Written by Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy (@danielmondon)
On a press tour for last year’s old-guys-in-prison movie Escape Plan, Sylvester Stallone admitted what we knew all along: that he once hated Arnold Schwarzenegger. Speaking to David Letterman, he confessed that the two held a “violent hatred” for one another, causing them to try and one-up each other for much of the 90s. Sly shot some people, Arnie shot more. Sly shot some more people, so Arnie shot a lot more people. Sly got Oscar mumbles for Cop Land; Arnie became Governor of California—you get the drift. But time heals all wounds, as they say. Money, too.
The Rick Ross and Young Jeezy beef thankfully never reached the bloody heights of Jeezy’s ongoing tiff with Gucci Mane, but it was a gnarly saga nonetheless. It unfurled from the success of 2010’s “B.M.F.,” named after Atlanta’s crime organization Black Mafia Family. Jeezy was associated with the gang and vocally took offence at Ross’s co-opting; Ross called Jeezy a “fuckboy” four times in one bar and it was off to the races. After a brawl at the BET Awards the beef cooled down, at least as far as the public eye. Over the past year, Jeezy hopped onto DJ Mustard’s Dijon gravy train to reboot his career. By comparison, Ross’s rap kingpin has stumbled a little. He’s released some great music as of late, but multiple delays to Mastermind appeared to quell the rapper’s ascendancy. Mr. So Many Shrimp himself David Drake voiced the thought many rap fans have held: “Has MMG Peaked?”
“War Ready” offers a rejoinder to this critical stance. Like the recent Jay-Z collabo “Devil Is A Lie,” it shows Rozay tilting away from the Lex Luger sound that he had long clung to and turning to his other musical crutch: multi-tracked lushness. After last week’s “Move That Dope,” the era of menacing Mike Will crime epics continue with the slow-motion skittering of hi-hats and off-key synth patterns taunting oncoming doom. Both “War Ready” and “Devil” end with the beat melting and slowly spreading itself across the speakers, flickering luxuriously. Notice the ins-and-outs of the instrumentals in slow-motion: their weight, their bravado, their sinister appeal, their sheer fucking wealth. Last month on French Montana’s “Paranoid” remix, Rozay bellowed that his “dick feel like it’s dipped in gold,” an OTT reminder of his musical stature. In his imagination, and probably in his life to some degree if this Spin profile is to be believed, Ross lives like a Bond villain and this music accommodates the idea.
But that’s just money talking: the people’s interest lies in the grudge match, but Ross and Jeezy actually cancel each other out on the track. Ross slams Godzilla-style through his verses, saying nothing that can really catch the ear beyond “youngest nigga in the Medillín”—for much of the seven minutes (!!!), you’re waiting on a “fuckboy” to slip out for old time’s sake. Jeezy is more in-tune to what the beat demands and savvy about not returning to his old flow—the one that Ross arguably stole. The only interaction the two have is from Jeezy’s trademark “yeaahhhh” ad-lib that punctuates Ross shouting out multiple street gangs. It’s a brief nod, the most that two egos will allow one another, of a once simmering red-hot hatred. And of course like most of these summits the reality is never as good as what you imagined. Ross and Jeezy were the Arnie and Sly of street rap; “War Ready,” with all its ornate trappings and thirst for enterprise over innovation it’s their Planet Hollywood.