Rick Ross in a pink old-school

GIF Wrap: Rick Ross' 'Hood Billionaire' Reviewed in GIFs

Teflon Don couldn’t have been lightning in a bottle. Rick Ross’ fourth solo LP is too fluid of a production. The storytelling is crisp, his philosophies—whether they're William Leanord Roberts' or his Rozay caricature—are interesting and the track selection is done from a high-level A&R's POV. And although God Forgives I Don’t didn’t match the pedigree of Teflon there are moments of brilliance as Rozay was still writing with purpose.

Since then he’s turned into a start-up mogul who acquires currency from various avenues. Running several brands takes time, so something has to suffer. In Ross’ case it's his pen on Hood Billionaire, his second long play this year. He’s not meticulous, stringing thoughts together that dart out in various directions. Rarely is there a linear theme. Scratch that. There is one. Drug-dealer chic narratives told from a Don who sells coke but isn’t opposed to moving the cheap stuff either. He loves the trap, is bummed out about his phone being tapped and lastly, loves women. Especially rich ones who have dogs named after the Porsche Panamera.

It’s street cinema, we guess. Some Scarface with a dash of Menace II Society. The overdose of drug talk isn't the entire issue here (It could be scaled back.). The product just isn't a high-grade of cook up. There's the occasional good china white songs. But those are surrounded by a lot of low-quality nickel bags.

VIBE broke down the track listing in GIFs so you can sample the potent material.

SONG: "Hood Billionaire"
SUMMARY: It’s great to be the man. Here Ross has sex with plenty women. So much so he can’t recall their government names, which is extraordinary or irresponsible depending on how you see things. Also noteworthy: He has a kilo at the hotel and if you owe Ross money, pay him. The alternative won’t be a good experience.

SONG: "Coke Like the 80s"
SUMMARY: Have you seen Wolf of Wall Street? You get that decade’s drug overkill then. Rick Ross is serving white on that level, which affords him fish tanks in the living room and sex in strip clubs.

SONG: "Heavyweight"
SUMMARY: The song is filled with '80s boxing name drops: Mike Tyson, Don King and Robin Givens, which fits the title. The battle here is Ross’s addiction to the trap despite his wealth. “So in love with the trap I bought a house ‘cross the street,” he says. The line about his dysfunctional family member also hits hard. “Cousin certified killer/when he died I cried a river.”

SONG : "Neighborhood Drug Dealer"
SUMMARY: No Mister Rogers shit here. Don't plan on borrowing any sugar from Rozay. He’ll “pull up to the bridge and put that thing to your rib.” Gunplay.

SONG: "Phone Tap"
SUMMARY: One of the better songs on the album, Ross tells a story of betrayal. His right hand since 4th grade started yapping to the cops. “Had tears in my eyes as you took the oath,” says Rozay. When he’s scripting narratives like this he’s completely engaging. The story isn’t as developed as The Firm’s version, but it’s a solid record.

SONG: "Trap Luv" featuring Yo Gotti
SUMMARY: Rozay gets lyrical motivation from Yo Gotti, who raps about having one foot in the street while the other tip toes around the music industry (“I be strapped on stage, fuck the award shows/'cause I shoot this shit up and only God knows”). Ross is sharp, slick and stays on theme, showing the mind state of a desperate soul ("Niggas riding gold rims and they mama po’/And they kill their family member for that envelope”). Dope-boy dynamic duo.

SONG: "Elvis Presley BLVD"
SUMMARY: Moving that dope.

SONG: "Movin’ Bass" featuring Jay-Z
SUMMARY: After the Grammy nomination and various spoils of success, Rozay is still the same ‘ol G movin’ bass. Jay-Z on the hook.

SONG: “If They Knew” featuring K. Michelle
SUMMARY: Good girl meets bad guy. All the couture trappings are here (Chanel, Goyard, etc). But Ross isn’t tricking. She’s not side chick status. His new lady helps ease the pain of a man suffering from success.

SONG: “Qunitessential” featuring Snoop Dogg
SUMMARY: Over Pharrell-inspired chords, Ross and Snoop have a bragfest. Ross goes from mob ties to 60 women in the basement. Snoop follows with a pimp’s perspective while subtly letting it be known that he is the west coast.

SONG: "Keep Doing That (Rich Bitch)" featuring R. Kelly
SUMMARY: Classic Pied Piper. Kellz should hijack this track and throw it to the web. A little info on this woman who is financially stable, per R. Kelly's verse: “I be feastin' on Tinder, she taste just like peaches/Diamond-studded La Perla/that pussy's prestigious/Yeah, she remind me of somethin' but that shit ain't my Jeep…”

SONG: "Nickel Rock" featuring Lil’ Boosie
SUMMARY: Dealers have to start somewhere. Remembering their rookie rock days Ross and Boosie talk about doing a lot with a little. Ross paid his mom’s electricity and light bills then copped his first pair of Jordans. Boosie got his first blowjob.

SONG: "Burn"
SUMMARY: Scoring like Jordan. Stunting like Baby. Andy Warhols throughout his mama’s house. And a member of the Jewish mob. They wanna see Ross’ demise but he won’t allow it. “50 Kilos im flippin, that’s money I can burn,” says Ross.

SONG: "Family Ties"
SUMMARY: Smoothed out Ross gets into a Godfather state of mind. Half brag raps, half introspection, the record feels good. There's also a few Francis Ford Coppola name drops for good measure.

SONG: "Brimstone" featuring Big K.R.I.T.
SUMMARY: Life isn’t all seven-figure cars. Things weren’t always easy for Ross. Now that the financial burden is gone this record lets us in on different issues. This unguarded approach is what’s needed more from the MC. Him praying to a higher power to help him through his struggles scratches the surface but we need more scriptures from the real life of Rozay


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Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

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