With label trouble once more relegating a DMX album to pre-release purgatory, the sights of this week’s review are shifting to another barking, corpulent MC and the much anticipated release that, unlike the Dogman’s, dropped earlier this week as planned.
I wrote briefly last week about Self Made Vol. 2—the compilation album from Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group—from which I singled out “Black Magic” as a highlight.
The strength of “Black Magic,” indeed the strength of all of Self Made Vol. 2’s standout tracks, emerges from the ability of Ross’s acolytes to play stylistically off of each others’ various strengths. Or, more often than not, their ability to rhyme nimbly about Ross’s plodding, baritone hooks, as these form the stylistic backbone that holds the LP upright.
In addition to “Black Magic,” on which Meek Mill explodes into pattering verses around the stolid framework of Ross’s hook, Self Made Vol. 2 succeeds with “Bag of Money” and “Fountain of Youth,” both of which employ Maybach’s spryer lyricists (Meek Mill and Wale) in counterpoise to foot-dragging beats and Ross’s verbal sea anchors.
Lyrically, the album plays as an extended meditation on how awesome it is to be a part of Maybach Music Group. The preeminent Ross-ian theme of owning many things makes a resilient appearance. A representative couplet, culled more-or-less at random: “That b*tch bad, looking like a bag of money / I go and get it and let her count it for me.”
Perhaps because Ross’s shadow looms so large across the album (heh), Self Made Vol. 2 fails to exploit its strongest elements. While Wale and Meek Mill have both met with remarkable success on recent solo releases by pairing energetic beats with intelligent, fleet-footed lyricism, nowhere on Self Made Vol. 2 are we treated to a track with the aggravating energy of Wale’s “Slight Work” or the clever introspection of Meek Mill’s “Use to Be.” These are two of the most exciting MCs in the game right now, and on Self Made Vol. 2 they’re often forced to serve as filler.
And that’s what Self Made Vol. 2 feels like: a compendium of Rozay castoffs that the man himself couldn’t find the time to complete. Not one of the beats on Self Made Vol. 2 has the makings of a world-beating single, and it’s hard to believe that that absence was anything other than a conscious decision, given the access that Ross and company have to hip-hop’s A-list producers.
Maybach’s first compilation album—Self Made Vol. 1—sold 200,000 copies, roughly half the number posted by solo releases from the label’s heavy-hitters such as Wale and Ross. Compilation albums have traditionally justified their commercial existence by serving as ads for a label’s roster, wherein the imprint’s preeminent star (in this case Ross) lends some credibility to the rest of his crew. While Self Made Vol. 1 used this format to turn in some worthy tracks in its own right, Self Made Vol. 2 forms its principal appeal by reminding us of the imminent release of far better albums from Mill, Wale and Ross.