20060419

Whip it Whip it Real Hard

Rick Ross: "Hustlin'" video

Been a million years, and I still haven't listened to all of M.I.Yayo (lazy like that), but it's time to respond to Heathcliff's portrait of Rick Ross as sub-Jeezy talentless charmless charisma-less hack. It's not the sort of thing you can do on sound alone, but since when has rap been based on sound alone? Melle Mel didn't wear a red vinyl jumpsuit and bullet-belt because the shit was comfortable. To understand Ross, you need to look at him: bald head gleaming, enormous red shirt draped over him like a cape, wraparound aviators, rings and watches standing out hard against dark skin. He's huge. He takes up space. Jack Swagger says he stole Freeway's beard, but no, Freeway's beard is smaller. Also, Freeway's beard does that weird Abraham Lincoln thing where the mustache doesn't grow but the rest of it does. Rick Ross has a mustache.

And those two beards mean different things. Freeway, or his character at least, is a Muslim who does dirt, and his voice is all yelpy strain, like he's always trying to find a way to justify the huge chasm between his beliefs and his actions and realizing that he's always going to fail at that, never quite going full-on Islamic because he knows he can't hack it yet, hoping he's born again (or whatever Muslims call it) before he dies. Look at Rick Ross: there's no conflict or ambiguity or ambivalence in that beard. I've grown beards, and you don't get a beard like that because you're feeling conflicted. It's a Fidel Castro beard, a hibernating Kodiak bear beard, something that demands respect. Ross takes up the whole damn frame of the video, waddling hard, moving in slow motion even when the video is going regular speed. Fuck a Michael Clark Duncan, he's the real black Kingpin.

Heathcliff says he doesn't say anything distinctive about the city he reps, and that's true. But do you remember him being a Miami bass guy? A Slip-N-Slide guy? Because I do. He looked like a damn fool jumping around at the end of Trina's "Told Y'all" video. He's not a supporting player. He is like Jeezy; he needs to be a titan or he's nothing. "His" Miami looks cool in the video, especially when the Cuban music fades away and the film stock turns all dirty and bleached-out as he's crossing the bridge, passing all the everyghetto signifiers (kids selling candy, middle-aged man gambling). But the best part of the video is the end, where he's on the roof of some building for no reason other than the visual: standing tall with red flags billowing behind him, wearing sunglasses even though it's quite plainly dark out. He's an emperor.

He also knows how to ride a beat, which is helpful since Jeezy has apparently given up on rapping altogether.