Label: Maybach Music/Slip-n-Slide/Def Jam
Released: March 4
Like all of Rick Ross' albums, Mastermind is expansively gorgeous. It's cohesive without being "concept." Whether he's spitting his bounciest Weezy impression over the purple Prowler brood of "BLK & WHT," or answering Puffy's Vicodin-deprived rants with a Biggie memorial flow on "Nobody," the influences are clear.
Scott Storch, Puffy, Kanye, and Bink!—all doing their best to approximate the fun of a Mannie Fresh session—overwhelm the dynamite booms and trap claps favored on so many MMG projects. "The Devil Is a Lie," which features Jay Z, and "War Ready" are Mastermind's biggest, most lethal beats, bookended by blues and reggae relief. With time, "Sanctified" emerged as the post-Yeezus Kanye collaboration that a real thug would've killed for. This is a perfectly respectable third encore from a rap champion who, if the critics have their say, really could use one of those lavish vacations he boasts about. —Justin Charity