Various Artists

Maybach Music Group Presents Self Made, Vol. 2: The Untouchable Empire

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Released just as summer 2012 became official, Maybach Music Group Presents Self Made, Vol. 2: The Untouchable Empire finds Rick Ross and his crew doing it big with a mixtape worth of thuggy club music, but there are some solid anchors here that go way deeper than expected. First and best of the deep bits is the Wale, Ross, and Nas team-up "This Thing of Ours," a slower creeper from Don Cannon that bleeps along with economical production, all as the three Dons solemnly reflect on their wins and losses. New Maybach signee Omarion joins Wale for the prime break-up and quick rebound cut "M.I.A.," which is built a slippery, stark, and challenging Tone the Beat Bully production that rewards with each return visit. When it comes to gutter music, Gunplay's "Black and Black" with Ace Hood and Bun B is as loud, raucous, and reckless as mad gangsters require. That's three unexpected triumphs with Ross as executive producer, and when it comes to his usual Rozay-big, crowd-pleasing club track, there's plenty, including the wonderfully ridiculous, eight-minute opener "Power Circle," which comes with both "The square root of kilo is me" and "If Michael Jackson came alive right now, he'd ask you to smoke for him. So in his honor…. (sound of a joint being lit)". Political correctness aside, brute humor from Ross ("My bank account is Jewish") is in abundance, and with Maybach folks like Stalley (check his "Fluorescent Ink" for some organic and jazzy uplift) and Meek Mill (an asset on the hook-filled "Black Magic") mixing with Wiz Khalifa, T.I., T-Pain, and other established names, Self Made 2 is an interesting mix of in-house and all-star, and another reason to take Ross the ring-leader seriously.

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