FEATURE: Rick Ross, Real Hard

Photography Jonathan Mannion

Photography Jonathan Mannion

Rick Ross came in with his sunglasses on. He’s one of those guys who wears them everywhere. Light ones. Dark ones. During the day. At night. In the studio. The man loves his shades. He owns about six for every day of the year, he says. He’d wear them even if he weren’t a celebrity. Even if this wasn’t hot-ass Miami. The better to not see you with.

Today, Ross’s perpetually smoke-reddened eyes are concealed behind a pair of midnight-black, vintage ’83 Targa Cazals—a name most of us, you know, regular people have never heard of. We’re at the tony Bal Harbour Shops, a low-rise outdoor mall with designer stores like Chanel, Hermès and Cartier, the perfect place to flaunt one’s wealth. Palm trees engulf the building’s cream exterior, and part of the ceiling is actual blue sky, the same color as Ross’s matching linen-shorts-and-shirt set. Ross has a month or so of promo ahead for his third album, Deeper Than Rap, not to mention a high-profile war raging with 50 Cent. He needs new luggage. Louis Vuitton it is. Carol Ann, a Louis saleswoman, helps him settle on two carry-ons.

Ross’s personal economy doesn’t seem to need a stimulus package, so he decided to pick up some other necessities. Like these $980 neon-graffiti-on-black sneakers from this season’s Steven Sprouse collection. Size 11. A younger Latina saleswoman tells “Mr. Ross” that if he’s in a club—she dances to demonstrate—the bottoms glow in the dark. “Oh, that’s even better,” says Ross. Sold. When Carol Ann tells him about the new white Evidence sunglasses about to come in (she must know of his fetish), he says to put him on the wait list.

“And I wanna know if I can get one of these for my house,” he says, indicating a pair of shiny black, neon-inscribed blocks sitting on a counter near the luggage display. Their purpose is a mystery. (Louis Vuitton paperweights?) It doesn’t look like they’re for sale.

He picks up a black T-shirt with, again, neon-green lettering that, looks way too small for his 300-some pounds. “I’ma let you in on a seeeecret,” he says, handing the shirt to his manager, Alex “Gucci Pucci” Bethune, VP of Poe Boy Entertainment. “What I do sometimes is, if I see a shirt that I really, really like, I buy it, even though it’s not my size, and I have my tailor get the same fabric and lift it and put it on there… It’s just like you almost just cuttin’ it out. Sometimes it actually make the shirt look better. Give it a little 3-D effect.”

Whatever he says. He’s the Bawse.

Like any other rapper, Ross has a taste for the finer things in life. But, lately, hip-hop heads have been wondering whether the things and the life he boasts about are real and whether his big-boss image is fabricated. All because of a bit of news thesmokinggun.com exposed on July 21, 2008—a date some rap fans jokingly mark as the death of Ross’s career. Before that, a photo had been floating around the Internet depicting a beardless 19-year-old Ross wearing a correctional officer’s uniform and shaking hands with a woman later identified as Marta Villacorta, who was then head of the South Florida Reception Center.

Initially, Ross claimed he was the victim of a Photoshop prank and continued to deny that he’d ever held such a job, until The Smoking Gun unearthed Florida Department of Corrections staff records including his government name and social security number. Finally, in a September interview with Don Diva magazine, he admitted that it was indeed him in the picture and that he was in fact employed as a prison guard. “I never tried to hide my past,” he said. “I put my name inside my CDs… I never ratted on a nigga. I never prosecuted a nigga. I never locked up a nigga.” Since then, he’s simply evaded the question.

True story: Rick Ross, William Leonard Roberts II, was a correctional officer for 18 months, starting in December 1995, at a salary of $22,913.54 a year. This might be fine for the average 9-to-5er, but by the time it came to light, Ross had sold millions of copies of two No. 1 hit albums—2006’s Port of Miami and 2008’s Trilla—largely on the strength of his image as a drug-trafficking bigwig in Miami’s Carol City. The C.O. past was like finding out Barney’s a pedophile, and, for a minute, Ross was rap’s Milli Vanilli, caught in a lie.

“Me not answering or addressing that situation has nothing to do with my career,” explains Ross, now sitting on a bench outside Oxygene Mini, a store that sells children’s clothes. “I’ve accomplished enough, and I’ve made enough money for me to be good… Yes, it was me in those pictures. But I’ma tell you this. Me taking that job, I was doing my job. You understand what I mean?”

Why didn’t you say in the first place that it was you? Why was it this ongoing thing where people didn’t know?

“Because, to me, it was no big deal, but, at the same token, there were other people that was involved in something else that was going on that—”

So you’re saying it was a street thing? The reason that you took the job?

“What I’m saying is, it’s certain things I can’t discuss, but what I’m telling you is—”

It’s not what it looks like?

“The truth is much more incriminating, on some street shit, than me worried about a fan or being ridiculed. I’m too big in the streets. I’ve never had a credibility problem and still don’t. Regardless of however anyone feel. But somebody just gotta read between the lines and understand you just don’t do certain things, and it’s… Shit’s deeper than rap.”-Clover Hope

For more of the Real Hard cover story, make sure to pick up XXL’s May issue on stands nationwide April 7.

  • cb4

    Mc Gusto!!!

    • joe p

      lol typically wanna be gangster … first deny deny deny then when you cant any longer you find some kind of excuse …. he took the job as a cover for selling drugs …. all bullshit … his whole career is based around a lie

      • CHEAA

        You guys are hilarious… Taking shit seriously like you guys run shit in the streets.. Ur chillin at ur house on a freakin laptop. CALM DOWN…

        His music is HOT and thats it..

        THats whats wrong with people today.. They prefer criminals over people that put otheres where they belong.. Thats why Ross didnt say anything..

        I wouldn’t care if was the chief of police. His music hot regardless!

        • http://www.yahoo.com Sweetpanties

          He’s A Liar And You Wanna Stick Up For Him?Ok Then It’ll Be Funny If He Was Doing That Shit Too You Huh Some Of Those Of Pigs Do Right????

    • http://xxlmag.com Smoove

      IDK WUT 2 BELIEVE…I RALLY DONT CARE HOW HE LIVIN! I JUS LIKE GOOD MUSIC

    • mo

      You all talk like you know rick ross none of you know him or know what his life was or is really like fucking faggots on here who don’t know shit on a computer and their mom’s house and belive everything they hear

  • cb4

    I dont believe this guy. Now he’s sayin he was pushin in the jails?? What a loser. CAN SOMEBODY ROB THIS MAN!!!!! He’s a waste of good beats with his science fiction street tales. When the real rick ross gets out, its over for this lame. Go home fatboy Willy, you never sold nuthin but phone time and extra sandwiches you hoe ass prison cop. I cant listen to someone who gives niggas cavity checks, no homo.

  • THE REAL DG

    this dude is such a bitch “i’m too big in the streets”? my ass ross, my ass

  • turbo

    why does xxl seem to side with Rick Ross on these typa situations?
    i notice the diction in their language trying to minimize the effect of the truth that this wanna be gangsta was a fucking pig before he noticed where the money was at….
    watever

  • 305

    PRESSURE BUSTS PIPES, THIS GUY IS A FRUAD, HE HAS GOO MUSIC BUT HE IS FAKE

  • http://XXLmagazinw.com Dennis Pinex

    This dudes a str8 clown….damage control,that’s all this is!any “REAL” cat wouldve manned up from jump it’s obvious your a gimmick ” officer Ricky” and what’s sad is dude really can spit but that “1/4 million $’s moving weight” shit….knock it off,how bout $22,000 moving inmates.. Bitch ass nigga truth be told niggaz in the Chi hate the sherrifs just as much as the hataz..FUCK THA POLICE!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Terry

      “1/4 million $’s moving weight” shit….knock it off,how bout $22,000 moving inmates..

      This got to be the best line I readed on here (lol)

      this should be on a diss song fo real (lol)

  • Feev

    50 had him under pressure..that’s the only reason he fessed up. He would still be talking that photoshop BS, if he thought it could float. Decent Rapper, questionable Gangster, Sucker of a Man. Period. Has nothing to do with music.

    • Capital G

      Fuckin goddamn straight! Co-sign everything you just said. I felt the need to unleash a little hate myself but your words were beautiful in their simplicity. Fuck punk ass Officer Ricky. The only thing deeper than rap with this fraud is his belly button and all his lies. Fuck his human punching bag Gunplay too while I’m at it.

