The Scene: 8/8/12
RICK ROSS: “God Forgives, I Don’t”
I mean this in a good way: Rick Ross is a like a big kid who is recording—in this case musically, all of the cool things that happen to him, and he shares them with his peeps with that same child-like wonder. For example, in last year’s GQ profile of the Carol City-raised rapper, Rozay waxes about his first trip to the Cannes Film Festival like he was entering his first free-style competition: “Took the team over, ended up f***ing around, getting some Ferraris, Lamborghinis, going to the Eden Rock, kicking it with a few homeys. Shout-out to Leonardo DiCaprio.” Or as he raps on the second track on his latest album, “God Forgives, I Don’t” (“Pirates”), “Dreams of getting cream and never to be extorted/Seen so many things, be preposterous not to record it.”
The title—and story behind the release—of “God Forgives” render many of the tracks with a deeper meaning when considering that the album was originally planned for a December release, which was delayed because of Ross’ well-publicized, life-threatening seizures in October. That layers a fascinating reality to lyrics like the ones on track “911”: “If I die today, on the highway to heaven/Can I let my top down in my 911?”
Along with his introspective soul-searching, the depth of Ross the Boss’ cleverness and quickness of mind is also well on display. On “Sixteen,” he once again demonstrates that little-kid appreciation for the musical form in all its incarnations (and faces), and his glee at being in the pantheon: “Rolling like Mick Jagger, the women just get badder/All I see is the money, Cream, Eric Clapton.” Rozay is only human, after all, and he does his share of dissin’ (as exemplified by his feud with 50 Cent). But even when he snipes, he does it with a twinkle in his eye, as on track “Amsterdam:” “I’m laughing at people who labeled me poor/Now I piss on Europeans, you’d think it was porn.”
Ross’ detractors point to his first four albums, which they say show him at his most egocentric, and cast him as obsessed with riches and power. On “God Forgives,” Ross does his share of counting coup, but he also shows that he can grow and change, musically and personally. 8.5/10
CHRIS BROWN: “Fortune”
I don’t know what to say to Chris Brown that his probation officer probably hasn’t already told him. We get it: Much of today’s R&B centers around going to clubs, meeting sexy, soulful women (or whatever), and getting them to remove their clothes. Ooh baby, baby. This is by and large the main offering of “Fortune,” and unfortunately for Brown, it is territory that’s been well-trodden—by better artists (including—and I say this without irony—R. Kelly).
Brown’s fifth album (and third since he pleaded guilty in 2009 to assaulting his then-girlfriend, Rihanna) comes replete with the same old Brown-itude, without any effort at conciliation to his fans for his dickish lifestyle and behavior. Here’s a standout little gem from track “Bassline:” “You heard about my image/But u could give a flying motherf*** who’s offended. Charming. “Mirage,” featuring Nas, shows itself a likeable track from an unlikeable artist, whose milquetoast professional persona belies a rough trade sensibility without heart. Rihanna—and the rest of us—are better off without him. 5/10
MAKING A SCENE
After recovering from “Last Friday Night,” cutie Katy trades in her retainer for a Gothboy fantasy about the untrustworthiness of cute guys (DUH!), in this music video fairy tale some critics call Perry’s best one yet.
Brown v. Ocean: Did He or Didn’t He? Chris Brown found himself rolling the deep last week, after reports surfaced that he told a paparazzo in France, “Man, no homo,” when asked his thoughts about the coming out last month of fellow R&B artist Frank Ocean. The phrase denotes the traditional Hip-Hop cultural “zero tolerance” towards all things perceived to me gay, or remotely un-masculine.
Brown denies he has a beef with Ocean, and tweeted last week, “My Opinion on the whole Frank Ocean subject is……… Love who u wanna love. It’s ur decision. People stop searching for BS.”
Is CASPER SMART? Not if reports are true that photos depict J-Lo’s bf visiting an adult XXX movie on July 23—the day before Lopez’s 43rd birthday. Some have speculated that the 25-year-old boy toy may have been shopping for a sexy birthday gift for J-Lo—but Smart, a professional backup dancer, wasn’t seen leaving with any packages, and was only observed at the peepshow, not in the lingerie shop.
Previous reports have also questioned Casper’s team allegiance. Fellow backup dancer and “Step Up 3D” co-star Joshua Lee Ayers has accused Smarty Pants of possessing “low key homo ways.” Sounds kinda hot when he says it like that.