MUSIC

Rick Ross's "Port of Miami 2" Is Stale and Overrated

The 43-year-old emcee's latest effort is mostly a tepid recycling of the same thing he's been at for the last 13 years.

Rick Ross, if nothing else, loves to repeat himself.

Whether it's his famous "Maybach Music" adlib or the endless repetition of themes and rhyme schemes, Rick Ross has struggled for years to be original. Ross's imaginative shortcomings even seep into his persona. In 2010, the rapper was sued for $10 million by former drug kingpin, Rick Ross, who claimed that the emcee appropriated his name and criminal history, which resulted in a rather lucrative music career. Ultimately, though, according to The Independent, California judge Robert Baron ruled that "Roberts [Ross, the rapper] created a celebrity identity, using the name Rick Ross, of a cocaine kingpin, turned rapper. He was not simply an impostor seeking to profit solely off the name and reputation of Rick Ross. Rather, he made music out of fictional tales of dealing drugs and other exploits..." Either way, 13 years is a long time to be churning out tales of drugs, opulence, and promiscuity, especially when these subjects are not being offered up in any new, daring, or innovative ways.

The creative stagnancy of Ross's latest album, Port of Miami 2, is seen early on. On "Act a Fool," which features Wale, Ross raps, "10 stacks on the stage cause a whirlwind (Whirlwind) / Take a couple stacks and give that to your girlfriend (Woo) / Love to see pretty bitches kissin' on pretty bitches / Number one in my book is all the realest bitches." Ross's stale rhyming of "whirlwind" and "girlfriend" could probably be overlooked if he was leaning on the tired rhyme to say something new. But he isn't. It's the message of 'I'm so rich, I could steal your girl."

To add to this barrage of antiquated sentiments, Ross follows it up with a declaration of how much he loves attractive lesbians (or, at the very least, girls who are willing to engage in bisexual behavior solely for his viewing pleasure). The other 14 songs on the album, unfortunately, do not show much in the way of departure from these bars in "Act a Fool."

The project has some occasional highlights, but those moments have little to do with Ross himself. The production, for example, is on point, thanks to beat-making masterminds like Just Blaze, Jake One, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Beat Billionaire. And there are some head-turning features from heavy hitters like Meek Mill, Jeezy, Nipsey Hussle, Teyana Taylor, Lil Wayne, Drake, and John Legend. Rick Ross is at his best when he's surrounded by talented artists that force him to step up his bars lest he be outshone.

While Rick Ross shows little growth as an artist on Port of Miami 2, that's never been his aim. He has always (and likely always will) continue his one-note shtick of drugs, sex, and violence. And it can be fun in the right context: at a club or a house party, where you will likely only hear a song or two throughout the night. And most of the songs on this album could easily slide into rotation at a wild Miami night club. So, in that regard, Port of Miami 2 sees Rick Ross at his best--making background music to party to, as opposed to crafting innovative and creatively satisfying albums.

Port of Miami 2

Music Lists

Happy Birthday, Elliott Smith: The Indie Rock Legend's 10 Best Songs

The singer-songwriter would have been 51 today.

JJ Gonson

Today, August 6, 2020, Elliott Smith would have turned 51 years old.

Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, raised in north Texas, and spent a good portion of his life in Portland, Oregon before settling in Los Angeles. Before his sudden and mysterious death in 2003, the prolific singer-songwriter released five studio albums of poignant, rootsy indie rock, with his sixth studio album and a compilation of rarities being released posthumously. He became known for his dismal lyrics—often referencing his mental health and substance abuse habits—and his distinctively whispery vocals, which he often double-tracked to create an eerie, textured ambiance.

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MUSIC

ScHoolboy Q Finds New Dimensions on CrasH Talk

The Top Dawg Entertainment emcee is back with a unique blend of bangers, gangsta rap, and introspection.

Since the release of his first mixtape, ScHoolboy Turned Hustla, ScHoolboy Q has been aiming to break the mold of the typical rapper.