  • chillin mayne

    pshhh…so ross is claimin to b a druglord of sorts, then he puts it out in his music, then wen asked about it he says he cant talk about it???….this all sounds mad phony…if u was as big a druglord as ross claims to be, why would u advertise that??….ross grow a brain, and holla back…
    “there were other people that were involved in something else, with other cats who were doing this, but that wasnt part of this, and other dudes was holdin something, but part of it is that this there those these and they were not here at the time….BULLSHIT!!….
    drugs is not cool yall…neither is phonies who claim to peddle them…das double da fakeness, u lyin bout “pushin drugs”
    disgusting

  • K.ola

    The south won’t care they bump anybody…

  • SOUTHSIDE A-TOWN

    on da real though, the only thing dat matters 2 me is what da streets is saying. & the man said his street cred never been a issue. i ride w/ the nigga til his street cred takes a hit. but dis shit is nothin man da media is makin it more than what it need 2 be.

    • Capital G

      His street cred didn’t take an L? This fat liar was a MUTHAFUCKIN CORRECTIONAL OFFICER? Show me just ONE kingpin who dabbled in being a pig for a split second… Seriously, I got time, go ahead….

      • DADE COUNTY 305

        NOW U JUST SAID SOME G SHIT!!!!

  • RWord

    Kids understand kids and grownup understand grown ups. ALL who say this and that about Ross are clearly kids.

    Look here are the facts. 50 won the internet over. Everyone on the internet believe whatever 50cent says. BUT IN THE STREET niggas LOVE Ross. When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter.

    I will say it again:

    When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter.

    I will say it again for you slow 50cent dick riders:

    When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter. not the internet

    • allhiphop>xxlmag

      ok
      i bet youre one of the haters who hate on anything lil wayne related
      the streets bump weezy day n nite
      and the streets are so important they dont have internet access

      • RWord

        I like Lil Wayne. I bump Wayne.

    • drox

      @ RWord
      what the hell muthafucka??? what in the world r u talkin bout??? the streets aint shit with out the internet. Everything the street’s got comes from somewhere on the internet!! mixtapes, bootleg movies… whatever u talk bout @ the barbershop b stemmin radio aint shit no more.
      fuck both 50 and ross but @ the same time if u’re gonna sit there and tell ppl that u b diggin ross’s shit cause he’s the street then all I can say is… MOVE TO THE US…any part of the US

  • WESTCOAST

    RICK ROSS. OH, MY BAD.. William Leonard Roberts II, U GOTS TO STOP BEATIN AROUND THE BUSH.. U GOT CAUGHT… VERY SAD..

  • DETROIT

    what streets? everytime i see ross, he’s performing in a room with like 25 other people in it, saying that he controls the streets! his shows never sell out, and i have yet to hear a hood nigga bump magnificent. and as far as jail niggas go…THEY DO NOT ROCK WITH ROSS! SO WHERE ARE THESE STREETS YOU SPEAK OF? EVEN THAT NIGGA RED EYEZ SAID THAT THERE WAS NO WAY A CO COULD BE PART OF HIS CREW! DON’T PEOPLE CONSIDER ZOE POUND STREET NIGGAS?

    • RWord

      What street? Ross JUST did a project video in NY.

      IN NEW YORK PROJECTS!!!!!

      Where the hell is 50 project video?!?! Oh I know..have at his house. Look at the diss video at camron, look at ‘i will be the shooter video”…in a GREEN SCREEN ROOM…LOL!

      The nigga 50 is a clown and get no respect on the street, thats why he is never there, in the streeetz

      look DETROIT, Everyone at xxlmag know you work for thisis50.com. I saw you account as a administrator. So stop faking

      I will give it to you and you coworkers at thisis50.com. You guys have won the internet over (especially the gullible). Everyone on the internet believe whatever 50cent says. BUT IN THE STREET niggas LOVE Ross. When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter.

      I will say it again:

      When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter.

      I will say it again for you slow 50cent dick riders:

      When it comes to credibility, ONLY the street matter. not the internet

      • DETROIT

        liars have no credibility, streets or otherwise. not just ross, no lyin ass nigga has credibility!

      • K.ing

        That project shit should only impress wiggaz….

