Kicking off with a pair of bombastic tracks, "Rich Is Gangsta" and "Drug Dealer Dreams," Rozay sets up a high level of energy that would seem difficult to sustain for the 70+ minute duration of Mastermind's deluxe edition. But thanks to impeccable beat selection, a seemingly endless supply of absurdly grandiose statements ("We the Knights of the Templar," "Youngest nigga in the Medellín," "I can do it like a sheikh," to name a few), strong guest spots, and nearly a metric shitton of charisma, Ross has all but protected himself from the fast forward button on this one.
The album's third actual track (not counting interludes and skits) is "Nobody," a very faithful update of Notorious B.I.G.'s "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)" done with Diddy's blessing, which draws a parallel between the two MCs on the basis that they've both been shot at while inside of cars. As Biggie's incident left him dead, and Ross escaped unscathed from his, it seems a little strange for him to effectively call himself "nobody," with "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Attempts to Kill You)" seeming like a more accurate title. The song still bangs like an modern update of Biggie should, and segues nicely into the Jay Z-featuring single "The Devil is a Lie."
Other standout tracks include "Blk & Wht" (which includes a reference to Trayvon Martin that Ross has elaborated upon), the soulful, Kanye-produced "Sanctified," and bonus track "Blessing In Disguise," featuring Houston rap legends Scarface and Z-Ro. On Mastermind, Rick Ross does away with his former pattern of alternating trap and old school soul beats, instead offering a happy hybrid of the two, and it really pays off. The album doesn't sound like it's leashed to any one era of hip hop, and will almost certainly have replay value years down the road.
Preorder Mastermind ahead of its March 4th release date on iTunes, watch Rozay's performance of "The Devil is a Lie" on Fallon from earlier this week, and visit his Zumic artist page for more of his music, videos and news.