By 2010, Rick Ross had graduated from being just another rapper trying to make it in the Miami hip-hop scene into the kind of artist who earned his mafia moniker.
His impressive discography shows a consistency that’s extremely rare for MCs who try to trend chase, often in vain. In an era that has come to be defined by singles, Ross delivered hit after hit all while racking up critically acclaimed albums. With his languid lyricism, imposing persona, and an ear for selecting some of the best beats in the game, Ricky Rozay was primed to become a household name in hip-hop.
With three studio albums under his hefty-sized belt, Ross had proven he could deliver impeccably produced albums, but it was on Teflon Don, where he finally found his footing as an emcee. There’s an impressive number of guest appearances on the record, but Ross holds his own, never letting anyone steal his show.
Since making his debut in 2006, Ross had built his career on choosing top-shelf production that was tailor-made for his exuberant style. Teflon Don was no exception. The album boasted an A-list production team featuring Kanye West, Florida veterans J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, newcomer Lex Luger, NO I.D., and DJ Clark Kent, all of whom provided a lush, cinematic score to Ross’ larger-than-life tales.
The makings of a Don
Stories of decadent materialism, drug dealing, sexual conquests, and of course amassing unprecedented wealth, is the lane Ross is most comfortable in and occupies effortlessly.
The Don gathers an array of high-profile guest stars who lend a verse – Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Styles P., Gucci Mane. T.I and Drake – to smooth crooners John Legend, Ne-Yo, Raphael Saadiq, Cee-Lo Green, Chrisette Michele and Erykah Badu.
While Ross was certainly part of a new class of hip-hop heavyweights, there’s a lot on Teflon Don for old-school heads to appreciate. The album’s first single “Super High’ is a 70s soul-drenched affair and sounds straight out of a Blaxploitation film with its sensuous basslines and sampling of Enchantment’s classic “Silly Love Song.” “Super High” captures Ross at his best, weaving aspirational tales of the good life over throwback DJ scratches and Clark Kent’s soulful production.
The second single, “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast), featuring Lex Luger’s booming production, and assistance from Styles P. was one of the hardest street anthems of the summer. Ross drops one of his catchiest hooks on the song when he raps, “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover/Whippin’ work, Hallelujah/One nation, under God/Real ni__as gettin’ money from the f__king start.”
Amid all the cocaine dreams and Magic City exploits, there are a few instances where Ross drops the persona to sincerely reflect on all of his success and those he lost along the way. On the gospel-inspired “Tears of Joy,” Ross takes stock as Cee-Lo provides a soaring chorus.
“Last night I cried tears of joy, What did I do to deserve this?/Young rich mother__ker still uneducated, But dammit a ni__a made it.” And on the album’s closer, “All The Money,” he eulogizes his late father and promises that money won’t determine what kind of man he’ll be: “Why the f__k I own the world when I can’t share it with him.”
A fateful beat
But of all the songs on Teflon Don, the Crème de la crème of the project arguably is “Aston Martin Music.” With Drake and the R&B songstress Chrisette Michele trading harmonies on the hook, it’s a sonic throwback to the early 00s. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League had initially offered the track to Drake, and when he heard Ross’ demo version, he pleaded to get on the song, not realizing he had passed on it previously. When all was said and done, “Aston Martin” helped propel Teflon Don to gold certification and remains one of Drake’s standout features, beginning his run as a hit-making, guest artist.
Teflon Don is full of deep cuts that have become just as memorable as some of the hit singles. Jay-Z and John Legend assist on “Free Mason,” where the two give a clinic on the art of rap braggadocio. “Maybach Music III,” another head-nodding J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League track, is a thrilling trifecta of Ross, T.I., and Jadakiss, with Erykah Badu on the hook. The transition on Ross’ verse is nothing less than epic, befitting for a “Don.”
Following its release in July 2010, Teflon Don debuted at No.2 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 176,300 copies in its first week in an era where streaming was transforming the way music was consumed. Without sacrificing his artistic vision, Ross’ adaptability allowed him to flourish amidst the changing times of the industry.
With Teflon Don, Ross proved he was more than just a rapper who personified hip hop’s opulent side, but someone who had come into his own as an artist and unapologetically enjoyed the fruits of his labor.