Maybach Music Group is setting up for a ten-year run, rekindling hip-hop’s beloved group dynamic that harks back to Roc-a-fella’s reign in the early aughts and Bad Boy’s run in the late ‘90s. The Maybach collective reappears in Self Made, Vol. 2 with a couple new members: Ohio native Stalley and R&B crooner Omarion.
The intro, “Power Circle,” features each emcee spitting on what it took to make it to this glorious moment. Kendrick Lamar champions the MMG crew on their own Self Made mantra with a stellar verse: “And so I walk alone with a cross in a diamond stone / I’m a diamond inside the rough that’s too mighty for mighty goons. / I might as well put all my killers in YSL / put my voice on this microphone / put all you pussy niggas through hell.”
Wale’s versatility is a strong highlight as he switches seamlessly from bragadocious street tracks to songs for the ladies. Stalley matches Wale’s lyrical prowess, offering some creative lines here and there while Ross, Meek and Gunplay keep the gangster imagery alive and present. Stalley stays in lane for this album; without mimicking flows from rappers that surround him, he still remains confident and thought-provoking on trap style beats. What the album does lack in diversity of content, it makes up for in lyrical dexterity and great production. Between “Fluorescent Ink” and “Fountain Of Youth,” introspective rhymes spring from every voice, balancing club ready tracks like “Black on Black” and the undeniable “Actin’ Up.”
MMG’s mafioso aesthetic has been done and overdone in hip-hop. Keeping that aesthetic up is an important job — especially when the ringleader has a thwarted street cred and the album cover features Omarion but not Gunplay, who probably holds more weight in the street than all of the rest combined. Similar to Puffy’s Hit Factory in ‘96-’98, MMG is crafting street gems and glossy R&B jams to serve both mainstream and street audiences.
Ross’s Miami roots haven’t escaped him, and he knows exactly what that big bass sound can do for the club. Lyrically, Rozay has the power to annihilate most of his peers, but his formula is stuck on recreating the success of his 2010 hit “BMF.” On “Black Magic,” he uses the same celebrity-referencing hook that Lil B killed ages ago: “David Copperfield. / There go the car. There go the crib. / Poof. David Copperfield.” Later on he redeems himself with the powerful “Bury Me,” an incredible track eerily reminiscent of Tupac’s “Hail Mary.” Ross screams: “If I die tonight, I pray I get buried in clean draws! / Line us all up, bury me with my dawgs!”
The album is packed with star features both old and new including Wiz Khalifa, Nas, T.I., Kendrick Lamar, and Raekwon. With an all-star cast and banging production, Self Made, Vol. 2, is heavy on the singles. Almost everyone in MMG comes from a different city in the United States, which should sprout unlimited ideas and cultures, but most songs just provide a cliché telescope into inner city life. They come off as collaborations, not so much a group effort like Wu-Tang or even State Property. Wale says it best on “This Thing of Ours” spitting: “Just know that DC, Philly, Ohio, Miami, got us.” Add French Montana’s NY connect and that could be a definite stronghold on the game.
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