Hailing from South Central Los Angeles, Q's style is not easily defined, and he doesn't sound at all like you might expect an LA emcee to sound. Q has managed to sidestep all of the tropes of West Coast rap by carving out a diverse repertoire of unique flows and cadences; selecting beats that are imaginative, energized, and often atmospheric; and frequently switching up subject matter from one song to the next. In fact, Q lists primarily East Coast rappers as his major influences. While certain West Coast legends like Kurupt and 2Pac have no doubt been pivotal for Q, the 32-year-old rapper cites New York's hip-hop elite—Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Biggie, and Nas—as having the largest influence on him. This mixture of unexpected influences is probably one of the reasons there isn't anyone else out there who sounds like Q. He's got LA in his veins and a New York State of mind. The result is a distinctively fresh style.

On his latest release, CrasH Talk, his fifth studio album and the follow-up to 2016's critically acclaimed Blank Face LP, Q continues to hone his signature sound. Released on April 26th, CrasH Talk sees Q continue to showcase his ability to command just about any beat, find new flows, and take on a breadth of topics and moods that few rappers manage to cover in a single album. This is what fans love about Q: he keeps you on your toes.

You get a different version of the emcee on every track: sometimes you'll get gangsta Q, as you do on the album's explosive opener, "Gang Gang," in which listeners are offered a quick glimpse into Q's younger days as a Hoover Street Crip: "Long cash, dope sales, ayy / AK's, head wraps, ayy / Beat case, did that, yeah / Third Benz, still black." Other times, you'll hear Q wax braggadocious, as he does on the banger "5200," with bars like "Dare one try, who frontin' on me? / Ain't no smut, no chatter on me / Money on me, hundred on me / Both got rocks, look better on me / Spaceship parked, no landin' on me / Wrecked my Lam', don't need it on E." Also, for all of you Easter egg hunters out there, if you listen closely to the intro of "5200," you might hear a familiar voice—longtime Q collaborator, Top Dawg Entertainment label mate, and the only rapper thus far to win a Pulitzer Prize—Kendrick Lamar can be heard helping Q hype up the track, even though he isn't listed as a feature on it.

Rhymes about gang life and being dope, though, are not the only versions of himself that Q presents on CrasH Talk.

You'll hear a couple radio-friendly chart-aimers on here as well. Songs like "Lies," featuring Ty Dolla $ign & YG, "CHopstix," with Travis Scott, and the LP's lead single, "Numb Numb Juice," would all feel right at home in rotation on top 40 radio stations. But these are probably the most forgettable moments on the album. "Lies," for one, is little more than a watered-down pop tune about dishonesty—Q shadowboxes on the first verse, rhyming about how real he is compared to some composite faker, while YG spits about a lying woman.

CrasH Talk also showcases a side of ScHoolboy Q that fans may be relatively unfamiliar with. Songs like "Tales," "Black Folk," "Dangerous" (featuring Kid Cudi), "CrasH," and the album's closing track, "Attention," all see Q more introspective and self-aware than on previous releases. On "CrasH," for example, Q spits lucid bars over a Boi-1da beat that samples Royce Da 5'9's classic "Boom." Addressing his daughter, Q spits, "Way too blessed to be normal / Upper echelon, but we stand that / So, girl, be proud that your skin black / And be happy, girl, that your hair napped / 'Cause the school system won't teach that / Where your father been, you gon' reach that." These are the real standout moments on CrasH Talk.

Q is at his best, it seems, when he focuses more on his pen game than on crafting an interesting flow or hyping up a hardcore vibe. He rivals his NYC heroes when he rhymes from the heart—serving up thoughtful bars and riding the beats with ease— he really opens up on these tracks, giving us songs that are honest, powerful, and that could only have been written by him.

CrasH Talk has a its ups and downs, no doubt, but it really seems to come into its own about halfway through (from "5200" to the end). Overall, it is a comprehensive rap album, with a little something for everyone, from the hardcore hip-hop purist to the casual top 40 listener. Fans can expect to hear every version of ScHoolboy Q that they already know and love, as well as become acquainted with a more mature and nuanced emcee who is clearly not afraid to grow and evolve as an artist.

CrasH Talk



Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).



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