If you judge a hip-hop record’s impact simply by its ubiquity in radio playlists, YouTube rotations and passing cars, Rick Ross’s fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t will be an unqualified success, 2012′s Blueprint 3, Recovery or Tha Carter IV. For everyone else, it will also be 2012′s Blueprint 3, Recovery or Tha Carter IV, an overlong and oversafe victory lap that proves its creator is far more interesting when he’s got something to prove. This was true even in the alternate reality Ross has created since the career turning point of Deeper Than Rap — the very real intrusion of rap bazillionaires L.A. Reid, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z effusively praising Ross and God Forgives itself actually make the record seem less like a capital-e Event. It makes Ross feel mortal.
Which isn’t to say God Forgives doesn’t get the job done in a lot of ways. It’s every bit as much of a rap-as-videogame diversion as his previous work â€” while the boasts are increasingly absurd and outlandish, Ross continues to grow as an actual technician on the mic. Likewise, the beats are every bit as expensive and domineering and they will dominate hip-hop radio because they’re defining its sound in real time. But it’s ultimately Ross in literal Boss Mode, having beaten every level and acquired every cheat code â€” God Forgives, I Don’t shows the crucial difference between sounding Too Big To Fail and actually being it.