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Black Market

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Album Review

After banging out a series of glitzy Miami gangsta albums that made him seem like the AC/DC (always the same, always quite good) of rap, Rick Ross gave the formula a rest for Black Market, an album that wanders into ruminations and cooled production at will, but still ends up all slam dunks and three pointers. Picking a key track is difficult as the epic bangers and surprisingly revealing freestyles all stand tall, but "Ghostwriter" sits in the middle of the album because it's the most anticipated, doling out industry gossip like a hot mixtape track but sending all listeners to check their packaging to make sure they picked up the explicit release, as Ross mentions some superstars he used to ghostwrite for, and they all get the bleep. It could be a fun gimmick that Ross can blame on the legal department, and these are the kinds of tricks that make each Maybach album feel so fresh. Still, "Smile Mama, Smile" with Cee Lo Green thrills on songwriting alone, putting the listener in the shoes of a superstar coming home to his mama — whom he loves dearly — while getting at the heart of addiction, family, and everyone's struggle for a centered self with "She told me no more Promethazine, it would make her proud/Think about, I had to think about it/Gimme a second mama, let me think about it." "Free Enterprise" with John Legend is the middle-aged and manly Maybach mind with a story of how reckless group sex used to be the thing, "But now the bitches be the realest one/I done cried on her shoulder when I'm feelin' numb?," along with a raging and precog bit of treason, "Assassinate Trump like I'm George Zimmerman." Black Market isn't a single-minded concept album as the tight, sharp, and debut album-hungry "Color Money" stacks paper and admits the rapper's friends "got them changing the gun laws," while the funk-fueled "Dope Dick" is crass and cold with "I got her addicted to that dope dick" as the hook. This Miami Don remains an unapologetic and indefensible brute — and he says as much on this very LP — but this rough, honest, and ambitious work is like his Raging Bull, taking the listener on a compelling, dirty journey that's also a connectable character study, and then letting some slick Chris Brown ("Sorry") and Future ("D.O.P.E") features play while the credits roll.

Customer Reviews

Rick Ross finds his mojo in 'Black Market'

After Rick Ross spawned his two mediocre 2014 albums, Mastermind and Hood Billionaire, the outlook didn't look excellent for the Maybach Music Group ringleader, but still, the big man from Carol City, Florida with the super recognizable vocal style has delivered in 2015 first with the Black Dollar mixtape and now with Black Market, his eighth official studio album (released today, Dec. 4 via Def Jam Recordings). Here, Ross is still very much a big balling gangster type, but now he exhibits a certain amount of humility and the beats are an improvement since the previous year's productions (no offense to those producers).

Part of the allure of Black Market is in seeing how Ross has followed up his last two lacking LPs and his solid, black-themed September mixtape. The verdict: he has met the challenge, for the most part. Rick Ross is still a profligate gangster/lover-boy, but let's look closer. The first two cuts, "Free Enterprise" and "Smile Mama, Smile," both express a humble air and maybe a little remorse, and things start to get more interesting in "Color Money" as Ross takes shots at Drake, props Meek Mill and disses either Lil Wayne or Birdman, whichever one is "that p*ssy who Drake is signed to." "Crocodile Python" is the second major song to look out for, but not because it has a good message. Fixated on his money and fearful of losing his fortune, Ross is an example of your typical money-hoarding miser in it as he quotes Biggie and generally disturbs with his capitalistic paranoia and government distrust. It's a very memorable song but terribly insecure. The third and pretty much last 'must-check' is "Ghostwriter," where Rozay disses his former label, Slip-N-Slide Records, and claims he is some high flung verse-constructing contractor in the game. It's also partially a diss of insincere fraudulent songwriters behind the scenes who are unacquainted and unfamiliar with the culture.

The producer list for Black Market is also pretty impressive. StreetRunner, Jake One, J.R. Rotem, DJ Mustard, comeback kid Scott Storch and the rest have made a stunning exquisite collection here, which has excited Rick Ross into a frenzy of solid new rhymes because of their hot quality beats. Guests include John Legend, CeeLo, Nas, DJ Premier, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown and Future. Verbally, Ross is a beast, but his rich boy attitudes are as they've always been: blah. That is why the most important traits to absorb here are the wordplay and the music score. With new metaphors and different dimensions, Ross is back to being interesting again. Let's hope it stays this way.

Not Interesting Anymore

No Kanye no party

The Return

Ricky and the featured artists bring the heat on every track.

Biography

Born: January 28, 1976 in Carol City, FL

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Tattooed with pictures of AK-47s, Miami's six-foot, 300-pound rap figure known as Rick Ross embraced his city's reputation for drug trafficking on his debut single, "Hustlin'," in 2006. While Atlanta and Houston artists were establishing their cities as Southern strongholds, Ross aimed at putting Miami back in rap's national spotlight. Ross, real name William Roberts, grew up in Carol City, Florida, an impoverished northern suburb of Miami. Influenced by artists like Luther Campbell and the Notorious...
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Black Market, Rick Ross
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