Rick Ross is one of hip-hop's most vividly self-aggrandizing rappers, but his fifth LP falls short of the lofty Mafioso visions he conjures in his rhymes.
God Forgives, I Don't is a smoothly sequenced mix of bangers and introspective narratives that eventually give way to the requisite radio-friendly ladies' jams. The Florida MC's eccentric storytelling skills are as tight as ever on the soul-searching, Bill Withers-sampling Ashamed. But the album's production work is predictable, and its high-concept narratives (Hold Me Back, Diced Pineapples) are painfully over thought.
With few exceptions, the guest features fall flat, the most egregious offenders being Dr. Dre and Jay-Z, whose inane verses undermine Three Kings' iconic aspirations. Much better is Meek Mill-assisted So Sophisticated, with its ferocious syllabic one-upmanship.
André 3000 attacks the 16-bar verse format - and a guitar solo! - on Sixteen, which contains some of the record's best rapping. But it also reminds us that Ross's idea of cinematic grandeur draws heavily on B-movie clichés. Can we please retire the sax solo?
Top track: Ashamed