared Graf
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
This past August, luxury rap aficionado Rick Ross delivered his 10th studio album, “Port of Miami 2,” picking up right where he left off 13 years ago.
The album, which serves as a sequel to the rapper’s 2006 debut “Port of Miami,” finds the South Florida native showcasing maturity, development, and lavish rhymes that prove why he should be renowned as one of hip-hop’s most elite figures.
Instead of telling us why he’s the “biggest boss” in the game, Ross prefers to show us.
He does this best with songs like, “Act a Fool” and the Blaze production “BIG TYME” by exaggerating the most outrageous moments of his life. “My barber gotta come to me because I’m big time!” Ross bellows in his signature raspy tone on the latter, while directly addressing his listener on the former: “20 billboards in the city, who the f*** is you?”
Lines like these make you reimagine opulence, while feeling inferior at the same time.
Although “Act a Fool” is a testament to Ross’ ability to make trap anthems, he could have picked a different introduction for the album. The Wale-assisted record lacks originality, and feels as if it’s already been created by the Miami rapper a million times before.
One of the major faults I found with the highly anticipated album was its sequencing. Ross’ albums usually feel like a score – however, the “Port of Miami” sequel didn’t quite feel that way.
Most tracks on the album don’t seem to fit a similar theme. They seem thrown together at random with no correlation and very little thought behind their ordering. Songs like “BIG TYME” or “Fascinated” would have served as appropriate introductions that could have possibly steered the project in a much more cohesive direction.
While I wasn’t pleased with the sequencing of the project, I enjoyed seeing the amount of growth Ross has shown since the album’s predecessor. He sounds like a new person, reinvented and ready to tackle a wide variety of content.
“I Still Pray,” featuring YFN Lucci and Ball Greezy, finds Ross in his most vulnerable state yet, as he looks back on waking up from a two-day-long coma after being found unconscious in his home as the result of a seizure. “Wake up out a coma, frozen in the moment / You could have the biggest clique, but you gon’ die a loner,” he raps meaningfully.
The song only gives us a glimpse into the MC’s 2018 health scare, and I felt it could have gone more in-depth. Knowing what a descriptive rapper Ross is, the bar for story-telling is set much higher than average. YFN Lucci proves he can’t keep up after struggling to stay on topic in his verse, greatly taking away from the song’s impact.
On “Rich N***a Lifestyle,” Ross’ verse has the ability to make a Toyota feel like a Rolls Royce as he spits bars about how he’s meant to flourish over brash production courtesy of Cardiak.
Teyana Taylor provides a head-nodding hook, while the late Nipsey Hussle swoops in with a guest spot full of cocky one-liners and boastful rhetoric. He even sends a shot at Tekashi 6ix9ine in an appropriately timed verse: “I can’t name a fake n**** that was not exposed / How y’all so surprised that Tekashi told?” Nipsey asks from the grave.
The pinnacle of the project comes 12 tracks in at “Running the Streets.” With help from A Boogie wit da Hoodie and fellow Sunshine State native Denzel Curry, Ross, along with his counterparts, seem to question the loyalty of a significant other. A Boogie shines on the song, as he questions whether his lady would be there for him if it weren’t for his riches and fame: “But would you still be f****** with me / If I was wearing the same jeans for a week? / If I was hungry and I ain’t have nothing to eat?” Curry also contributes a powerful feature that details the lack of love in the streets and even conveys a message to his unborn son.
If every song on the album displayed this much passion and attention to detail, the project would have been the best of the summer.
Standout features, such as A Boogie’s, came as a surprise. This was due in part to the fact the project contained more features than actual songs. The album suffered greatly from this – often feeling weighed down, only to be carried by its guests. Out of the 15 tracks that appear on the album, a mere three are solo efforts.
Rick Ross is at his best when he has a prime focus.
Unfortunately, he seems to lack that here. His ear for beats is still unrivaled and his ability to craft descriptive, thoughtful lyrics in a captivating way hasn’t gone anywhere.
But next effort, Ross should really focus on catering to himself – not his 16 different guests.