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From the streets to success

Rick Ross - Trilla
(Def Jam)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 4, 2008

Review by Andy Argyrakis

The name Rick Ross may still be relatively new to rap and hip-hop circles, but the rhyme slayer is no stranger to success, gradually stemming from his humble Miami beginnings. After hustling his slick beats on the underprivileged streets throughout the front half of the 2000s, he found fame from a deal with Suave House Records (former home to Eightball & MJG), followed by a leap to Slip-N-Side Records (which helped propel Trick Daddy and Trina to household names).

Yet his underground single "Hustlin" proved to be just the right blend of street credibility with radio accessibility for the head honchos of the urban scene to wage a bidding war on the burgeoning star. Though offers came from Bad Boy's Sean "Diddy" Combs and The Inc., Def Jam figure head Jay-Z was the most enticing with a deal, leading Ross to ink the dotted line and officially join the major label ranks (though he still partners with Slip-N-Side). The ensuring Port of Miami CD (catapulted by a revamped "Hustlin'") went on to sell over 700,000 copies and lead the hopeful to a highly coveted opening slot on Jay-Z's last arena tour.

Given the groundswell of momentum, all eyes were on his recently released sophomore project Trilla (slang for "realer than the fake") and Ross proved his initial time in the spotlight was more than merely a fluke, debuting at #1 on both the physical Soundscan and Digital Album charts. Of course, much of the attention received from the album is coming from the company Ross keeps, which includes a whole host of celebrity friends as diverse as R. Kelly, T-Pain, Lil' Wayne, Trick Daddy, Nelly, Trey Songz and Jay-Z.

The lead single "The Boss" is amongst the hottest on his latest platter, thanks to the bellowing raps of Ross, who trades self-assured lines with T-Pain over gansta beats. It's follow-up track "Speedin'" adapts a slightly more danceable direction, supplemented by Kelly's sultry swoons and an even more assertive demeanor. "We Shinin'" features Ross in one of his few solo appearances, incorporating a retro sensibility merged with a message tracing his rise from poverty to power. He returns to collaborative contexts via the street-savvy soul of "Here I Am," effectively rounded out by rap-tipped vocals from Nelly and Avery Storm. Unfortunately, his highly anticipated tag team with Jay-Z on "Maybach Music" is far less interesting, possessing a somewhat formulaic mid-tempo grind, filled with the genre's typical lyrical cliches.

Aside from that misstep, the disc's other point of contention is Ross' minimal solo appearances, which aside from the aforementioned track, "This Me" and "Billionaire" finds the headliner with shared status. Ironically, the decision to pad the project with star power doesn't exactly match the confidence Trilla so boldly proclaims, but even with that apparent contradiction, there's still no denying most of the grooves packed within-- no matter who's on the mic.

Watch Rick Ross - "Trilla" video

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