Say this about Rick Ross: He buys into his own myth, so much so that he wasn’t about to let anything as trivial as a death scare undermine his carefully cultivated aura of power and invincibility. Within hours of being revived by paramedics following an in-flight seizure last October, the hefty rapper was out of the hospital and back in the air, on track to make that night’s concert in Memphis. It was only after he suffered another seizure on that flight that he cleared his schedule, eventually delaying his sixth album, God Forgives, I Don’t.
Ross’s latest mixtape, Rich Forever, arrives as a stopgap, a placeholder for an album that would have been released last month if its creator were truly the invulnerable force he carries himself as. Even so, it never sounds anything less than triumphant. Briskly paced, exquisitely produced, and caked with choice guest spots, it’s a worthy follow-up to 2010’s superb Teflon Don in its own right.
Like most mixtapes from big-name rappers, Rich Forever is more street-minded than its commercial counterparts. Breaking only for some soul-searching with John Legend on the title track and some romancing with Kelly Rowland on “Mine Games,” the bloodthirsty Rick Ross of Teflon Don’s headiest, Lex Luger-produced bangers is on a full rampage here, snarling viciously over vice-grip beats about his decadent lifestyle and the purported violence that makes it possible. They’re patently ridiculous, all these fish tales about bulk-bought Benzes and duct-taped snitches, but that’s Rick Ross’s paradox: The more far-fetched his raps become, the more real his conviction feels.
Rich Forever meets a standard of quality control that’s rare for albums, let alone mixtapes: 18 new songs, all of them good, many of them exhilarating—chief among them the exultant “Keys To The Crib,” and “Triple Beam Dreams,” a courtroom drama featuring an elaborate Nas verse that’s downright Illmatic-worthy. It’s a big project, but it never drags, overreaches, or stumbles; Ross rhymes throughout with so much power and economy that it just keeps barreling forward. If he can sustain this remarkable stride, Ross could probably pull off a double album if he wanted to.