Smooth Listening: It's odd to say that an album by Rick Ross is mellow, but Teflon Don is host to the most chilled out rap songs of the year. From the jazz-styled Ne-Yo collaboration "Super High" to the down tempo "Aston Martin Music" featuring a crooning Drake, the album deepens the 'fantasy rap' niche Ross has carved out for himself recently. This fantasy style was a potent idea developed in Deeper Than Rap, but has now been improved and is now more fluid and nuanced than before. Ross has also massaged his previously gruff, alpha male voice to accommodate these particular songs. Teflon Don stands out thanks to these tracks and Ross provides a comfortable, organic flow to go along with such decadent sounds.
Features, Features, Features: With the presence of quieter beats in some songs, one may assume the album is a snoozer but that is far from the truth. Teflon Don hosts a multitude of guest features just as eager as Ross to do their thing. Yet unlike the usual mainstream cash-in album, the presence of these artists never feels forced. "Free Mason" stands out thanks to the consistently great Jay-Z and some assistance from John Legend; "Tears Of Joy" features the superb Cee-Lo Green over a soulful beat; "Live Fast, Die Young" is the most unique song on the album thanks in no small part to its twitchy, rough, soul sampling electro beat from No I.D. and the playful guest verse from Kanye West. Along with others like Gucci Mane, Diddy, and T.I., Teflon Don is evidence that Ross has enough swagger to attract these big names and enough talent not to get overshadowed by them.
Emotionally Deaf: It's usually a good thing when rappers are more willing to express their personal feelings in their music. Yet whenever Ross tries to do so in Teflon Don, those songs are uncharacteristically weak. The intro "I'm Not A Star" is, essentially, the musings of a king about how he is not simply a celebrity rapper. While lyrically the song is good, the beat is narrow-minded and very uninspired compared to the great experiments found throughout the album. "All The Money In The World" is yet another example of a track with strong lyrical content (about his father) that helps the listener connect with the artist but sounds just plain bad. If "MC Hammer" or "Blowin Money Fast" were a bit more personal, I would have less to complain about. Yet, while Ross keeps things interesting and personal with his lyricism, he still disappoints in his attempts to differentiate these from his other work.
Just like the French rose wine he is nicknamed after, Ross has gotten better with time. Easily his best work to date, Teflon Don achieves a laudable balance between the luxurious sounds found on Deeper Than Rap with higher quality beats similar to previous work. While the album never really discovers anything new, it does cement Rick Ross's credibility as a great lyricist with a powerful ear for sounds.