Rick Ross wants you to know that success is yours if you’re bold enough to take it
Fayetteville, GA – Empires aren’t built over night, and the decade-long career of Rick Ross has been an unwavering and steady rise to the top of the music industry. Both a professional rapper and business mogul, the Mississippi-born artist has proven his uncanny business intuition and long-term relevancy in the music industry – in turn solidifying him as one of the biggest players in the rap game (as well as the self-deemed title, ‘The Boss’).
With the upcoming release of his ninth studio album, Rather You Than Me, quickly approaching, the music community is eagerly poised to receive his newest work. Following the ending of his contract with Def Jam Records in 2016, Rather You Than Me is the first project to be released under Epic Records (a seemingly positive move that has reunited Ross with LA Reid once again). The first singles “Buy Back The Block,” the C Gutta and J Pilot-produced “I Think She Like Me,” and “Summer 17′” are strong statement tracks which hint at calculated moves being made behind the scenes. It’s during his promotional tour in New York that we connect on the phone to speak. The conversation that occurs is candid and authentic – revealing the reflections of a man who has made his money by holding himself wholly accountable for his life (and who hopes to inspire you to do the same).
“You ain’t got no power ’til you get some money. We can’t be who we’re supposed to be ’til we can stand on our own.” – Rick Ross
Rozay warmly introduces himself, and his voice offers a deep and rumbling, “What’s good?” To the expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak to him, he throws back a chuckle and responds, “It’s all good. It’s all gravy, baby.”
On his feelings leading up to the release of the album, and whether he gets anxious to see how people will react to the project, he concedes, “Yea, most definitely. I’m excited the closer we get to the album. I like to call it my surprise record; shit that I feel is gonna’ fuckin’ shake the world up. Those are the ones (tracks) I’m looking forward to seeing in the streets, and then overall just the reception of the project.”
If you didn’t become an immediate fan following the release of “Hustlin” upon Ross’ emergence in 2006, you probably found some favourites in the eight records that followed. From founding his own record label Maybach Music Group to working for Jay-Z and LA Reid under Def Jam – there are admittedly very few ceilings that Rick Ross has yet to break (and heavy-hitters that he hasn’t collaborated with).
When discussing his status as a business mogul and the success of his decisions in investments and music, he elaborates:
“Of course I stumbled, several times, a lot of times. But I really just lean towards my heart. It doesn’t have to be the business name or producer. It doesn’t have to be someone on the charts. I don’t even know who’s on the charts. I just go with what I like. So if there’s a young kid who makes beats at the park, that’s where we’re gonna’ get the beats from. And, it’s the same way with my music as well as the business moves I make as far as franchises. A lot of people ask me, ‘How’d you know to do this when you started out, or how’d you know what this would become?’ I didn’t. I just knew I liked things a type of way. So if I had to take a motherfucker to trial, they’d look me in my eyes and be like, ‘He really believes in this shit.’ That was the route I tried to always take.”
The stumbling that he refers to is presumably his semi-recent run-ins with the law. In 2015 he served time confined to house arrest in his Atlanta mansion for charges relating to assault and kidnapping. The news made headlines, and ultimately a headlining piece with Rolling Stone. But while he’s come across challenges, he’s always managed to turn his trials into opportunities – using the 2015 instance as an opportunity to write his eight studio album, Black Market, which ended up being an extremely profitable outcome.
Our discussion turns to two of his most recent tracks, “Purple Lamborghini” (a track produced by Skrillex for the Suicide Squad soundtrack), and “Buy Back The Block.” When pressed with an inquiry regarding how he maintains his creative focus for a decade, he reflects, “I think it’s really just my love for rap; my love for the game. When Skrillex called me and told me he wanted to collaborate, I was like, ‘Yo, I’ll call you back.’ 30 minutes later we had that shit cooked up. It was tight. We’ll be at the Grammy’s this Sunday. It’s a Grammy-nominated track, so that’s real big. And, I thank Skrillex for reaching out too. With “Buy Back the Block” I just felt like, with me being in the game for ten years, my position is on a mountain top. This shit is the first offering to the game. That’s what I owe the game – the bigger picture. After that I can talk about gold toilet seats and all that fucking stuff that I want to.”
