Port Of Miami
Miami has had its share of Hip Hop exposure, but Dade County seems to have a new swag these days. Easily the United States' premier vacation & real estate playground for Hip Hop royalty (Diddy, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Dr. Dre, Will Smith and several other A-listers own homes in Miami) Miami boasts world-class shopping, nightlife, and culture. If Rick Ross has his way, Miami, FL will be the next major city to make waves in the industry. His Def Jam debut Port of Miami is a coke-manifesto of deals, hustles, and life in the forgotten parts of the 305.
Unfortunately Miami, FL is also among the nation's leading cities in the illegal smuggling of cocaine- a fact alluded to in Ross' title. The six foot, 290 lb Ross is not shy about it, or about his expertise in getting, cooking, & flipping that "all white". Track titles like "Blow (Feat Dre. of Cool & Dre)," "For Da Low (produced by Jazzy Phae)," "White House," and "Pots and Pans" all tackle the dope game from different angles, with a clever blend of humor and honesty probably not seen since B.I.G.'s "Ten Crack Commandments."
What struck me the most about this album is Ross' ability to represent Miami without "reppin" for Miami. If you're familiar with the stereotypes associated with Miami, then you know that Rick Ross doesn't fit the bill. Neither does his music. At the same time, he comes across as unmistakably hood - with a certain authenticity to his dope-boy content. The art in tracks like "Push It" and "I'm Bad" and comes through loud and clear, representing a lyrical departure from the sassy in-your-face style championed by Slip-N-Slide partners Trina and Trick Daddy and the bass-heavy booty shaking of Luther Campbell before them. But don't be mistaken, the album reeks of Miami with countless tracks sounding like they sampled the score from Scarface.
Ironically, Ross does at times sound like Miami's other big man Shaquille O'Neal, with a flow that tends to mumble. He also sounds extremely polished and rehearsed, which only contradicts his raw persona. Port of Miami doesn't stray from an increasingly popular formula for Hip Hop albums- complete with a ghetto anthem ("Cross That Line" featuring Akon), hardcore thug tracks ("Where My Money," "I'm A G" featuing Lil' Wayne and Brisco) a club track or two ("I'm Bad," "Hustlin'"), and a couple of introspective/autobiographical tracks ("It's My Time," "Prayer"). In fact, Ross sums up his story on the album's final track Prayer: "A prayer is what saved me/ I should'a been indicted; now my kids know Jay-Z." There is, of course, a "baby-you-know-I-love-you" track ("Get Away" featuring Mario Winans), but Ross skipped the obligatory shout-out track, instead opting for the plainly disrespectful "Hit U From The Back." The album's second-half does wear on a bit, but then again there's only so much you can say about cocaína. Fortunately there's also a bonus remix of "Hustlin'" featuring Jay-Z and Young Jeezy with verses that you have got to hear to believe over the (slightly slipped) "Hustlin'" beat. Though good as it may be, the already bloated 20 plus track album could've gone without a remix.
A few disappointments aside, Port of Miami is a very respectable portrait of a very well-connected Rick Ross. What he lacks in rhyme skills he makes up in street credibility, charisma and quality production; the end result is a flawed yet sincere effort to show us the darker side of the Sunshine State. Ricky Ross has still got that dope.