I already knew that last night was going to be a lot, before I stepped off of the train.
I’ve long stopped saying negative things about Rick Ross – well, at least I’ve tried to – over the last couple years for the same reason I stopped watching Lakers games full-time: there really isn’t much to talk about these days that haven’t been already said. Like, I get it: his seemingly larger-than-life persona, his questionable past, his affinity for all things pear. All of these things make for attention-grabbing headlines. Once I actually decided to stop trying to overanalyze why he exists, my somewhat self-serving need to spew soapbox-style rhetoric to a sea of faceless ears via this here website also ceased.
A prime example of this was when I talked to another guest – who was as lucky as I was and successfully made his way through the throng of people and past the security guard/doorman who treated the line of the listening event for Rick’s seventh studio album Hood Billionaire last night as if folks were instead trying to hold a meeting with the Great Wizard of Oz – about this newfound sense of cynical enlightenment while he was trying to question why the “listening event” would have a quartet of violinists performing covers of “BMF,” “Hustlin’,” “Stay Schemin'” and other cuts from his catalog, while being surrounded by near-nude (save for a couple of strategically-placed pasties) women who were covered head-to-toe in bronze paint, all while some random dude was in another section of the venue hand-rolling cigars and passing them out to attendees.
“Because, Rick Ross,” would be my only reply. “Do you really need an explanation?”
Indeed, a Rick Ross anything at this point is all about the presentation, whether it’s his over-the-top album “trailers” or even his healthy lifestyle. So when Ross – accompanied by DJ Khaled, Fat Trel, Stalley, and a giant wall of security detail, publicists, label heads, and managers – finally strolled into the cramped, hot, nondescript venue in New York City’s Chinatown district and coincidentally sat in a booth no less than 5 feet from where I’d been standing, chaos expectedly occurred as he was instantly swathed in photographers’ flashing lights, camera phones from fans vying for the perfect shot for their social media profiles, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – mostly male groupies just wanting to stand close to him. Needless to say, I was forcibly squeezed off of my formerly-comfortable perch in seconds.
It was a lot, indeed.
After feeling like I’d time-traveled back into the movie Scarface (seriously, all of this would have made for an awesome themed party on Halloween), Rick would receive a plaque for selling over five million records before launching into the album. Musically, fans and casual listeners shouldn’t expect any ground-breaking material from Ross, which is neither a compliment or insult. As it’s his second album in the last eight months, you should know by now what encompasses a Rick Ross project: crack and glam raps, with sprinkles of panoramic paranoia, spread amongst production by some of the rap’s currently popular sonics. When added to some quirky, short film-type visuals – as he actually did throughout the session – you get the feeling that all Rick Ross sees in his head when creating are said gangster movies. However this piece isn’t an album review; I actually hate those things these days. Like, where do we get off telling people how they think they would enjoy something based solely off of our own admittedly narrow-minded opinions? If you enjoy something it should be because you enjoyed it, not because someone else did then told you they did which is why you should.
But I digress.
Anyways, after my locks and scalp ingested enough secondhand smoke for my liking, I took off to beat the crowd rush and grab a cab – no easy feat, being a Black man in New York City, after all – with the same sentiment I had stepping into to venue: it was a lot. Alas, like Rick Ross’ character, I’m used to it by now, so I’m not complaining about it. Anymore.
All photos courtesy of Madi Dangerously