A cop? The King of Hip-Hop? Rick Ross has withstood
character assassination that would’ve crippled a lesser man. Instead,
he’s overcome all the hate and made greater music. Success sure does
Words: ELLIOTT WILSON
Rick Ross is lost in the music. Grooving to the sounds of his own
voice, the man who gave himself the nickname “Rozay” is out to prove he
is indeed a photographer’s dream. With toke after toke from his Swisher
blunt and sips from a red cup filled with Ciroc and lemonade, Ross is
reveling in all the surroundings behind his RESPECT cover shoot.
Days later, we would spend his 35th birthday at his
sports-memorabilia-filled Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, home as one of
hip-hop’s most polarizing characters played gracious host. Who woulda
thunk it? William Leonard Roberts II withstood the confirmation of his
correctional officer past and personal melodramatic theatrics from rival
50 Cent in 2009 to emerge today as one of rap’s top artists in the
game—a fact that’s not lost on him. He waited a very long time to get
here. And he has no plans of stepping down.
So he’ll answer the tough questions with tougher music. Turn on the
charm ’til all the haters are disarmed. And persevere until his name his
mentioned in the same breath with fellow rap peers Kanye West and Lil
Wayne. Mock if you must. But I wouldn’t bet against him.
RESPECT: Do you feel like you’re in some kind of crazy creative zone right now?
RICK ROSS: Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m in the
zone. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, and that’s just
making doper-ass music. That’s all the drive I need. Competing to be the
Teflon Don—some people had it at number one for 2010. You came right back with the mixtape, Ashes to Ashes. Why was it important to give people another project after you’d already given them a really strong album?
My expectations for myself may be higher than the usual standards. And I thought it was cool. My core audience really enjoyed Teflon Don, and they want to know what’s next. And when you give them a project like Ashes to Ashes, it’s always cool to let them in on the inside.
You’re giving people A-level material for free.
A lot of people feel like Ashes to Ashes should’ve been
sold, but there’s a time and place for everything, and I think the time
was to put the music out now, coming into the New Year. At the New Year,
a lot of people want to know who they can expect to be on top of their
A-game, and I think, coming from this MMG camp, you know what time it
is. We made that clear.
But if you feel like you’re on your A-game, number-one level, why agree to be an opening act on Wayne’s “I Am Music 2” tour?
I still have a lot of room to grow. This tour is definitely a great
opportunity, if you’re on top of your game. Wayne’s an icon of this
generation, and just being a part of that shit and touching that crowd
is going to help your brand. And also that’s my fam. So I’m not only
excited from a business and a financial standpoint, I’m also excited
because I know how we all work. Me and Birdman, we got maybe 30 to 40
records we did together. Me and Wayne, the new record we got on Tha Carter IV, uhhh…you know.
It’s gonna hurt somebody [laughs]? It’s a homicide?
That’s the record that I’m most excited about being a part of in
2011. It’s that mixtape Wayne! It’s that shit, it’s that talk that them
street niggas love, you know?
Do you think your movement in some ways has also helped inspire him? In his absence, you’ve hit the streets hard.
It’s a good possibility. Because at the end of the day, we all
respect and admire each other’s music, and we show that admiration for
each other. That’s what I love most about this generation of
entrepreneurs, niggas working with each other. It’s always about that
unity. Doing business in New York, with some New York street niggas,
doing some business in L.A., in Chicago, in Atlanta. That’s what I’m
most eager about—doing business around the globe with real street dudes.
That’s what translates into longevity.
Speaking of New York, the other day you celebrated your birthday there. Being such a student of the game, how special was—
Of course it was. I’m getting love from the Dominicans. The
Dominicans brought me up there to Washington Heights. It was pink
Champagne everywhere, smoke was in abundance, people sending me gifts,
bottles, and I’m getting bags of cologne, cakes and gifts from street
niggas. This is a type of appreciation that you can really appreciate at
the end of the night. Give a shout-out to all my homies in New York
City, caliber niggas, and what we really wanna see, and what we want to
come from all this. We want a union before we want a standoff.
You speak often in the code of the streets, but no artist has taken more attacks on their credibility than you.
That’s why I’m still here, stronger than ever, richer than ever,
bigger than ever. I’m going to call the shots as long as I want to.
That’s the difference between [me and] other niggas who talk about it.
Who really be about it? Who really bringing money to the table for
niggas? Who really bawsed it up, who really putting their egos to the
side and wanna see their partners win? Who really wanna see their lil’
homies have a good Christmas? That’s what really separates the true
bosses, you know what I mean?
How does the music on the next album connect to the title of God Forgives, I Don’t?
It’s not even necessarily about me personally—it’s more about life. A
lot of times I think life can be really unforgiving. On Christmas Eve, I
buried one of my closest friends ever. He was slain in front of his
three little kids in a home invasion. So I think life can be really
unforgiving. Sometimes you really just gotta look that shit in the eyes
and suck it up for what it is, you know what I’m saying? So it’s
appropriate for where I’m going with the music. I think it’s going to
help everybody absorb what’s happening.
So it’s bigger than you?
Of course. The music is always bigger than you. I’m just telling the
story. I’m telling the first-hand story from real niggas. But like when
we did the photo shoot, I was talking to one of my homies in federal
prison, and this is one of my closest friends ever, and it’s
unfortunate. But at the same time, I’m here to tell a story for a lot of
things I’ve witnessed—and a lot of niggas doing time right now. So
hopefully when somebody hears my music, I’m pretty sure they hear that
uncut, true shit. It only comes from seeing that shit straight up and
“MC Hammer” and “BMF”—where did those songs come from?
Talk to me about the creation. Do you remember the process of either one
I was in L.A., man, I was smoking this miracle marijuana, I’ll never
forget, from the Gourmet Green Room. We was just riding around Cali—I
love to be in the hills, you know, Miami’s so flat—and I turn the music
up, let the windows down, and I’m smoking this shit. I just start the
“I’m MC Hammer, I got thirty cars.” You know, FYI, I got more than 30 cars [laughs].
I actually st