After banging out a series of glitzy Miami gangsta albums that made him seem like the AC/DC (always the same, always quite good) of rap, Rick Ross gave the formula a rest for Black Market, an album that wanders into ruminations and cooled production at will, but still ends up all slam dunks and three pointers. Picking a key track is difficult as the epic bangers and surprisingly revealing freestyles all stand tall, but "Ghostwriter" sits in the middle of the album because it's the most anticipated, doling out industry gossip like a hot mixtape track but sending all listeners to check their packaging to make sure they picked up the explicit release, as Ross mentions some superstars he used to ghostwrite for, and they all get the bleep. It could be a fun gimmick that Ross can blame on the legal department, and these are the kinds of tricks that make each Maybach album feel so fresh. Still, "Smile Mama, Smile" with Cee Lo Green thrills on songwriting alone, putting the listener in the shoes of a superstar coming home to his mama -- whom he loves dearly -- while getting at the heart of addiction, family, and everyone's struggle for a centered self with "She told me no more Promethazine, it would make her proud/Think about, I had to think about it/Gimme a second mama, let me think about it." "Free Enterprise" with John Legend is the middle-aged and manly Maybach mind with a story of how reckless group sex used to be the thing, "But now the bitches be the realest one/I done cried on her shoulder when I'm feelin' numb?," along with a raging and precog bit of treason, "Assassinate Trump like I'm George Zimmerman." Black Market isn't a single-minded concept album as the tight, sharp, and debut album-hungry "Color Money" stacks paper and admits the rapper's friends "got them changing the gun laws," while the funk-fueled "Dope Dick" is crass and cold with "I got her addicted to that dope dick" as the hook. This Miami Don remains an unapologetic and indefensible brute -- and he says as much on this very LP -- but this rough, honest, and ambitious work is like his Raging Bull, taking the listener on a compelling, dirty journey that's also a connectable character study, and then letting some slick Chris Brown ("Sorry") and Future ("D.O.P.E") features play while the credits roll.
Black Market Review
by David Jeffries