Fresh from the acclaimed Teflon Don, Rick Ross takes a stab at introducing his own cartel into the upper echelon with Maybach Music Group’s Self Made Vol.1. Ross takes a back seat on most of the tracks, letting his rappers move the weight. Instead, Jabba the Hutt goes angler on us, frequently providing the hooks. With two established acts and a few bright new comers on the label, the decision to stick to the chorus does not seem a bad one.
Wale carried the most clout coming into Self Made, and is easily the strongest rapper on the album. While out of place on some of the harder tracks, the DC product shines on the lush beats that seem to be tailor made for him. It was a wise decision, as his wordplay and flow are easily tops in the MMG. He drops the best one liners, whether it is the embarrassment of TSA laughing at the rubbers in his luggage or how “bitches appear quicker than State Farm.” Wale is still witty on the tracks where he does not fit, but the Sesame Street effect (one of these things is not like the other) is hard to shake.
Another mid-Atlantic product, Meek Mill provides some more star power to MMG’s first studio compilation. The Philadelphia fireballer seems somewhat subdued, however. The Milly machine gun never seems to shift. His flow feels stuck on third gear on most songs, a notable exception being when paired with Jahlil Beats on “Imma Boss.” Jahlil and Mill go together like Philly and murder. With an instantly recognizable voice and presence, the raw and piercing Meek plays a proper foil to Wale’s dapper and smooth stylings.
Ross found a gem in Pill. The best fresh flow out of Atlanta in a minute, Pill sounds like the bastard child of Wacka Flocka and T.I. on the mic. With some acclaimed mixtapes already circulating, Self Made will most likely be the mainstream’s introduction to Pill, and he makes a good first impression. The only strike out is on “Ridin’ on Dat Pole”, a sophomoric and underwhelming ode to strippers that sounds like something Juvenile left on the cutting room floor.
A few of Ross’s other rappers (Gunplay being the standout) and some well selected guests (D.A. of Chester French was an unexpected treat) help round out the group’s effort. With most every song featuring at least two artists, the album wisely relies on the key Maybach members for most cuts. Teedra Moses, the label’s resident chanteuse, provides the pretty pipes when neccesary.
When not custom making beats for individual rappers, the album gets repetitive. “Tupac Back” is the Meek Mill answer to “B.M.F”, with the same driving drums and hammering tones. “600 Benz” and “Pacman” are in the same vein, and so similar to each other it is almost comical. With Wale and Pill carrying the tracks, it seemed everyone wanted to play “MC Hammer.” While the “MC Hammer”/ “B.M.F.” issue comes up only once on Don, the feeling of de ja vu is oppressive on Self Made. Besides the previously mentioned tracks, “Fitted Cap” and “Big Bank” are also guilty, with “By Any Means” coming dangerously close. “Fitted Cap” does feature an underwhelming verse from J. Cole, however.
“Self Made” opens the album strong, with a few runs from Moses building into a driving dinosaur stomp of arena rap proportions. Lively drums back Wale as Maybach wisely leads off with their best bat. That energy is carried into the previously mentioned quagmire of “MC Hammer” spin offs, but the vibe is left behind. “Rise” brings the spirit back with help from Prince Cyhi and Curren$y. Pill lays down perhaps the best verse of the album over the beat’s soulful bass line and vocal samples.
The Wale oriented cuts are the best songs Self Made has to offer. “That Way” is a jazzy ode to airport love featuring Jeremih, while D.A. helps give the brush off to gold diggers on “Play Your Part.” Deep strings, horns and a gogo-lite beat make “Running Rebels” sound straight off of Attention Deficit. It is telling that Wale is the first thing listeners hear on the alpha and omega tracks.
Everything bangs, but Self Made too often sounds like a gangster Groundhog Day. Though at their best on songs where they share, Maybach Music Group is currently less than the sum of its parts. While often taping Teflon Don or Attention Deficit, Self Made Vol.1 falls far short of fishscale. A boss should know better than to cut his product like that.
Self Made Vol.1 receives a PAR
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