Looking back on it, I don’t know why I didn’t think to bump Rick Ross’s Hood Billionaire in one of my friend’s cars with subs in the trunk on my first run through. This shit bangs. In fact, pretty much everything he puts his name on has a similar, selling formula, and this record is no different. The content on the album isn’t anything revolutionary — there’s the expected overdose of cocaine-related wordplay and a handful of the features are a little disappointing — but it’s got bass.

Hood Billionaire

Rick Ross
Maybach Music Group (MMG)

Just checking out the track list, I was impressed with some of the guest artist’s on the album — Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Big K.R.I.T, Lil Boosie and Yo Gotti. Hell, even R. Kelly’s on it. Meek Mill’s absence might come as a bit of a surprise, but he’s behind bars right now, which could be a probable explanation — like we really need another Rick Ross/Meek Mill collab anyway.

“Hood Billionare” opens up the album with a hyped-up intro, with a fast-paced piano riff that’s added to by thumping bass and French horn. It’s a reasonable opener, talking about fucking bitches, getting money, the brands he wears, you know — nothing to get too excited about. “Coke Like the 80’s” is just a lazy concept. Hallowing piano notes open the track to give it a serious tone, but the whole thing is a little overdone. The chorus is primarily Rick Ross rapping “Coke Like the 80’s,” which is relatively void of creativity. Infrequent creative lines hold up the song, “We live in the jungle / Fish tanks in the house.”

In fact, I don’t think Ross had a single song without a reference to selling coke. The album is wholly in Ross’s comfort zone — sticking to the same formula he’s been using since day one. Hood Billionaire is the typical high intensity music that brought him his success in hit singles like “Hustlin’.” While this album might sell just fine, I’d like to see Ross push the envelope more. I’d love to feel a deeper connection with his music occasionally, instead all hardcore gangsta all the time.

The album also has some confusing moments for me, too. In “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” the line “Michael Jordan, white, bitch, 23,” was the first time I paused and rewound a song and thought, “what?” Maybe it’s my own naiveté to the coke game, but this line doesn’t do much for me. Is it about how much weight he’s selling? He’s a talented drug dealer? Girls?

In keeping with the trend for rappers to compare themselves to celebrities or athletes, my second “what?” moment took place when Rick Ross calls himself the Black Ronald Reagan in “Trap Luv.” What? Ross probably should’ve done a quick Wikipedia of the actor-turned-president prior to making the claim. Reagan was infamous for his massive war on drugs, which led to a substantial increase in drug-related incarcerations. Oh, the irony.

Aside from this slip up, “Trap Luv” has a great flow, with Gotti and Ross meshing well on the track and a change of pace with a less bass heavy beat. It’s definitely one of the better songs, along with “Heavyweight” and “Brimstone.” It’s hard to deny that Ricky Rozay has a nice flow.

My biggest issue with Hood Billionaire isn’t as much a fault of Ricky Rizzle’s, but the disappointment I had in the features of the album’s two biggest guests stars – Jay Z and Snoop Dogg. Jay Z doesn’t even have a verse in “Movin’ Bass,” he just sings a chorus which is far from anything special. I was really looking forward to some fresh material from Hov.

“Quintessential” isn’t nearly as disheartening as “Movin’ Bass,” but the mechanics of the track bother me. With a slow, synthy, stoner instrumental Ross’s verse floats by in anticipation of Snoop. Snoop’s voice needs to be turned up a notch with the beat turned down. The pertinent snare and synth crowd the song, leaving a small space for Snoop’s soft spoken verse. Snoop kills it, but I can’t hear him very well. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily picky, or maybe they didn’t think to turn the mic levels up after Ross’s booming voice on the opening verse (assuming the verses were recorded during the same session and all which yes, is unlikely), or maybe they just didn’t adjust his amplitude in the mixdown of the instrumental and Snoops verse.

While Ross’s content has changed greatly, it appears he’s changed things up a little bit by selling more drugs. “Elvis Presley Blvd.” featuring Project Pat continues a relatively new development in Ross’s claimed dealing empire, talking about not only crack and coke, but heroin too when referencing “quinine” – and yes, I had to look up what that means.

And with that, I’d give Hood Billionare an A+ in the “tracks I’d blare at a party to wake up the neighbors and blowout the speakers” category, but a B- when taking into account the content, creativity, guest artists and mechanics. The album would be a bit of a yawn if the bass didn’t keep me awake.

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