If there was a Harvard Business School course in hip-hop branding, Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group (MMG) would undoubtedly make an ideal case study.
Coupling infectious tracks — sonically bursting at the seams and laced with the sensual “Mmmmaybach Music” ad lib (courtesy of Australian model Jessica Gomes) — with a brilliant, luxury positioning strategy inspired by Mercedes-Benz’s high-end vehicle line, MMG is ostensibly music’s hottest collective. For the past three years, the movement has grown under Ross’ tutelage, with new recruits added steadily. The group’s second compilation, Self Made Vol. 2 was released yesterday, featuring contributions by Ross, Stalley, Wale, Meek Mill and Omarion.
MMG celebrated the highly anticipated album at ALIFE’s NYC outpost and performed in the streetwear hub’s cozy backyard space for a democratic mix of fanboys in snapbacks, girls in wedges and gold hoops and a few goons to boot. A man of few words off wax, Ross mumbled a quick intro about supporting the album and then dove into a lengthy set including joints like the bouncy “Actin’ Up,” “Black Magic” and “Bag Of Money,” which poetically likens women to well, bags of money, as well as a selection of individual material like the menacing “Stay Schemin’” and Ross’ latest solo single “So Sophisticated.”
Ross’ position as the head is indelible, he appears on nearly every song and in those infrequent moments where he’s not, his formidable grunt is missed. His protégés are coming into their own, however, and carving out individual niches. Nowhere is this growing confidence more apparent than in the case of Philadelphia’s gritty snapper Meek Mill. Fresh off of Drake’s “Club Paradise” tour, Meek’s stage presence has improved markedly as have his rapping chops. His loud squawk rips through his bars; the crowd erupts into teeth-baring pandemonium during his “I’m A Boss” as well as the ferocious “Burn.”
“This is hot right here; this is going to make the streets bubble,” Meek says gleefully after the show. He defines Self Made Vol. 2 as a “lyrical” album and sees the synergy of the collective as its strength.
At first glance, the seemingly odd men out of this “streets” grouping are R&B singer Omarion and introspective rapper Stalley. Omarion, who incidentally started his career in a boy group B2K, disagrees and says that joining the crew has been seamless. He views his soulful touch as adding an extra sonic layer or “fifth element” which differentiates MMG from others. Stalley asserts that MMG allows him to retain his individuality too and says there have been times where he’s passed on tracks that felt “inorganic” to him. Despite being different from the chest-baring braggadocio of MMG, Stalley is thankful that the affiliation has enabled his fan base to diversify and ultimately grow. “I’m so different from those guys [MMG] so sometimes it might be a little harder for their fans to catch on to what I’m doing or to even accept it,” he says. “I think that when I’m with those guys and I’m rapping with those guys and I’m neck and neck with them, people are like ‘Oh man, this kid is really nice’ and then they actually go out and check my music.”
It’s this symbiosis that MMG is counting on leveraging to push units of Self Made Vol. 2 as well as upcoming albums from individual members down the line. Up next is Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t and Meek Mill’s Dreams & Nightmares. “We just supporting our fans until our albums can drop,” shares Meek. Wale points out that three of the artists are at a “Gold-selling category” (Ross, Meek and himself) but they make it a point to perform and promote together as a way of “doing this for the people.” He continues, “Ross don’t need to be here. A lot of people don’t do promo runs for compilations. We touching the people like never before.
Happy fans make repeat consumers and Rick Ross knows that. “I want to thank y’all for embracing our movement; embracing our product,” he humbly said at one point in the night. Spoken like a true boss.