        1) police was present…

        2) newyork is the safest biggest city on earth…

        3) a project with camera’s is like anywhere else with camera’s…

        shit don’t impress me… what would have impress me is doing that shit in front of the gunit office…

        what u nerds don’t understand is a real street cat ain’t scared to catch a case regardless… a street punk is… but not a street cat…

        i don’t fuck with suge… but i can reconize him as a street cat… a snake but he is on his street shit too… like he would go to gunit office’s… rick false know’s better… and if the real cat’s from bang bang boogie was there he would have got strip (see worldstar) … plus his artist torch is from the BX… that like when 50 went to the hood in cashville with buck… wow!!! that shit don’t impress me… ain’t nobody in the top 5 on that forbes hip-hop shit n the hood… wayne ain’t in the streets… game ain’t in the streets… when you get money and you from the hood you get the fuck out the hood… you suburb wiggaz kill me with that project shit…

        • RWord

          K.ing & DETROIT are the same individuals. man, you thisis50.com worker are amazing!…LOL!

        • DETROIT

          @ rword:

          common man! r u serious…lol!

          but anyway, pimp c must be a thisis50 worker too, cuz he talked about fake drug dealer rappers in his infamous, “get off the boo boo” interview! he also spoke on how niggas wasn’t tryin to get at 50!

  • kingequality

    Does it really matter 99.9%of all rappers are fake its just entertainment people I know you dont think a real drug dealer gonna make a public statement to fuck up their freedom im not even a ross fan but I must admit some of the music is alot better then what im hearing from other rappers

  • therealwayno

    First he said it wasn’t him, saw it wasn’t working, so Def Jam bought him some media training and now it is him, but you know, it’s deeper than rap.

    It’s not Ross fault the game is all WWE and he just another monkey trying to get as much $$$ as he can.

  • Gully

    Rword you a clown,why you think ross is the boss of drug trafic!that nigga is a fraud.And he did a diss song in the NY projects(what???) times square and hotel room ain`t exactly hood is it???some drive by shoots of street sings aint hood…are you serious.He couln`t do a diss song in projects. If that fat fraud fuck steps in NY hood REALLY DOING A DISS TRACK IN NY he gonna get smoked. i bet them rick ross goons were driving around NY looking for a vacant spot to do some scenes quickly before real niggas…i spell this to you REAL STREET HOOD niggas realized that.Rword you retard monkey,you
    a monkey that rides rick ross`s dick,get the fuck outta here

  • 2hard2fair

    rick,whatever your real name is,you can rap and your music ain’t half bad (although,i don’t bump it),but u are one ugly muthafucka.i mean,with the glasses u still look like an ape on a 6th grade reading level

  • KEITH

    WHEN I EAS LOCKED UP DOWN IN MAIMI C.O. RICKY ROSS BEAT ME DOWN FOR STEPING OUT OF THE CHOW LINE!! BITCH ASS FAKE ASS DRUG CARTEL!!!!

  • corlione39

    MAN ALL THEZE ARTICLEZ ON DUDE SEEMZ 2 ME LIKE THEY PITTY INTERVIEWZ. IT SEEMZ LIKE HE KNO HE BOOT THRU SUXX THO HE DU NEED 2 HOOK UP WIT GAME N BUCC N LEARN HOW 2 MURK 2 QUARTERZ

  • dre

    HE GETS A PASS…THATS SHIT WAS 14 YEARS AGO..ITS ALOT OF SO CALLED GANGSTA RAPPERS…THAT DONT LIVE THE LIFE THEY TALK ABOUT ON RECORDS…DR.DRE…WORE A FUCKING DISCO DANNY SUIT BACK IN THE DAY…BUT HE SMOKED CHRONIC AND KILLED NIGGAS ON RECORDS AND YALL NIGGAS BOUGHT IT…ICE CUBE I JUST SAW A DOCUMENTARY ON NWA AND I SAW A OLD PIC OF ICE CUBE WITH A PINK BUTTON UP ON WITH THE COLLAR UP LOOKING QUEER..BUT SOON AS AMERIKKKAS MOST WANTED DROPPED…YALL BOUGHT THE HELL OUTTA THAT SHIT…ITS ALOT OF THESE NIGGAS OUT WHO PAST ARE FUCKED UP..BUT WE STILL BUY THEY SHIT…YALL GIVE LIL WAYNE A PASS..BUT HE KISSED A DUDE..YALL NIGGAS KILLING ME…GET OVER IT…IT WAS 14 YEARS AGO

  • http://xxl All Dae

    Ross is a great rapper and makes good music.

