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Teflon Don

Rick Ross writes rhymes for gangsta lifestyle

Jadakiss once wondered why rappers lie in 85 percent of their rhymes, and here's the answer: Because they don't have the audacity of Rick Ross, who lies in 95 percent of his.

Last year, the Florida don, who'd built his entire persona on his status as a criminal kingpin, was outed as a former corrections officer. For most gangsta rappers, this would be career-crippling, but Ross shook everything off — jeers from the Internet peanut gallery, 50 Cent's bullying, his own limitations — and released Deeper Than Rap, easily one of 2009's best rap records.

He began rapping more cleanly than ever before. His writing turned startlingly vivid, and the production was incredible — late-'90s grandiosity taken to even greater heights, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy score repurposed for Ricky's Vice City home. It was like watching the portly kid in gym class suddenly high-step flawlessly through a field of tires.

Rick Ross: Now  beloved critically and ­commercially.
Rick Ross: Now beloved critically and ­commercially.

So now Ross is enjoying a weird, wonderful renaissance: Once the very face of undeserved commercial-rap entitlement, he's now almost an underdog. Not commercially — Deeper went to No. 1, just like his two previous albums, 2006's Port of Miami and 2008's Trilla — but critically, especially among the inner circle of rap-nerd gatekeepers.

The ridiculously extravagant and extravagantly ridiculous new Teflon Don is certain to only rile folks up further; in sound, scope, ambition and arm's-length relationship to reality, it's essentially Deeper Than Rap 2: Even Deeperer. The production is only more towering; Ross evidently decided the beats on Deeper weren't over-the-top enough, so for "Maybach Music III," the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League furnishes him with a full orchestra to rap over, and after verses from T.I. and Jadakiss (plus a hook from Erykah Badu), Ross enters to darkening strings and a key change heralding his arrival.

"Cigar, please," he barks, over a hilarious and awe-inspiring cascade of strings, flutes, xylophone and Weather Report jazz-funk guitars that recall nothing so much as the scene in James Bond's You Only Live Twice when the volcano opens up to reveal the villain's secret lair.

This is the Ricky Rozay aesthetic — lifestyle music for escaping the state police via speedboat — and Teflon Don is even more utterly devoted than its predecessor, which was perhaps saddled with a couple more "ladies' tracks" than was strictly necessary. Those are gone now. All that's left are 11 unadulterated dispatches from BossWorld, an imaginary kingdom that only grows more vivid the more Ross visits it.

If the cold-water shock of hearing Ross rap nimbly has worn off somewhat, he more than compensates with the new lunatic conviction in his voice: "Quarter-milli for the motherfucker!" he spits on "Tears of Joy" (referring to the cost of his watch), and you can almost hear his gut convulsing. On "Free Mason," he raps feverishly about ancient symbols, codes and pyramids over a tangled bed of bluesy organs and a howling John Legend in the background.

"I understand the codes these hackers can't crack," he concludes. Indeed. Ross the Boss has grasped the key to success: He used to simply refute reality, but now he transcends it.

NEWS FEED

Mark Stevens, who with longtime partner Jim Pruett revolutionized the lewd, often controversial style of "shock jock" drive-time radio at Houston rock station KLOL in the '80s and '90s, passed away October 12 at his home in Houston. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease, abc13.com reported. During their reign as Houston's "Radio Gods" from 1986 to 2000, Stevens & Pruett ran afoul of the FCC several times and built a loyal following through bits such as "Uncle Waldo," "Woman to Woman" and Lanny Griffith's "Traffic and Bondage" reports (pow!). Stevens was 76.

In a letter to Rice University students, faculty and alumni last week, university president David Leebron said Rice and the University of Houston have signed the agreement to transfer ownership of the 91.7 FM frequency, signal tower and FCC license to U of H, which plans to convert the largely student-run free-form KTRU to a classical and fine-arts format under the call letters KUHC. The transfer still requires FCC approval, a process Leebron said may take several months, and the activist group Friends of KTRU has retained the law firm of Paul Hastings in an attempt to block the sale.

LOCAL MOTION

Top Sellers
Sound Exchange
1836 Richmond, 713-666-5555
www.soundexchangehouston.com

1. Group Inerane, Guitars From Agadez Vol. 3 (LP)

2. Sun City Girls, Funeral Mariachi (LP)

3. Swans, My Father Will Guide Me (LP/CD)

4. The Sword, Warp Riders (LP)

5. Lysol S.S. (7")

6. Sun Araw, Off Duty (12"/CD)

7. German Oak, German Oak (LP/CD)

8. Pop Group, Y (LP)

9. Flying Lotus, Pattern+Grid World (12"/CD)

10. Maserati, Pyramid of the Sun (12")

AIRWAVES

Mutant Hardcore Flower Hour
KTRU (91.7 FM), www.ktru.org
Thursdays, 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Selections from the October 14 playlist

1. Rocket From the Tombs, "Muckraker"

2. The Plungers, "Mighty Plungers"

3. Junior Varsity, "Can't Take It No More"

4. Circle Jerks, "Paid Vacation"

5. Boss Hog, "Hustle"

6. Minutemen, "It's Expected I'm Gone"

7. Lord High Fixers, "Love the Life"

8. Teengenerate, "Mess Me Up"

9. The Spits, "Tired and Lonely"

10. Poison 13, "Blank Generation"

(lists compiled by Chris Gray)

 
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