Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rick Ross -- Trilla

Rating: 3/5 stars

Pros: Big budget album sounds like a million bucks.

Cons: Ross is frequently out-shined by his big-name guests.

Bottom Line: Ross' one-dimensional ode to Suge Knight wears over a whole album.

Recommended Tracks:

Maybach Music

Luxury Tax

Rick Ross certainly isn't afraid of thinking big. From his music to his persona, everything about him is over the top. Even his stage name is a tribute to Freeway Ricky Ross, one of crack cocaine's pioneers. And if you listen to his lyrics, the comparison seems appropriate. He hasn't just sold drugs; he "made a couple million dollars last year dealing weight."

While such outsized boasts aren't unusual in rap, what makes Ross unique is the utter sincerity with which he delivers them: "It ain't nothing to do 100 in the Maybach, throwing money out the roof." He's "The Boss," an almost direct copy of Death Row founder Suge Knight — a cigar-chomping and sunglass-wearing former college football lineman, complete with a gravelly, bass-heavy delivery and a tattooed, menacing frame.

Aside from the obligatory uplifting closing track "I'm Only Human," there's little else on Trilla that makes "The Boss" seem human and not cartoonish.

"Trilla" fits this persona. On first listen, everything about the album seems big. Every box on a mainstream hip-hop album is checked – there's the remake of Ross' first hit "Hustlin" ("Speedin") complete with the R. Kelly chorus, the T-Pain song ("The Boss"), "Luxury Tax," the posse cut with all his A-list friends (Jeezy, Wayne, Trick Daddy) and the Nelly club song for the ladies ("Here I Am"). Jay-Z even drops in on "Maybach Music," an apt description of the album — something meant to be played at full volume in the cars and clubs.

But underneath all the theatrics, it becomes clear why the album follows the same formula as his debut, Port of Miami. While other rappers use charisma and talent to get away with one-dimensional lyrics, Ross is neither a particularly clever nor able word-smith. His inability to master even elementary breath control forces him to use the same flow the entire album, stopping for breath at the end of nearly every line.

Like any blockbuster, big-budget release, "Trilla" packs enough visceral thrills to be enjoyable. But is it anything that will stick with you past the opening weekend? Probably not.

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