For Robert Ross, the road to the riches has been a bumpy one. When he first arrived, the Harlem rapper more commonly known as Black Rob was supposed to have an easy ride upon signing with Hip-hop powerhouse Bad Boy Records in the late 90’s. And even after the tragic death of the label’s brightest star, the Notorious B.I.G., Rob and the new Bad Boy roster (Ma$e, The LOX and Puff Daddy) proved all the naysayers wrong and kept Bad Boy at the forefront of the business releasing a string of platinum and gold albums. But after his debut album dropped (Life Story) dropped in 2000, BR got deterred with a string of medical and legal problems and didn’t drop his sophomore effort (The Black Rob Report) until 2005. Rob’s last run in with the law (a 2004 grand larceny) lead to a two-to-six year sentence which he began serving in 2006. With his prison release on the horizon, XXLMAG.com caught up with the Bad Boy and spoke about his past, his present and his plans for the future.
XXLMag.com: How you been holding up?
Black Rob: I mean it is what it is. It’s like I’m convicted right now of the bullshit that’s goin’ on as far as the direction. It’s like what every rapper do, it affects me [and my case] and it’s like what I do affects other rappers. So they looking at it now, they got Prodigy coming to jail, they got Remy Ma coming to jail, they looking at it like we really think we’re really above the law.
XXL: Do you feel like that they convicted Black Rob and not Robert Ross?
BR: Definitely, being that it’s Black Rob the rapper… Robert Ross? He wouldn’t have gotten a perp walk on television with the cameras around looking all crazy. It plays a major part… It’s like a gift and a curse, because at the time when I’m ready to pop off, something negative happens to me. Every time I get ready to drop an album it’s like the devil be working overtime.
XXL: How difficult was it to be going through legal drama and not being able to promote your last album?
BR: When I dropped The Black Rob Report, I was like ok “I’m going to prison.” Like you said it’s a gift and a curse, it always happens to me man. When I dropped the album and did the first video for “Star in the Hood” it’s like I gave up hope. It was like damn I get ready to do something good, something bad happens to me… It seem like this shit ain’t for me. It’s like I cant be out here to push this album and this is a hot album.
XXL: What type of support do you get from fans?
BR: To be honest with you, I don’t really get no fan mail or nothing like that. I don’t deal with the fan mail. I don’t even think they know that I’m here. I think they think that I’m in the streets somewhere, just not doing rap. I do this for the love; this is what I love.
XXL: What’s your relationship with Diddy like now?
BR: I’m cool with Diddy. I wish him the best of luck with what he’s doing. I seen him on TV and it’s a good look for him. He came in as a businessman; CEO and he just took it to another level. It’s a good look for him because Diddy is not a rapper, Diddy is an entertainer, so for him to be in that entertainment field at that volume, that’s good for him. Between me and him, I mean I’m sure they looking out for me, but I haven’t heard from anybody. I don’t wanna get too crazy with this interview, I mean I haven’t heard from anybody but I don’t feel like it’s no bad blood or nothing like that. I know people were disappointed, but I was a high-risk investment from the jump. When they signed me I was on the run. I was a high-risk investment when you signed me, so when I mess up you can’t act like you’re surprised.
XXL: When you became a rap star it seemed as if you kept a lot of your old habits. Why couldn’t you change with you circumstances?
BR: I’ve never really reached the plateau of making that real big money. The money that I was getting from the rap game, I mean I was taking that kind of money when I was in the streets doing that negative shit. Twenty thousand, forty thousand, I mean I was coming outta spots with that, so it never really hit me. If my bank account was so astronomical do you really think I would be here right now? Dudes made money, but it wasn’t the kind of money that I needed to be making to get me away from the hood and the negativity. It just wasn’t enough.
XXL: So you’re saying the robberies were out of necessity?
BR: To a point, but what I did in ’04— Look I’m an adrenaline jumper. It’s just the adrenaline rush. I love that feeling. Whether it's robbing people, or getting on the mic doing it or fighting somebody, that’s better than any drug I ever had.
XXL: Is it an addiction?
BR: Definitely. Definitely it’s an addiction.
XXL: Are you taking any steps to break it?
BR: Of course, the only way to break that feeling is to maintain and stay focused. As soon as I get unfocused that’s when I start wyldin’ and losing sight of the prize. Regardless of my situation I shouldn’t have to lash out like that, but it happened. It was unfortunate, but it could’ve been worse. I’ve always looked at it as a wake-up call for me… I’ve been so many places and I’ve never talked about it. I always kept it on some hood shit. Now that I’m here, my mind’s focused and I’m thinking that I’ve been around the world twice. C’mon what am I doing? Let me show this growth and stop playing.
XXL: Are you in gen pop?
BR: What? I’ve been in gen pop my whole life. I’m a regular nigga.
XXL: Is that difficult?
BR: Oh yeah, there is a lot of difficulty in that; a lot of these cats is up here hating. But before I was Black Rob I was Robbie-O in the 80’s. A lot of niggas is Bloods and Crips and I respect that, but a lot of these dudes is frontin’. They coming in here and doing that for protection. I can’t see me coming to jail and then going home talking about I’ma Blood. BR gonna be BR in and out the penitentiary.
XXL: How much longer do you have?
BR: Right now I’m looking at like 90 Days before I touch the streets. And I’ve got some mean shit that I’ve been writing. I make an album like every 5 years, but it’s alright because when I make it it’s for the gusto. I got about three albums, I might come home and do a double album. Everything is up to par right now, I’m focused, drug-free, my body is up, I’m looking good. But it's really no support. Nobody has support for me except my lawyer, my wife and a couple of other friends of mines.
XXL: Are you still on Bad Boy?
BR: Man I have no idea. I haven’t heard from these dudes, they might’ve took me off the Bad Boy website or whatever but I haven’t heard from anyone telling me what the deal is. So until I get a piece of paper saying that I’m no longer a Bad Boy artist, I’m still reppin’ that flag. I’m a team player man. We talking about the streets and how we do in the streets, if I got a problem with you fam I’ma come to you and tell you I got a problem with you. I’m not gonna go to the [media], I’m not gonna go to Summer Jam and bug out, I’ma handle it on a street level. “Ayo Puff let me holla at you.” I’m not gonna do the other thing. I’m on Bad Boy. I can be number two, I’m not trying to be the king; at the end of the day the king gets the throne.
XXL: What's the plan when you get out?
BR: Alright. Me personally, from the horses mouth, this is the last run for me. I have to stay focused and I’m gonna. Now when I couple my experiences of being in the game and its pitfalls, I don’t wanna come back to prison, it’s a wrap. I got the right people behind me, the people who got love for Rob Ross, fuck Black Rob the artist, I got love for Rob Ross. They gonna push me to my full potential and put the machine behind me, something that the labels don’t do. I just need to get home and see what’s really goin on at Bad Boy. There are a lot of labels that I know is gonna grab me.-Rob Markman