Officer Ross found a new job as head honcho of his own label ‘Maybach Music Group’. Does the self-styled don have another hit on his hands or will the Illuminati not let him strike out on his own? The TRU Brain Trust went in to investigate.
I gotta say, Ross has adopted a business model for MMG that I love. He’s taken a bunch of rappers, who are incredibly talented but stuck in internet fandom, and has given them a machine to support them, and the freedom to be their own voice. “Self Made Vol. 1″ succeeds when this business model is played out for the tracks. Songs like “Pacman” predominantly featuring Pill and “That Way” predominantly featuring Wale are hits because they let the MC go on their own path, but in a way they couldn’t have before. Ross continues to prove that he has one of the best ears in the game for beats, and when he hits, he hits well. Guest like Curren$y and J.Cole find themselves warmly welcomed when they show up to join the Maybach boys in the fun. Unfortunately it’s not always stellar. There are WAY too many generic Lex Luger-sounding beats on here, and it just feels silly watching people like Wale trying to act like he belongs in that lane. Do what I did with this album: listen to some track previews, pick and choose the songs you want, and call it a day from there. Still worthy of a listen.
Aaron J Mckrell:
Ladies and gentlemen, Self Made Vol. 1 has unwittingly put itself into contention for worst album of the year. Rick Ross spearheading any project is a bad omen, but this album was worse than I imagined it would be. The Ross factor plays a major part in this album’s failure to be anything more than a throwaway; his cliché and generic lyrics, coupled with a horrific flow, making for a cringing experience for the listener. Even when he starts to raise his game, he almost always drops a line that sends his verse crashing back down to earth. At best, he is tolerable enough as to not ruin the track he’s on. Wale, for his part, does a stellar job on pretty much every one of his verses, but it’s not enough. Meek Millz shows flashes of a solid rhymer, but in general he is sorely lacking as an emcee. Pill delivers “Don’t Let Me Go,” which is the album’s best track, but even he is inconsistent on this album. Bombastic production and a few solid features are not enough to save Self Made Vol. 1 from being a dud. Even if Tupac did come back, I daresay even he wouldn’t be able to save this joint (not that he would want to). Let’s just hope there’s not a Vol. 2.
Ross is ridiculous. Absolutely nobody believes his don-persona but he gets away with it, probably by sheer infectiousness of his hooks. Stupid enough to rap along with the second time they drop in the song, but still sounding cool enough to rap along with the second time they drop in the song. Over these massive beats he so expertly chooses he does start to sound more and more like a parody of himself though, and he sticks out like sore thumb on anything other than one of those menacing bangers. Luckily he employs some decent emcees in MMG and there are moments of succesful bombast. Still, the feeling you’re listening to an aborted SNL skit is hard to shake, and ‘The Lonely Island‘ is funnier at that.
I always get suspicious when a bunch of people flock to one sound or person, for whatever reason. Call it me not trying to get my Jonestown on, but when I heard the people Rawse was signing for his Maybach Music Group, I definitely hit the side eye, early. For Rawse, if he succeeds, it’s all wins, because for all intents and purposes, without those beats, he wouldn’t be where he is. He’s not the best rapper, and my son could pen some of his hooks, easily. And he’s almost five. For guys like Wale, Pill and Meek Mill, they have their own followings, but haven’t been able to really breakout, regardless of the successes they have in their own lanes. Now, when the combination of ABC hooks from Rawse and promising MCs hitting over gigantic beats, this compilation wins. That formula ends after, say, track four? “Tupac Back” has instant appeal, even if they essentially took a US take on a UK Grime riddim and inserted random Pac phrases/song titles and filled in the blanks (Paclibs?). “600 Benz” is a winner, even though you’ll need some coke dealer lingo to understand some of Rawse’s hook. Truthfully, it’s about a bunch of bullshit then. How no one checked Rick’s “snapback fitted cap” line in “Fitted Cap” is beyond me. How they really went in and rewrote the same three songs mad times is also beyond me. Wale shines whenever he touches a mic, but I still feel like he doesn’t really have an identity – yeah he fucks with kicks and hats, but what’s his story? Pill goes in, and definitely has potential, but might need his own EP or album to truly showcase his skill. Meek Mill? Any Smack DVDs still being made? I don’t even know what people love this for. I’ve not seen to many people jocking the immediate bangers off of this one… got a feeling mad ganj is going to be broken on this CD case. Wait a minute…
I BREAK WEED
ON YA ALBUM COVER
WHAT CAN I SAY
IMMA WEED LOVER
SMOKE WITH WEED LOVERS
WE FUCKING PLANTS
SMOKING SO MUCH GREEN
MY ARM’S A FUCKING PLANT
That’ll be $8, Rawse.
