Rick Ross

Ever since his 2006 breakout single “Hustlin'” put him on the map as a player in modern rap music, Miami’s Rick Ross has slowly built up an empire. Today marks the release of his fifth album, God Forgives, I Don’t, a hard-hitting companion to the recently released Self Made Vol. 2, from his Maybach Music crew.

The review of Ross’ new album appears in this Friday’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, but you can check out an expanded version of it below:

Rick Ross

God Forgives, I Don’t

HIP-HOP (Def Jam)

If rappers were stand-up comics, shopworn boasts about being musical Mafia dons would be their airplane jokes. And Rick Ross is so immersed in Scarface fetishizing and trap-king hardness that he should have mutated into a thugged-out cartoon years ago. But on his fifth album, the Miami native embodies his distorted version of the gangsta American dream so completely that he manages to transcend cliché. Call it the James Cameron approach: When all else fails, hit ’em with the IMAX.

Like Avatar, the size and scope of God Forgives is undeniable. Ross rides every beat here as though he’s cruising in a BMW, even when empty bits of bluster like “Hold Me Back” and “Ice Cold” feel more like Honda Accords. His wide-screen narratives about drug scales and deluxe yachts are easy to sell, but Ross’ more casual tales—like the Usher-assisted sex jam “Touch ‘N You” and the dreamy Drake collab “Diced Pineapples”—get the same gravitas.

And for all his talk of being a captain of industry, Ross knows where he came from — he manages to nod to the artists who made it possible for him to have the success he has without being overly reverent. That sentiment is especially clutch on the album-opening “Pirates,” which finds Ross spitting, “I’m just trying to survive/ Homicide stay on my mind/ Christopher Wallace of my time/ R.I.P. to the legend.”

With that in mind, the undisputed album centerpiece is “3 Kings,” a round-robin lyrical throwdown with Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. While Jay drops lines about contract negotiations with Live Nation and Dre hawks his line of signature headphones, Ross offers up something rawer and more immediate: “Brown bag money in a duffel bag/ F— ’em all/ Wet ’em, then we gotta double back/ The homie whipping chickens in his momma’s kitchen/ On a mission, say he get it for his son’s tuition.”

It’s a thrillingly specific set of images, delivered in Ross’ signature cocksure wheeze — and helps make the big-check brags (like “Crib on the water/ Got LeBron up the block/ Money ain’t a thing/ Baby, welcome to the Mark/ Diced pineapples, got them diamonds by the jar” on “Diced Pineapples”) all the more endearing. Sure, he’s been bragging about his rep since his 2006 debut, but God Forgives is the first album that really feels like it was made by a boss. A–

To commemorate the release of God Forgives, I Don’t, Ross dropped the video for “3 Kings” this morning. On one hand, it’s something of a blown opportunity; it doesn’t put Ross, Dr. Dre, and Jay-Z in the same room for an old-school posedown.

On the other hand, it’s an amazingly literal video made up of old footage and extremely specific images (special mention to Jay’s verse name checking Robin Williams). Check it out below: