Review: MMG – Self Made, Vol. 2

June 26, 2012 2 comments

NOTE: As I plan on releasing a not-so-civil review of Dom Kennedy’s Yellow Album tomorrow, I decided to take a less aggressive tone with this one. All opinions are mine and not reflective of the MJF staff.

M-m-m-m-m-m-Maybach Music is back at it again, dropping their second posse album today. Last May, Ricky Rozay and his crew had the streets buzzing with the street hits “Ima Boss” and “600 Benz” (along with the somewhat blasphemous “2Pac Back”), and fresh off the signing of B2K frontman Omarion, the Bawse is looking to make 2012 the Year of the Maybach. Here’s my thoughts on the star-studded track list of MMG’s latest release, Self Made Vol. 2.

Power Circle (Gunplay, Stalley, Wale, Meek Mill & Rick Ross) [feat. Kendrick Lamar] – Ross’ beat selection is, as always, impeccable, delivering a casual banger which you could both cool out to and pump some serious iron. Gunplay’s energy and charisma are off the charts, and I’ll be asking everyone I know “where your seabass?” for weeks to come. Stalley and Wale deliver contrapuntal verses, relying on their laid-back vibe to carry them through, and Meek Mill’s aggressive style follows them admirably. The only non-MMG participant, Kendrick Lamar, touches on the struggle of temptation and outshines the other artists from a technical standpoint; still, the sextet blends surprisingly well, given their varying approaches.

Black Magic (Meek Mill & Rick Ross) – This song was made to be played at a recklessly high volume in your car. The bass hits your face like a fire hose, and Meek delivers the kind of ignorance you shell dollars out for. Meek also proves he has the chops to keep up with most in the game during the second half of his first verse, as he switches up his delivery to throw the listener for a loop. Rozay ties the track together with his trademarked ad-libs and a “less is more” hook.

This Thing of Ours (Wale, Omarion & Rick Ross) [feat. Nas] – The beat is sparse but ethereally beautiful, and Ross puts himself over in a somewhat questionable manner (enough with the Jew jokes, rappers). Omarion drops a short yet suitably pleasing hook before passing it off to Wale, who gives you some food for thought. The star of the track is undeniably Nasty Nas, though, whose career is catching its third wind running up to the July release of “Life is Good”. Contemplating the legacy he wants to leave, Nas steals the show.

All Birds (Rick Ross) [feat. French Montana] – When Ross and French hook up, we expect nothing but absurd braggadocio, and they deliver. Over a slow beat tailor-made for a movie trailer, Ross and Frenchie utilize their distinctive style to boast about their drug dealing and the thickness of their women. Despite their chemistry, this is one of their weaker joint efforts.

Actin’ Up (Meek Mill & Wale) [feat. French Montana] – French Montana might as well be a member of MMG, even if he is signed to Diddy. Over furious sixteenths on the hi hat and a ludicrous choir sample, Meek brags about his control of the rap game, while Wale tries unsuccessfully to replicate Meek’s balls-out enthusiasm. French mixes it up a bit, exchanging his signature flow for a more fast-paced delivery. Ultimately, the track falls apart after Meek’s verse.

Fountain of Youth (Stalley & Rick Ross) [feat. Nipsey Hussle] – Rick Ross defers to Stalley’s style, opting to go in over a relaxed beat complete with wind chimes. Stalley’s issues come from his inability to impart any kind of unique personality to his rhymes. On the other hand, Nipsey Hussle drops some introspective bars that give you a distinct window into his struggle for success.

I Be Puttin’ On (Wale) [feat. Wiz Khalifa, French Montana & Roscoe Dash] – Over an unremarkable beat, Roscoe Dash drops a computer-assisted (yet still unremarkable) hook. Wale drops his standard DC-centric fare and Wiz spits unintentionally hilarious bars (my city’s different; there’s gun violence!) Frenchie can’t rescue the song from mediocrity despite his inherent charisma. Skip it.

The Zenith (Wale, Stalley, Omarion & Rick Ross) – Stalley weighs tracks down with his overbearing efforts to sound like he “belongs”; this song is no different. Omarion’s echo-laden hook fits the contours of the beat, and in a rare moment of honesty, Wale admits to not needing to be thug to be successful. Playing off his stablemate, Ross admits to his fear of premature death, giving this cool track an eerie air.

M.I.A. (Omarion & Wale) – Omarion takes center stage on this track and shows the refreshingly softer side of Maybach Music. The beat does not mesh with O’s vocals, though, which is unfortunate, as his talents are undeniable. Wale’s distinctive voice sounds too harsh over the beat and is in direct contrast with the effortlessly smooth hook O drops.

Bag of Money (Rick Ross, Wale & Meek Mill) [feat. T-Pain] – I don’t know how comparing a girl to a bag of money could be considered flattering, but Rozay and T-Pain team up to make it so. Wale’s verse fits his dichotomous persona (equal parts womanizer and puppy dog) to a tee. While we’re used to hearing Meek Mill rap over harsh beats, his work on this track is a good change for him.

Let’s Talk (Omarion & Rick Ross) – “Maybach O” is much more at home on this track, as this beat lets his voice take center stage. The sample of Biggie’s “Big Poppa” is an excellent touch. Rozay drops a perfectly chill verse over finger snaps, and I momentarily forget that Omarion is the new guy, as the comfort level between the two is very high.

Black on Black (Gunplay) [feat. Ace Hood & Bun B] – The redheaded stepchild of MMG, Gunplay, is undeniably the most interesting personality in the group. His raspy voice, obsession with gourmet foods, his criminal tendencies and his chest-beating style make him an essential part of the group. Bun B hasn’t needed to be in the hood for a while, which makes his appearance somewhat mystifying. Despite a decent verse by Ace Hood, the features on this track seem superfluous. Gunplay brought a sense of urgency to the song, while the others seemed to phone it in.

Fluorescent Ink (Stalley & Wale) – This beat is so smooth, I almost wish it were an instrumental. Once again, Wale’s voice harshes the mellow of the song, despite his insistence that he is on the come up. Stalley finally comes through, sounding completely at ease casually riding the beat’s wave. I was expecting a Rick Ross verse, but I guess his ad libs at the beginning are all that’s required.

Bury Me A G (Rick Ross) [feat. T.I.] – At the album’s close, Rozay reminds us why Maybach Music is his “untouchable empire”. His crazed, almost pleading request to be laid to rest with his homies is equally touching and terrifying. T.I. takes some time away from prison and VH1 to deliver what he knows we want to hear: trap music with Southern flair.

Verdict

The music ends with the haunting hook of the last song, a reminder that even though he is on top of the rap game, Rick Ross (and all of MMG) can be struck down. Their perseverance and omnipresence is due to their hustle, and they should be commended for that. Ross’ acquisition of Omarion provides the album with some much needed respite from the tone of the other MMG members. As a compilation album, continuity is not a goal of Self Made Vol. 2, and it needn’t be. The middle of the album lags, but the successes around it make up for most losses.

MMG Presents: Self Made, Vol. 2 – 3/5

@LoneXionc