Ross has progressively gotten sloppier (except for his features, e.g. Devil In A New Dress) with his flow as he’s added his canine noises to his already short repertoire of tricks o’the flow and now he’s subcontracting work out to younger MCs, which in theory I don’t think is a bad thing, but doesn’t come across well on this new tape. His enchantment with the “Don” persona is leading him to delegate to what looks to be the Maybach Music Group foil to Young Money’s roster and the ensuing diffusing of flow and style did not come together in a congruent manner. The one thing that didn’t change were the beats, which I think are mafioso and awesome and Scarfaceish and whatevs. On paper it works, but in practice Ross isn’t the orchestra leader that he needs to be in order to synchronize all his moving parts and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I didn’t like the tape.
Ross wasn’t supposed to last this long. It’s not the what that makes MMG’s Self-Made..vol 1 a hit, though; it’s the how and the why. Rather than cower from the ignominy of being one of hip-hop’s biggest phonies, Ross gave the odium a bear hug. He gradually embraced the jokes until the absurdity itself became entertaining. Then, using a style he’s patented over the years, he compiled the most exquisite showcase hip-hop has witnessed in years. His rhymes are still mere pablum, even by drug-rap standards, but that’s not an issue here. Wale and Pill reduce their boss to a hype man, while lacing the album with strong rhymes. Everyone on Self-Made has a point to prove, and that extra drive yields a thoroughly enjoyable album.
Officer Ross called for back-up on his latest crew-lovefest. By now you know that if you’ve copped one Rick Ross album, you’ve copped ‘em all so don’t expect to be wowed or surprised on here. Unless of course you really believe that “Tupac Back”, then crank that joint up to 11 on your radio. The grouping of Pill, Meek Mill and Wale along with Officer Ricky isn’t noteworthy in the slightest and Wale sticks out like a sore thumb on this compilation. If you’re looking for the next classic rap albu, you’re looking in the wrong place. If you’re looking for Lex Lugarish beats, then you’ll have your fill with the aforementioned “Tupac Back”, ‘600 Benz” and “Pacman” being some of the most notable cuts on this. All three of those songs could have been merged into one song since they’re pretty much the same song. Overall, if you have your choice between buying a brisket sandwich or copping this, then enjoy your sandwich and dub this from your friend.
When looking at the roster of Maybach Music Group artists, I’m reminded of the meals that my mom used to try to throw together from the random contents of our refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. It was all very random and you wondered how in the hell it would work (sometimes it just wouldn’t and I’d make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my own dinner) but most times, I was pleasantly surprised. The same thing happened to me when I listened to MMG’s compilation album. The roster is made up of a hodge-podge group of rappers that you probably heard of and more than likely, didn’t really care about based off their own merits. Everyone from was from a different region, had a different style and you wondered why in the hell Ricky Rozay (or “Tits Mcghee”, as I affectionately call him in my head) wanted to sign them at all. It was like looking at my mom’s ingredients. But somehow, they put together an album that has made a believer out of me. Yes, the beats are repetitive. And yes, the song concepts themselves aren’t particularly strong or anything new. However, the songs get stuck in your head. There are missteps on the album (“PacMan” for one, bores me..) but you begin to play the album repeatedly, in spite of them. You wonder how you know all the words. You realize that Wale, Pill, and Meek Mill have more potential than you originally thought. You start to think..hey, maybe Tits McGhee is onto to something. And you, along with all the other hip-hop heads play it again in your ipods and debate its merits. But..you’re still listening now aren’t you? And with that, MMG wins.