Self Made, Vol. 1 Various Artists (Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros.) Or: Rick Ross gives Wale a makeover

The Blahprint: Wale doesn’t help himself working within Rick Ross’ template.

Against all odds, Miami’s Rick Ross has become America’s most popular gangsta rapper. You’d think that would be enough for the one-time corrections officer, but wads of industry money rarely come without the desire to waste it. Enter Ross’ recently relaunched vanity imprint, Maybach Music Group, and its flagship release, Self Made Vol. 1, whose title was presumably chosen unironically.

Ostensibly, Self Made is a showcase for Maybach’s hodge-podge string of recent signings: Meek Mill, a spastically fast street rapper who is a superstar in Philadelphia but virtually unknown outside its city limits; Pill, an Atlanta rent-a-gangsta of moderate blog repute; and D.C.’s own underachiever Wale. Sticking closely to Ross’ blueprint, it’s a record of two extremes—of the wordy and sage O.G. reminiscing over lush and cinematic backdrops, and of the scattershot lunatic wheezing about nothing atop carefully riotous club bangers. Every MMG song, like every Rick Ross song before it, is either yacht music or fight music.

On “B.M.F.,” his 2010 hit in the latter mold, Ross accompanied producer Lex Luger’s apocalyptic synths with rambling, indiscriminate pop-culture references. (In Ross’ world, pop culture includes gang culture, with the hook—“I think I’m Big Meech”—referencing an incarcerated drug kingpin). Not surprisingly, “B.M.F.” hangs heavy over about half of Self Made. So now Meek thinks he’s Tupac, Pill thinks he’s “Pacman,” and they both become lost in an endless string of Luger-lite efforts from inferior producers. Lex himself makes just one contribution—“That Way,” a ballad built around a subtly fragmented Curtis Mayfield sample. It’s a complete departure from his signature sound and suggests he might be as bored of “B.M.F.” knock-offs as we are.

The Maybachers fare better with yacht rap. On “Pandemonium,” Ross, Meek, and Wale show chemistry trading utilitarian bars over producer Alchemist’s over-polished Blaxploitation funk. Wale has long struggled to define his sonic and thematic identities, and stepping into a pre-existing template frees him to do what he does best: rap thoughtlessly. Still, both Wale and Meek remain the most visible rappers in their hometowns, and they are best paired with parochial sounds. For Wale that’s go-go, while for Meek it’s a machine-gun flow that nods to both old-school rappers like Tuff Crew and Philly’s more recent importation of Baltimore club music. These, of course, are the types of distinctive traits that make rap stars, so it’s unclear why a label would go to such measures to steamroll them.

Self Made is a forgettably decent listen, but it still has no reason to exist. It fails as a launchpad for talent and seems unlikely to become a commercial success. (Who buys rap compilations in the MP3 era? Who forms a rap group in 2011?) Marketing-wise, it would’ve made more sense to call it what it actually is: a new Rick Ross album with far too many guest appearances.

By Any Means - Wale, Meek Mill, Pill & Rick Ross by Warner Bros. Urban

Our Readers Say

I would have to disagree with you a hundred percent here,I think the album was well produced and it gave every rapper a chance to shine.All of the Lex Luger type beats were used on different rappers,Ross gave each one of them to shine on a similar type beat to make it fair for all,and then he put them all on the beat to see who's style you really like and who is better.

Who buys rap compilations in the MP3 era? Who buys album's in 2011 ? Does that mean rappers should stop making them.

Who forms a rap group in 2011? Plenty people you see how good young money is doing ?
When has Philly ever used any genre of music from B-More?? Never!! Who wrote this article? Meek Mill's flow is reminiscent of Tuff Crew??? Clearly you know absolutely nothing about Philly hip hop. Anybody who writes music reviews for the Post doesn't have a clue.
What a terrible review. I disagree with you 2000% on this. Each one of the rappers shines in their own way on each of the songs.

You, sir, need to stop reviewing rap albums it is clearly NOT your strong suit. Wale destroyed this album and revived his career in the process. Meek killed it as well.
There are a few things that I agree/disagree with you on this review but allow me to "review" the comments.

"the album was well produced"
Really?!??! I didn't realize until reading this review that Luger didn't produce the bulk of this album. It sounded like a long continuation of "BMF" and "MC Hammer". There's nothing worse than "fill in the blank with a hot producer's name here"-like beats especially when that producer is moving away from that style AND APPEARS ON THAT SAME ALBUM.

"Ross gave each one of them to shine on a similar type beat to make it fair for all, and then he put them all on the beat to see who's style you really like and who is better."
If that was truly the case, Meek Mill, Pill and Wale all wouldda sounded like THEMSELVES on this album. Meek soundin' like Pac. Wale soundin' like Rozay. Wale was featured on 10 tracks on this album and NONE OF 'EM had Go-Go on 'em?!??! COME ON SON!!!

"Who buys rap compilations in the MP3 era? Who buys album's in 2011? Does that mean rappers should stop making them."
I agree with you on that one, Keith. I buy Compilation Albums. That's how you find out about new/up and coming artist but I wouldn't call this a true "compilation album".

"Meek Mill's flow is reminiscent of Tuff Crew??"
I suggest you find out who and listen to The Tuff Crew before you respond.

Sadly, no one talks about how the lovely Teedra Moses kinda gets lost on this project and I fear that the same will happen to her career on Maybach Music.

Don't get me wrong, I like Ross and I like this album but it sounds like y'all have been drinkin' too much Rozay Kool-Aid. Call this joint what it is, Rick Ross' 5th studio album. The dude is on 12 of the 15 songs for christ sake!
Why do you keep repeating the term "gangsta music." It is just music and mighty fine music at that. Your review sucked and I think you need to stay away from writing reviews period.
I have to disagree......I think that That Way is Wale's best yet. Ok so it is a throwback to Curtis Mayfield. Most of Rick's tracks are jacked from old school artist but he uses the tracks perfectly. Personally, this is my favorite by Curtis Mayfield and his use of the track is the main reason I did not switch the station when I first heard it. Yes maybe Wale may not want to let Rick put his touch on all of his songs because that would be a situation where people will start saying that Wale is jacking Rick's style but this track is a homerun for Wale. Then again, is this Rick's style or is it the style of the artists that he is jacking beats from?

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