Perhaps Rick Ross simply took his drug-lord act as far as it could go with 2012's "God Forgives, I Don't," in which the portly Miami rapper somehow made a seizure he'd suffered on a private jet sound like the mark of a true player. But for the first time in a career that's gotten only more interesting since his background as a corrections officer was revealed, Ross has run out of imaginative ways to describe his power on his latest.
"Before the crib you gotta clear the guard's gate," he brags of his home in "Rich Is Gangsta," "Elevators like Frank's on 'Scarface.'" Snooze.
He's helped by collaborators such as the Weeknd, who gives "In Vein" a queasy menace, and Jay Z, who boosts the swagger in "The Devil Is a Lie." And Kanye West's trippy, gospel-fied production in "Sanctified" is its own reward. (Ditto West's guest verse, in which he tries out a wonderful new pronunciation of "handkerchief.") As "Mastermind's" mastermind, though, Ross seems on auto-pilot here.
1 1/2 stars
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