When most people think of Florida, outside of its burgeoning youth rap scene and OG as Rick Ross, Trina, Poe Boy Entertainment and the entire Slip N Slide family: Remember the headlines about criminals and degenerates; maybe some alligator incidents and South Beach Miami. The reality is that most of Florida is dirty, swampy, and wet as hell. It really is America’s armpit: sweaty, moldy, but full of character.
I grew up in the Florida Panhandle, Tallahassee to be specific, surrounded by swamps, dirt roads, and very few street lights. At Florida State University, I was surrounded by kids from South Florida; many of my classmates were from some of the dirtiest parts of Miami. His culture, style and taste in music were the essence of that extravagant Florida lifestyle. When someone, including myself, talks about the music scene here, what they’re really talking about is the sounds of South Florida. Those tropical steel drums and island-influenced beats have taken over the entire state—it’s our only connection.
Listen Rick Ross’ threshing now.
And that’s what the music and career of Rick Ross stands for. He became one of music’s biggest artists without ever abandoning that luxurious South Beach vibe throughout his catalogue. His second album threshingIt embodies this vibe of the (literally) thunderous intro, the shout-outs to Opa-Locka and Carol City, the dirty production, and the love of strip clubs.
In 2008, mainstream rap was leaning more and more toward the quirky. The music was dodging gangsta rap from the early years that sank your chest 50 cents‘s Get rich or die trying helped make it popular. Instead, the rappers were taking a page from the shiny suits era of the late ’90s and making music that sounded like wealth and exclusivity. It was a way of turning the phrase “black excellence” into a genre. Producers like Cool & Dre, The Runners and Drumma Boy helped create songs, led by sleek pianos and motor synths that trigger visions of speedboats and white soirees, yet still bass-heavy club-ready.
threshing is a masterclass in this style of fancy rap music. Singles like “Speedin” and “Here I Am” are songs that epitomize Ross’s love of whimsy and luxury, and the most idealistic visions of Miami. While much of the Florida scene was obsessed with dancing to fast chipmunk party records and music reminiscent of Baltimore and New Jersey club records, Ross took another approach. Her music was the postcard view of Miami and Florida in general. As Ross raps on “This Is The Life”: “This reserve for them trill, I’m on the red carpet every year/Take a picture, canary stones so photogenic.” Miami can be a dream city.
When these songs dropped I was in college and “Here I Am” in particular felt like undeniable records universally loved by kids at both Florida State and HBCU across the train tracks, Florida A&M. “Here I am” even shouts both schools: “FAMU home with a beautiful face / Next semester transferred to the state of Florida.” It’s pure bait for a bunch of 18-22-year-old college students, but no matter, the song is too perfect to find anything to quibble with.
Much of threshing and Ross’s rapping is intoxicating in the same way that hanging out in a VIP cabin or vacationing on an island can be; that feeling of exclusivity, extravagance and indulgence runs rampant throughout the album. Ross’s strengths come from emanating an immaculate lifestyle that people can live vicariously with just his rhymes. “Speedin” and “The Boss” are Michael Bay movies in song form: homages to records like The Notorious BIG’s “Hypnotize” and Ma$e’s “Feels So Good” with a southern twist from a rapper and a true scholar. of the trade
Years later, listening threshing it feels nostalgic but not necessarily stale. The sound of rap has changed drastically, but Ross’s style has always remained constant. What was perhaps unique and trendy in 2008 now sounds like the adult contemporary version of rap; this is not necessarily an insult, adults need rap songs too and threshing, along with much of Ross’s discography now, feels very “adult and sexy”. But he is also undeniably Florida. The Runners and JUSTICE League, who play a major role in the production of the album, are Floridians and understand the unique sound of the South Florida jook and bass scenes. DJ Khaled, Miami’s top personality, is on the record; Local rappers like Briscoe and the Triple C’s are included and Ross himself grew up in Florida and it shows in his laid-back yet gruff demeanor.
Ross’s music sounds like speeding down I-95, seeing the palm trees as you cross into Miami, wearing sunglasses to shield your eyes from the sun. It probably also sounds like being on a yacht in the middle of the ocean, a life I know nothing about, but that’s what threshing It is to give you that fantasy.
threshing it’s an album of party records that doubles as cigar bar music; perfect for sitting in a brown leather chair in front of a fireplace with an elegant glass of straight cognac. Ross excels at decadence; whether it’s with lines like “Stuffed shells, thanks to crack, I break crabs and lobsters” in “Maybach Music” or the elegant piano and victorious horns of “Luxury Tax”. Rick Ross makes music that sounds like it was literally made inside a chandelier, with production and rhymes that glide smoothly like a marble floor. And there’s still room for a song like “Money Make Me Come,” a cheeky strip club anthem made for King of Diamonds or college parties when it starts to get late and lewd.
Rick Ross made a mark on rap, but even bigger in Florida by taking his native sound and mixing it with the more popular Atlanta sound in rap in 2008. He was a model that other Florida artists like the Plies and T-Pain would follow. . But nobody did it better than Rick Ross, and threshing It was the moment when everything came together. I would only go up from here.
Listen Rick Ross’ threshing now.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in 2018.