Maybach Music Group Presents: Self Made, Vol. 1

Jump-starting his own empire, platinum rapper Rick Ross introduces his Maybach Music Group with Self Made, Vol.1, a grand onslaught of polished street music with Ross, Wale, and newcomer Pill carrying the most weight. They’re the ones to do it, too, as all three are in top swagger mode throughout, pimpin’ Roc-A-Fella style on the opening Just Blaze production “Self Made,” or grinding it out hood style on the vicious and minimal “Pacman.” While the title “Tupac Back” will raise an eyebrow, it’s more a tribute than a claim to fill the legend’s shoes, but if you want proof that Ross is interested in stepping up his lyrical game, check “By Any Means,” which skillfully works in tricky references to Malcolm X and the Muslim culture. Fans who felt Wale never got a fair shake will enjoy him sounding comfortable and inspired in this Maybach universe, but it’s the few yet impactful Teedra Moses appearances that really surprise, making this rich-voiced diva’s history of label problems all the more woeful. With folks like Currensy and French Montana lending features, along with a producers list that goes from Lex Luger to Lee Majors, the album is stuffed as it could be, but Ross has always been a wizard when it comes to picking high-profile friends that deliver. Here, he’s adding some protégés to go along with, proving his ring-leader skills and eye for talent are both quite strong. ~ David Jeffries

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