Rick Ross bringing in hand-picked instrumental band for Mastermind

Since 2006, Rick Ross has been instrumental in bringing attention to rappers like Wale, Omarion and Meek Mill with his Maybach Music Group.

But for his next album, Mastermind due out Dec. 17, Ross will be instrumental in bringing something different to his own tracks: instruments.

“We’ve been in the studio with Jay Z over the summer,” Ross says.

“The studio conversation that came up was it was most definitely time to end the two tracks.”

By “two tracks” he means laying one vocal track over another track of prerecorded beats. For Mastermind, he’s increased the number of tracks by 1,500. Well, sort of.

His backing band, dubbed 1500 or Nothin’, is a collective of producers, players and artists who have worked with some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters.

Ross says he travelled more than 1,500 miles to find his new live backing band.

“I was looking for a band pretty much over the last year,” Ross says.

“I had been looking, of course, in Miami, and in New Orleans I saw a lot of great talent, but the best was this band.”

The L.A.-based 1500 or Nothin’ includes keyboardists Larrance Dopson and Lamar “Mars” Edward, guitarist Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton, drummer Brody Brown and songwriting ace James Fauntleroy.

The members have worked with Jay Z, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Keyshia Cole,

Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake.

The 1500 or Nothin’ lineup will expand from eight to 12 players for the live shows, Ross says. “Not only is it the music,” he says. “It’s about the mood.”

Why the sudden change of style for the Miami rapper?

“On my first five albums, I pretty much stayed away from the live element,” Ross says.

“I kept it gritty; I kept it dirty; I kept it street. It’s time for that next level.”

Though 1500 or Nothin’ do not appear on No Games, the lead-off single from Mastermind, they are coming on tour with him.

“It’s most definitely a lot more work, most definitely a lot more time,” Ross says of working with so many musicians, “but it’s something I feel my fans deserve.”

He says having a band backing him has changed his perspective on the live experience.

“I’m in between the crowd and the band,” he says.

“It’s a feeling I can’t wait for.”

The price of Ross’ fame

Drama. Ross has had his share of drama. He’s been in the middle of lawsuits, arrests and beat downs, and he was possibly the target of a drive-by shooting in Florida earlier this year. As his profile has risen, so has attention to his rhymes. In the spring, he made a reference to date rape on a track. A furor ensued and he was dropped as a spokesman for Reebok. Ross was apologetic after the flare-up.

“To the young men who listen to my music, please know that using a substance to rob a woman of her right to make a choice is not only a crime, it’s wrong and I do not encourage it,” the rapper said in a statement.

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