By Sean Fennessey
To say that Rick Ross has a gift for pronouncing words is an understatement. The Miami rapper is an enunciator of the highest order, his voice a tidal wave baritone. On his fourth album he bear-hugs you with syllables - "Ammunition got the competition non-existent," he roars on "Maybach Music III."
At just 11 songs, "Teflon Don" is Ross's slimmest and also strongest album. His goals remain the same: acquire wealth, explain wealth. But his word choice and onomatopoetic gestures ("Money machines, yeah, they r-r-r-ring like a mobile phone!") are unmatched in rap right now. That the producers here include the ascendant Virginia triumphalist Lex Luger, Chicago soul-rap veteran and Kanye West mentor No I.D., and Ross's trusted J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League trio means that the sound is as gut-busting as his verbal ethic. It is by turns lush, pummeling and delirious, rippling with an '80s cheese (think Phil Collins) that translates stunningly well to rap.
Ross, whose real name is William Roberts, was outed in 2008 as a onetime correctional officer in Florida and with that came a brief moment of humiliation. But rather than recede or mince words, he has gone bigger, bolder, even comparing himself to legendary criminals. It's as if his embarrassment has fueled a new strand of joyful delusion. That it has resulted in this round, full-bellied album is just a beautiful product of self-mythology.
Recommended tracks: " B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)," "Maybach Music III," "Live Fast, Die Young," "Free Mason"