Rick Ross: Port of Miami 2

Rick Ross: Port of Miami 2

  • Maybach Music Group
  • Epic

2019

Age has mellowed rap’s most audacious fabulist, and on the sequel to his breakout debut, he settles into his luxe sound like a pair of velvet slippers.

Rick Ross’s 2006 debut Port of Miami was almost humble compared with what followed it. He indulged in plenty of Scarface fan fiction, yes, but the florid touches that would make Ross a superstar were a few years away. In retrospect, the gap between Port of Miami and “B.M.F.” is the difference between the first Fast & Furious, which was mostly a bunch of street races, and the newer ones, where they’re dropping cars out of helicopters and wrestling nuclear warheads away from international cyberterrorists.

Perhaps the time was right for a sequel to Port of Miami, because over the last half decade, Ross has begun to return to Earth. Age has mellowed the rapper, taming the audacity that fueled his brush with greatness. He’s grown out of action-movie theatrics and toned down the chest-beating bluster of his early ’00s peak as he’s retreated ever-further into gilded luxury rap. He was once one of rap’s all-time great fabulists, but he no longer seems to have the energy to sustain any fantasy that requires him to change out of his velvet slippers and smoking robe.

On Port of Miami 2, Ross no longer raps with an air of invincibility, either. When he suffered a pair of seizures on a plane in 2011, he brushed them off on 2012’s God Forgives, I Don’t as a product of an in-flight blowjob. To the extent that Ross even allowed himself to consider the afterlife back then, it was only to imagine it as another opportunity to show off his finest ride (“On the highway to heaven, can I let my top down?” he rapped). Compare that to Port of Miami 2’s emotional centerpiece “I Still Pray,” which opens with the image of Ross waking from a coma, tubes lodged in his throat. “You could have the biggest clique, but you gon’ die a loner,” he chastises himself. “What good is all the wealth, shitting on yourself?” On the album cover he clutches a photo of his manager Black Bo, who died of cardiovascular disease in 2017.

Ross remains a sharp writer. On “Vegas Residency” he castigates Kanye’s MAGA moment (“Went from battle raps to now we wearin’ MAGA hats/Dade  County, nigga, mansions up in Tamarac/Never golfing with the Trumps and I give you my word”). And Port of Miami 2 offers a bounty of other pleasures, too, including fiery guest spots from Jeezy, Meek Mill, and the late Nipsey Hussle, who cuts down Tekashi 6ix9ine from beyond the grave on “Rich Nigga Lifestyle.” Even Wale, who’s sounded absolutely lost for much of the decade, locks in on “Act a Fool.” And then there’s “BIG TYME,” which lives up to its all-caps title, granting listeners the pleasure of hearing Swizz Beatz hype-man over a Just Blaze beat.

Ross records are always great for moments like that. Other rappers give their fans red meat; Ross serves his Kobe. And yet there’s no getting around it: His presence is dulled. Ross used to put his back into his grunts, stringing together verses from contemptuous snarls. But too often on Port of Miami 2, he locks into the flow of least resistance and simply lets it ride, hiding behind his production instead of asserting his dominion over it. And while his music remains sumptuous as always, that luster alone is no longer enough to wow. You can only hear Ross turn the studio into a Cigar Aficionado cover shoot so many times before it loses its thrill.

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