It’s been a nondescript, if not painful (G-Unit still has me begging for mercy), decade for the hip-hop compilation album, but it looks like Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group have brought an end to the drought. Self Made Vol. 2, MMG’s critically acclaimed sophomore work, hit stores earlier this week, and all signs point to another conquest for Ross in his ever-so-noble pursuit of eternal wealth.
If you ask Ross about the recent praise, he’ll tell you that the album’s — and by that same token, the group’s — success is rooted in MMG’s organic feel. Now this is no shot at The Boss, but a listening of Self Made 2‘s brighter moments inspires no such feelings of purity.
Take “Power Circle,” MMG’s nine-and-a-half-minute manifesto and one of the album’s best tracks. Ross kicks things off with a head-scratching toast to the King of Pop, offers up an interesting cocaine math lesson, wraps it up with his trademark grunt, and steps out of the spotlight at the one-minute mark. (Well, we do see him walking around shirtless, but that’s beside the point.)
The next eight minutes are devoted to MMG’s young guns taking turns punishing the microphone with verbal blows in a battle royale for center stage. There’s not a catchy hook nor a consistent theme to be found. Rather, the track is carried by the lyrical talents and individual qualities of the artists: Meek Mill’s aggressive Philly flow, Wale’s crazy good rhymes, even Ross’s absurd proclamations.
“Organic” is a term reserved for revered hip-hop groups like Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys: crews that have come up together and that, as a result, rely on their innate chemistry and cohesiveness to put out good records. When you listen to an organic group, you get the feeling that you’re listening to a team. You always knew what you were getting with PE: a frontman and superstar who carries the whole on most songs (Chuck D), an eccentric and captivating sidekick ready to step in at a moment’s notice (Flavor Flav), and the behind-the-scenes team glue (Terminator X). To use a sports analogy, organic hip-hop groups are like this year’s Oklahoma City Thunder, if you substitute in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden above: a stable core of perfectly fitting pieces that made every basketball purist giddy on their road to the NBA Finals.
You know where this is headed. Stalley, Meek Mill, and Wale push and shove over mic time on songs like “Fountain of Youth” and “Bag of Money” in much the same way that Miami Heat teammates LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh have fought over who gets to shoot the basketball over the course of the past two seasons. There’s nothing organic about the way the Heat play nor about the way they were constructed. From the moment the Big Three landed in Miami, the prevailing notion in the basketball world had always been that the Heat would always suffer on the sport’s biggest stage, when team chemistry mattered most. That held true until last week, when LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh brought a championship trophy home to South Beach after taking down Durant’s Thunder.
Self Made Vol. 2 succeeds for the same reason that the Heat finally broke through: Each group has come to embrace its identity. Ross willingly takes a backseat and directs his crop of young rappers from a distance. He plays the role of Diddy — or was it Puff Daddy back then? — on 1997’s No Way Out. The protégés, meanwhile, do their best to stay out of each other’s way until their number is called, at which point they accordingly unleash a one-two punch tactic that Wade and LeBron perfected in this year’s playoffs.
Much as the Heat turned conventional basketball wisdom on its head, MMG has set forth a new blueprint for hip-hop crew success — one rooted not so much in an organic, symbiotic feel as in a hip-hop cypher battle.
Basketball fans will speculate the entire off-season as to whether or not LeBron and Co. can repeat as champions. We as hip-hop fans are lucky to not have so long a wait. Kanye West’s super team, G.O.O.D. Music, has set an August 7th release date for their Cruel Summer album.
You can check out G.O.O.D.’s first single “Mercy” by clicking here . Looks like Kanye may be taking a page out of Ross’s playbook.