Rick Ross • Hood Billionaire • Def Jam • US Release Date: November 24, 2014
“Quarter key got me livin’ like I’m Don King / heavyweight, I’m in the ring n*gga ding ding…” Rick Ross may not be throwing any right hooks, but the elephantine rapper does release his second album of 2014, Hood Billionaire. Shallowly titled, Hood Billionaire additionally proves to be shallow thematically.
Aimed as a conceptual effort of sorts with Ross playing the coke dealer reaping the benefits from his hustling ways, Ross’ approach is an attempted contrast to his past work without being starkly different. While Ross attempts to change-up things, he’s only lukewarm in execution. Don’t get it twisted, Ross and Hood Billionaire have their moments, but it also has many a pitfall as well.
Following a blasé intro, Hood Billionaire kicks off with its dramatically produced title track. Lacking a pure hook, “Hood Billionaire” serves as a showcase of Ross’ rhyming skills. Ultimately, it works, with Ross flexing a mean braggadocio: “Double M empire, I know these n*ggas fear me / I’m already rich, I’m tired of bein’ famous / I done f*cked all these b*tches, I can’t even name ‘em…”
Ross ensures hustling gets its just due (“still got them quarters”), something that’s the forefront of “Coke Like The 80s,” where Ross provides his ever-reliable references to “shooters.” Being the ‘billionaire’ that he is Ross ensures his material excesses are mentioned (Jesus piece, Rolexes, etc.). Lyrically, Ross throws a slick, twisted punch spitting, “Catch you jackin’ your dick, now you f*cked in the game” – charming to say the least.
More of the same comes by way of “Heavyweight” featuring Whole Slab, where Ross memorably (if clumsily) spits “Diamonds on my pinky, women on my dizzle / bulletproof the Lincoln, there go Ricky Rizzle.” Ross does redeem himself with his references to the heavyweights, but more redemption comes by way of the sound “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” where Ross claims to “still pay my child support, in all trap money.” He follows up with “Phone Tap,” where he states, they “wanna give me time for my old raps /indict me for my own raps.”
Following the luxurious, soulful “Trap Luv” (featuring Yo Gotti), Ross delivers one of Hood Billionaire’s best, “Elvis Presley Blvd,” the buzz single for the set. That said why does it seem wrong the way that Ross references Priscilla (“I got Priscilla, I got Priscilla / I got vanilla, boy, I got vanilla”)? ‘Priscilla’ of course isn’t really referencing Presley, but rather cocaine – his M.O.
Similarly, “Movin’ Bass” sadly isn’t about a bass line, but also cocaine. Among the oddest tracks on the album, its hyper rhythm is inescapable. Jay-Z delivers the hook: “See them plaques on a n*gga wall / we still movin’ bass / got them records jumpin’ off the store / we still movin’ bass.” Keeping things 100, “If They Knew” brings along K. Michelle, who delivers one of the most confounding lyrics of the album on the hook: “Sweet but sad / I don’t know how love ruins a relationship.” Throughout, Ross discusses the effects of a hustling lifestyle on a relationship, or a so-called relationship.
Sadly on “Quintessential,” guest Snoop Dogg’s ideas of quintessential things are shallow: “Titty one, titty two / see these are essentials speaking quintessentials.” Arguably, “Keep Doin’ That (Rich B*tch)” isn’t any more refined, but the production, not to mention R. Kelly’s vocals are definitely on point. Still, the play on the word ‘b*tch’ is in poor taste. But it’s no different than the majority of rap music these days.
“Nickel Rock” (featuring Boosie Badazz) is all about Ross hustling to pay the bills, something he referenced previously on “Neighborhood Drug Dealer.” On “Burn,” he rivals a Teflon Don number, “I Am Not A Star.” He couldn’t leave “Burn” without a jab at George Zimmerman (“George Zimmerman, when I see you, you gotta burn”). The standard edition of Hood Billionaire closes with two soulful cuts – “Family Ties” and the even better, more soulful Big K.R.I.T. assisted “Brimstone.”
Ultimately, Hood Billionaire pales in comparison to Ross’ best work. There are some great moments, but there’s also always the sentiment that Ross is running low on things to rap about. An entire album built upon hustling cocaine and reaping the benefits of sales is a bit over the top. While Ross’ ambitious is greatly appreciated, he ultimately falls short of the glory.
Favorites: “Hood Billionaire,” “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” “Elvis Presley Blvd.,” “Keep Doin’ That (Rich B*tch)”