Rick Ross, Port Of Miami
So far from elegant, but impossible to ignore
There has maybe never been a less elegant rapper on Def Jam than the man rapping on Port of Miami. His very breathing sounds labored; he can hardly make it through a sentence before he has to tap out, like a winded wrestler, so he can punch in the final two words. The beats, similarly, stomp in place with big, leaden feet. The entire enterprise is so swollen and bloated that forward movement is a foregone conclusion.
And yet. There is something about the Florida MC Rick Ross, who borrowed his rap name from the same hustler Freeway paid tribute to, that cannot be ignored. First of all, he made people angry in a way that seemed almost personal: When he rhymed "Atlantic" with, uhm, "Atlantic" (It's different, see? One is the ocean, the other is the record distributor. See? Different!) rap fans reacted as if a gauntlet had been thrown down for mediocrity everywhere, and they took up arms against this enormously fat, huffing parody of coke-kingpin excess that had, inexplicably, commandeered Roc-A-Fella's attention and pushed its way to the top of their priority list.
Second of all, there was something compelling in this music, even for people who angrily denied it. Port of Miami isn't good, exactly — it is way too long and feels even longer thanks to its monotony; it features some of the most revolting sex-raps in recent memory ("Hit U From the Back") — but it has its moments. "Hustlin," of course, introduced the world to the Floridian duo The Runners, whose monster-movie synths and easy way with utter massiveness set the tone for the album. But there was also the glossy Cool and Dre production "Push It" and the swaggering blaxploitation anthem "I'm Bad." Throughout, Ross is a comically clumsy presence — the heaving way he gasps "I'm pushin it haaard" on "Push It" brings to mind a delivery-room scene, not a crack den — but he would eventually improve, in startling leaps and bounds. By the time he made 2009's risibly titled Deeper Than Rap, he would have risen the level of his beats and even begun to overtake them with his bellowing charisma — a development about as likely as predicting "that fat girl woulda turned into Oprah," to quote one of Ricky's few memorable Port of Miami lines.