By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
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By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
As Ricky Rozay can attest, it costs to be the boss. The redoubtable 35-year-old has encountered a few glitches en route to hip-hop celebrity. His gluttonous build, self-parodying image, and seemingly absent moral compass (the offensive language on 2010's Teflon Don doesn't stop with "If she died on my dick / She would live through my rhymes") make DJ Khaled look like James Earl Jones.
True, his lyrics are insulting. But the rapper's Olympian stupidity hasn't stopped him from amassing a minor fortune. An insatiable capitalist, Ross has sucked the last breaths out of a dying business model (the hip-hop album). The RIAA might as well be a hobbling dinosaur, but Teflon Don's staying power on the charts was durable enough to earn this former Slip-N-Slide crony his share of top billing with Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy, both of whom joined Ross on tour last year.
With each passing album, Ross grows more comfortable in his ornate ridiculousness. Below, we look at the dapper-suited MC's progression from yayo-touting crook to rap monarch.
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Port of Miami (2006): The surreal odyssey began here. Well fed with untrimmed curls of chest hair, Ross appeared to have been sculpted in Tony Soprano's image. Yet he bore a much closer resemblance to Tony's hangers-on, with the gawky exterior of Silvio Dante and the cartoonish demeanor of Uncle Junior. Topically, Port of Miami lacked breadth and insight. Ross gave the criminal underworld a stilted once-over, undercutting potentially rich material with superficial dogmas. The beats dragged; it's not a secret why producers like J.R. Rotem no longer have careers.
Trilla (2008): After enjoying an income spike in 2007, the reputed drug pusher now could afford his own chippie: fine collectibles. The South Floridian yacht-rap of "Maybach Music" and "Luxury Tax" (featuring Trick Daddy, a refugee of Miami's Little Havana district) gave way to Trilla's splendorous centerpiece, "Speedin'." Unlike the Jacko album from which it derived its moniker, Trilla was impersonal, but Ross was at least companied by more animated guests: Jay-Z, Nelly, and T-Pain.
Deeper Than Rap (2009): Deeper Than Rap had the earmarks of a cataclysmic bust. Nine months earlier, Ross had been outed as a former corrections officer, vilified in the court of public opinion, and ridiculed by 50 Cent. Rather than hurtle into damage control, he went absurdist with Deeper Than Rap, an album that was miles more inspired than the economical Before I Self-Destruct. Ross threw a ration of shit at the wall: MOR balladry, sax solos, bizarre flights of fancy, collaborators from John Legend to The Dream, and a hitherto absent sense of humor. It worked transcendently.
Teflon Don (2010): Incendiary? Effusive? Nonplussing? Those are all true of Teflon Don. That said, the bawse's last album was the equivalent of a really good popcorn movie. The pomp and circumstance of "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)" gave way to the more lithe "Live Fast, Die Young," on which Ross shot the breeze with Kanye West. Teflon Don wasn't without its redundancies — I'll let you decide how good "Maybach Music III" is — but the afternoon-baked likes of "Super High" and "Tears of Joy" revealed a sunnier disposition than we were accustomed to hearing from Rozay. The album's critical success paid off generously. That fall, Ross was solicited for Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, on which he lent his strapping vocal presence to "Monster" and "Devil in a New Dress."