RICK ROSS: Triple Beam Dreams (Final Mix)

Rick Ross and Nasir Jones have developed an intriguing working relationship throughout their tenures at Def Jam. The chemistry has been undeniably rich, despite the obvious parasitism at play. 'Triple Beam Dreams' stays true to the time honored tradition of Nas meticulously crafting an alluring narrative peppered with social implications, only for his grunt-belting comrade to deliberately circumvent the entire concept. For many, the contrast evokes a visceral frustration because classic rap unions are so often steeped in uniformity on a regional, aesthetic, or at least moralistic level. I'm more inclined to appreciate their ability to strike a balance by way of disproportion, which accounts for much of the appeal.

'Triple Beam Dreams' is arguably their greatest collaboration to date. Originally buried in the thick of Rozay's Rich Forever mixtape, it finds Nas documenting his brief stint as a floundering drug dealer. His verse has an eerie vibe tailored to an uncharacteristically sparse J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League composition. When the record later appeared as a bonus track on Ross' fifth album, God Forgives I Don't, the final mix was layered with a slew of haphazard bells, whistles, sirens, explosions, and orchestration. While the retail version detracts from the flashlight-to-face spookiness of Nas' story, the tinkering actually compliments Ross' boisterous delivery and hollow diatribe. The prototype is superior because it caters to the duo's better half, but it's jarring how much the momentum teeters in Ross' direction in his attempt to make the song big enough to live up to the album's summer blockbuster ambitions.