Mastermind is Rick Ross’ sixth album, and by this stage, the guy probably doesn’t need much of an introduction – he’s The Boss, the larger than life, bearded former correctional officer-turned ‘Teflon Don’. And in Mastermind, he delivers exactly what you’d expect from Rick Ross at this point in his career. Yes, Ross’ rapping is predictably self-congratulatory, rarely deviating from money/sex/drugs themes, and his flow has never been the most imaginative, but we can forgive him when the beats are this good – ‘Rich is Gangsta’ and ‘Drug Dealers Dream’ both sound absolutely stellar, with explosive, expensive sounding production.
‘The Devil is a Lie’ is perhaps the best song on Mastermind – Rick Ross has never sounded so animated, hungry even. The track features Jay-Z, but it’s Ross who steals the show, with his deranged delivery on the hook. Sadly though, during long stretches of this album Ross seems content to let his guests and instrumentals overshadow him, most obviously on ‘In Vein’, which really feels more like a song by The Weeknd, featuring Rick Ross, rather than the other way round. Similarly, ‘Walking On Air’ requires an adrenaline shot of a Meek Mill verse to revive it from the coma induced by the sheer blandness of the first two minutes.
In a way, Rick Ross really is a “mastermind”. By cutting a few great moments with a collection of phoned-in filler tracks, and most importantly, playing it safe all the way, he’s perfected the art of coming up with a commercial album that will sell well.