Sequel albums have become a staple of rap, but recent history has shown just how tricky they are to get right. Lean too hard into the nostalgia, you get dated clunkers that sound like old album throwaways — or that actually are. But if you get too progressive with it, you lose the feeling of nostalgia you tried to evoke resulting in a mishmash of clashing styles or themes.
Then there’s Rick Ross, who finds a way to ride the narrow line of perfection in between on his latest album, Port Of Miami 2, by doing mostly what he’s always done. Since Ross’ musical palette has swung between Lex Luger-esque bass bombing trap and lush, orchestral luxury rap since almost his start, by simply keeping the trend going, he nails the concept easily — even if this sequel has more in common with his sophomore album, Trilla, than it does his debut.
The original Port Of Miami was a much more straightforward rap album for its time. Released in the mid-aughts, the production trended naturally toward the proto-trap of the era that can be heard on other Southern-based artists’ similar projects like Ludacris’ Release Therapy, T.I.’s King, and Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter II: Lots of organ, synthesized horn sections, and handclaps. The true standout was “Hustlin’,” the introductory single that launched The Runnerz as a production team and became the subject of a still-funny Katt Williams bit, marking its status as a cultural shifting point.[embedded content]
But the Ross of that era was a Ross working to redefine himself in the public eye. He’d shed the Teflon Don moniker that marked his earliest forays into “real hip-hop” alongside New York veteran Erick Sermon (on the latter’s underrated Def Squad Presents: Erick Onasis), but had yet to distinguish himself as a separate entity from the dozens of down-bottom hustler rappers of the 2000s. He had a great rap voice, but other than that, seemed as though he’d simply fade into obscurity along with Gorilla Zoe, Yung Joc, and the members of Boyz N Da Hood not named Jeezy.
The Ross we all know and love really came into being on 2008’s Trilla during the Jay-Z-featuring album cut “Maybach Music.” How this song never became a single is truly a mystery, but its impact on both Rick Ross’ career and hip-hop as a whole is truly undeniable. It was on this song that “luxury rap” truly became a thing; rappers had always flossed their expensive designer goods and name brand tastes but never before had it sounded quite so elegant, like the score of a 007 film set in a marble-floored hotel in Monaco. This is where the Maybach Music moniker — and its now-ubiquitous vocal tag, coined by model Jessica Gomes — was born and where Port Of Miami 2 finds its true inspiration.