Look how much he brings to the table
I just don’t have an excoriating bash of Rick Ross’s Trilla in me, mostly because every time I try listening to the thing I get all depressed and empty. It’s not that the album sucks, although it does. It’s that the whole thing is so flat and one-dimensional, so completely devoid of any purpose beyond inflating Ross’s ridiculously exaggerated kingpin persona, that it doesn’t even offer up much worth hating. Port of Miami worked the same way, but that album was better than it deserved to me because it had some seriously epic tracks; “Hustlin'” and “I’m Bad” and “Push It to the Limit” all did a pretty good job disguising Ross’s huge deficiencies as a rapper and amping up the operatic ridiculousness. On Trilla, nearly all the tracks just sort of aimlessly pound away without getting anywhere near the grandeur of those older songs. “The Boss” has maybe the first non-catchy T-Pain chorus since, what, “Bartender”? “Money Make Me Come” is called “Money Make Me Come.” I can’t even think of anything particularly scathing to say about the other tracks since none of them really have any distinguishing characteristics. Ross still has no personality, and that total void is about the only thing I notice on this one. This guy outsold a pretty good Snoop Dogg album by thousands? On the other hand, this guy outsold a pretty good Snoop Dogg album by thousands. He’s had two number-one albums now, which makes him one of the few rap stars we have left, and I guess I have to take him seriously. So in the interests of not killing myself, I’m going to list a few things I like about Trilla, most of which, admittedly, don’t really have anything to do with Trilla.
* In the video for “Speedin’,” Rick Ross jumps off a bridge and onto a boat after a cop pulls him over for speeding. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s still funny.
* The video for “The Boss,” arriving right around the same time as the series finale of The Wire, offers me a thin excuse to talk about how much I’m going to miss The Wire. Slim Charles and Snoop both show up, but they’re here to prop up the goofy-as-hell kingpin image at work here, and we get to see the crazy contrast between their work on this video and their work on that show. The Wire wasn’t a perfect show, but it gave us a fully realized world in which almost all the characters came across as a three-dimensional human beings. The actors who did such brilliant work on that show may never have another chance to play anything other than cartoon-characters, which is what they are here. I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted.
* Someone is still hiring Bink to build symphonic retro-soul tracks out of Tower of Power samples! Someone who can actually afford to pay him!
* “Maybach Music” is the first chance Jay-Z has had to indulge in utterly boring premium-brand talk since Kingdom Come, so hopefully he’s gotten it out of his system again.
* It’s fun to hear the voices of Scarface and Bun B, even in ad-lib form, on “Trilla Intro.” It would be even better if they got full verses, but we’re trying to stay positive here.
* Nelly is still alive! And he’s still a better rapper than Rick Ross!
* “Luxury Tax” has three vastly superior rappers being vastly superior, which gives me a minute to forget that I’m listening to a shitty Rick Ross album.
* “All I Have in This World” gives Mannie Fresh a chance to use an old-movie vocal sample that I’m pretty sure I’ve heard in like fifty different acid-house tracks and to call himself “the homie Elvis Presley.” The track also moves quickly enough that Ross actually has to sort of rap; he doesn’t get a chance to huff and puff the way he does on every other track here.
* “I’m Only Human” is possibly the least human-sounding song on the whole album, which is sort of funny, I guess.
* It’s not actually on Trilla but I liked one Rick Ross line on Ludacris’s “Down in the Durty”: “Pimp, ask Khaled / Lobster, salad.” I love the idea that DJ Khaled is an authority on pimping almost as much as I love the idea that pimping has something to do with salad. (Rick Ross clearly does not eat salad, but whatever.)
* This album’s commercial success, coupled with Fat Joe’s commercial failure, has given 50 Cent opportunity to make jokes. 50 Cent makes good jokes.
* That Snoop Dogg album wasn’t that great anyway.
Um, yeah, that’s about it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 20, 2008