His tangible successes have manifested in chart-topping hits over the last ten years, as well as various Grammy nominations among the accolades. And the wealth of his business ventures have culminated in an empire of fortune for the rapper, who is rumoured to be worth more than $42 million currently.
Asked whether his goals are still the same as they were in 2006, he concludes, “Nah, I mean they may have changed just a little, but when it comes to music it’s still the same. It’s still the same – even with me currently collaborating with Fergie and some new amazing names. It’s still the same – my visions for the music, my appetite, my approach, the time I still sit in the studio. I’m still petty when it comes to the music. I call it petty. I’m petty.”
Most important to him is his overall impact on the generations that look up to his success. He switches the perspective of the interview, shifting the focus to show how his story is applicable for anyone, “For example, you’re doing an interview. You’re a writer. Start your book tonight. If you’ve been doing interviews and writing and you’ve worked your way up to the point where you’re on the phone with artists like Rick Ross, it means you’re a great thinker. If you don’t write a book then you’ve let me down, you’ve failed me. You’ve gotta’ capitalize, and the only difference between you and fucking Robert Greene is the fact that he did it. He DID it. When I came in the game I was always talking about being the boss, but I take pictures with the ones who are coming up because that’s cool. You gotta’ have ‘being an owner’ in the back of your mind. You can’t be content regardless of wherever you’re at.”
His blatant honesty is reassuring, and opens the conversation to his movement to Epic Records. Thrown a question about how much creative control he’s had throughout his career, he’s adamant in his resolve, “I’ve always had total control over my music from day one, and from the time I was signed by LA Reid and Jay Z in ’06. I came in with my own vision. I came in with my own lingo. They’ve always trusted me, and we’ve always been successful. All of the streets and everywhere that I go, they know I try to speak for them. I speak to them, most definitely in a way that inspires them, and that’s the only reason we’re still here.”
After explaining the current criticisms of new generation rappers who are sonically taking the genre in different directions, he clarifies his perspective on the matter, “I do think we need to make sure that the younger generation understand who we actually are. They’ve gotta understand who the foundation is. Of course we have early hip-hop founders, but that early 90’s hip-hop changed the game and it changed the world. For those who don’t understand or respect it yet, they will, in time. Do I embrace the new generation? I do. Of course the music is different, and I may not love the music, but what I do see is these young artists being more independent. They’re standing up on their own social media, making music, collaborating and creating movements on their own. I think you’ve gotta’ acknowledge that is dope.”
On the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the front of the mainstream media the past year, and the responsibility artists carry to speak out on political movements, he’s firm as he explains, “The only pressure I feel is to make sure that I say what I set out to say, and deliver what I need to deliver. Of course my music is always laced, from ‘Free Enterprise’ to as recent as, ‘Buy Back The Block.’ The title itself speaks volumes. I most definitely put the medicine in the candy jar. For everybody that rocks with Rozay – you’ve gotta get to the source: the power, the money. You ain’t got no power ’til you get some money. We can’t be who we’re supposed to be ’til we can stand on our own. Let’s boss up. Once again, I’m right back at it. My message is always that.”
Before our time runs out, the conversation dives a little further into the pressures of being a role model. There’s passion in his voice as he concludes, “At the end of the day I feel like I speak when I’m supposed to, and that’s what I’m about. There’s a lot of people that say a lot of shit but if your words aren’t valuable they’ll fuck you anyway. So I speak when I’m supposed to, and if I haven’t said something on a certain topic it may not be the time that I’ve chosen to yet. But when it comes to where I’m from, the struggle, the hustle, the come-up, I believe I’m most definitely the poster boy. I’m really telling you to get out. I’m telling you to get this money. Let’s go buy this shit. Let’s go do this. Let’s network. With the examples I’ve set since I came into the game with my brother, DJ Khaled, I think 10 years later people are now really understanding when we say, ‘Teamwork make the dream work.’ WE the best, not I’M the best. WE the best. Hopefully people will see what’s really going on.”
After thanking him again for his time and insight, it’s that same deep voice that emerges to finish the interview with a signature closing. With as much charm as you would expect from the “Boss,” he banters, “Much love, baby. We finna’ give it to the streets. I think she like me.”
You can watch Rozay’s new Ryan Snyder-directed video, “I Think She Like Me” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, below.
Interview conducted by Kira Hunston for HipHopCanada