Rick Ross & Meek Mill’s Too Good To Be True Proves That Time Is A Flat Circle

Cachief Latchman

Rick Ross & Meek Mill’s Too Good To Be True Proves That Time Is A Flat Circle

Cachief Latchman

Just before being sent into eternity, a chief villain of True Detective Season 1 annoyed stoic anti-hero Rust Cohle (Matthew McConnaughey) with a brief lesson in metaphysical philosophy. Resting his knees in the dirt below the gleaming Louisiana sun, Reginald Ledoux spoke at a tone just above a murmur as he issued a prophetic promise: “You’ll do this again. Time is a flat circle.” It’s a Nietzsche reference, but it feels like the arbitrary rambling of a mad man. As it applies to the plot, though, it’s more like a premonition. By the end of the season, 17 years later, Rust and his partner Marty (Woody Harrelson) have overcome both an epic bro fight and systemic corruption to engage in a shootout with a familiar foe — moths to the flame of eternal recurrence.

Days removed from the release of their joint album, Too Good To Be True, Rick Ross and Meek Mill might as well be Harrelson and McConnaughey as they repeat history. Like Rust and Marty, the two rappers have gone through it. After establishing themselves as a potent situational duo in the early 2010s, Meek and Ross had been subject to rumors of a fractured relationship. In May 2021, it was reported that Meek kept Ross from entering his 34th birthday party because of Rozay’s alleged refusal to release Meek from his Maybach Music Group contract. In an interview from later that year, Rozay alluded to the idea that they’d grown apart. But when Meek brought him onstage to perform at the Meek Mill + Friends concert in Philadelphia about a year later, it was clear they’d be doing some new music in the future. Now we’ve got it — more of it than we’ve ever gotten at once — and for the most part, it goes. Laced with blockbuster production, past MMG collaborators, and plenty of classic Meek and Rozay tag teams, Too Good To Be True is the answer to any fans who’ve been praying for Self-Made Vol. 4.

Coated in production from ATL Jacob, Cool N Dre & The Mercenarie, Sean Momberger, SAUCEboy, and more, the album oscillates between luminous soul (“Iconic”) and maximalist industrial (lead single “Shaq & Kobe”) for soundscapes that conjure grandiosity — fitting canvases for Meek and Rozay’s blood-stained tales of a gangster’s paradise. It’s street rap in IMAX, with the two longtime collaborators reuniting like Iron Man and Captain America at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Five years removed from their last collaboration, their joint attack is as potent as ever. Rozay’s’ viscous baritone emits the theatricality and decisiveness of Don Corleone, while Meek Mill’s frenzied delivery and hyper-specific death threats give the impression of the Don’s son, Sonny — a Capo who’s a little too eager to get his hands dirty. It’s a stylistic contrast that spotlights the dichotomy of gangster archetypes while emanating a push-pull energy that keeps things electric.

“Shaq & Kobe” plays out like a climactic showdown, Meek and Rozay assaulting a futuristically modulated synth line with their respective weapons. Meek lays out planned hits as the best way to ensure retracted statements, sewing the images together with an acrobatic rhyme scheme. On his end of things, Rozay finds the silver lining in illiterate killers before unspooling a gruesome vignette of a new crime scene: “They thought it was a game ’til the shots rang/Six niggas layin’ on the same box spring.” Elsewhere, on the Cool N Dre & The Mercenarie-produced “Go To Hell,” the two rappers turn a Tears For Fears sample into ground zero for the Flex Olympics; you might be rich, but you’re not “eating crabs on a private jet with Robert Kraft” rich.

While a lot of Too Good To Be True scans as an action flick, parts of it play out like a stylish crime drama. “Gold Lines” emits a misty ambiance that’s only enhanced by Wale’s spoken-word flow and The-Dream’s lithe tenor. Imbued with a luxuriant, disembodied R&B sample, “Iconic” feels like a scene from American Gangster. Replace Frank Lucas’ trip to Vietnam with a front-row seat to Rick Ross’ mansion car show; remove the plug talk and insert Meek Mill’s macabre Blockboy Problems: “And a lot of shit don’t be about me, but I hear a lot/ My youngin’ killed my other youngin’, I’m in a weird spot.”

Whether discussing the logistics of elite tricking or mapping out a plan for warfare, Meek and Rozay imbue their lyrics with a mix of humor, savagery and a director’s eye for cinematics. Employing these devices, they indulge all their most sinister impulses for dramatic crime raps where the bad guy always wins. None of their offerings here approach the gleeful, symbolic nihilism of a “Believe It” — wherein they compare Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber to cocaine and heroin, respectively — or the exhilarating, anthemic stature of a track like “I’ma Boss.” But those are hard marks to eclipse, and their new collabs maintain their patented combination of kineticism and directorial control.

Besides the boasts that can accompany new money, Too Good To Be True doesn’t cover a lot of new ground. It doesn’t even really try to. The French Montana-assisted “Millionaire Row” might as well be “Pop That.” “In Luv With The Money” features a Lex Luger-esque beat and Future hook that are so straightforward it wouldn’t be surprising if the track were actually a leftover from God Forgives, I Don’t. None of that feels like a problem. At its core, Too Good To Be True is both a reunion and a hefty dose of fan-service — a trip to an alternate universe where time stops in the year 2013. A world where Kobe and Shaq patched up their relationship to win a couple more titles.

As a duo, Rick Ross and Meek Mill helped define street rap in the mid-2010s, so something about them not being on good terms felt unnatural, even non-canonical. While it stretches a couple of songs too long, Too Good To Be True is a proper course correction. Like Rust and Marty, the two came together because they owed a debt to something bigger than themselves — and though they wouldn’t admit it, to each other. With Too Good To Be True, Rozay and Meek complete a circle they began drawing years ago.

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