    He is not a gangster at all period. It’s all an act for his “image”. Ross is not jail seen unless you count him working there. He needs more people to vouch that he’s a killa and bonifide gangster. He needs more people to vouch he moves weight.

    What’s sad is noone needs to front like there from the street to be a good rapper. I like Kanye West and he’s no more street than the cucumber seller on the block.

  • Grizz MC

    This Is the link of Rick Ross’ Carol City Cartel artist Gunplay after he got knocked out for talking shit about 50 cent

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVmO15rA-q0&feature=related

    this is a video recorded by the 2 goons that did it, they show the chain, watch, and bracelet that they pulled off the nigga. they look like the black KKK word to my mother hahaha

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTCLfE9UtX0&feature=related

  • FORTY

    Man fuck COP ROSS man!! 50 cent had his lying ass under pressure that’s why he confessed all of a sudden…I guess now he trying to say that he was slangin in the prison while he was a C.O. This nigga is a bitch!!

    (WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU, YOU NEED MORE PEOPLE)

    50′S shit is ligit that’s why I respect dude. When they did that BET Special back in the day walking around Newyork/Queens bridge area with the BET cameras, niggas that was out in the streets said 50 was a beast in the streets/dope game…..He had niggas actually verifying the shit….nobody can do that for Ross because he never lived that life!!

  • k.ing

    R word u (wigga deep voice ) Bitch!!!

    check me out… what does 50 have to do with ross being fake!!!

    outkast = real

    Scarface = Real

    Ugk = Real

    C-bo = real

    Jay -z = real

    etc…

    u niggaz listen to that fugazzi ass fantasy rap… i knew ross was fake from the jump… did u see how square the nigga look when he was trina’s bodyguard… or when he was teflon…

    i fuck with cat’s who really did it…

    was Pac ashamed of being a background dancer No, did DRe deny that wreckin crew shit No,…

    and yea the difference between this fag and dre… is dre admitted his rap’s or just entertainment not on some fake ass all this shit is real…

    nigga been a fraud… and disse’s trick daddy when he know’s the nigga is sick…

  • http://myspace.com/federalranga Federal Ranga

    Decent Rapper, questionable Gangster, Sucker of a Man. Period. Has nothing to do with music.

    ^^^^^^^
    CoSign.

    RWord, get the fuck outta here. Ross gets no love in the streets here in Miami, mufucka. I was at his little charity drive for the kids when he passes out bookbags and shit and soon as he stepped on stage, some nigga (wearing a fuck Flo Rida t-shirt) got to dumpin at his ass. Ask somebody.

  • carol

    Rick Ross,
    I must say, you dont have to denied being a C/O, most people wish they even had a job. or was even smart enough to take the test. dont be shame of that. I’m proud that our black brothers could take a test and pass. and the video that 50 cent is doing with you baby mama, I love 50 to death. but 50 need to tell your baby mama, to get some teeth. If I were her, I would be calling 1 800 DENTIST before I even do an interview. Or she should cover her mouth when she talks, I know that is not no love lost. that the worst thing a person could do, is go in public, especially on a video with a raggedy mouth. Be proud of yourself brother. If the music game dont last for ever. At least you have an education.

    • jburg

      Education? You don’t gotta go to college to be a C/O!!!!

  • http://xxl gside

    Oh my god when will it stop the lies ? But you can’t blame him when you have sheep who love being lied to and plus real or fake a drug dealer is know on to look up to , what wrong with some of you ? You know what dealer sit around and wait to happen for the police to come and lock them up or some one to come along and kill them stop feeding into this bs. Man ross looks gay as hell to talking about shopping that bitch shit there.

  • latino heat

    real hard? this bitch is softer then baby shit.

  • jburg

    Rword: Can you please let Ross’ nutts go!!! PLEASE? The nigga has been exposed. Get over it. You must have been a Ja Rule fan too!!!

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  • epinz

    He’s full of shit! If u was such a big ass drug dealer, how u a c.o, would u have niggaz under u doin that? I never heard of any kingpin doin the dirty work!

  • Kabelo

    Niggas don’t understand one thing, Ross is gansta, this nigga was co to protect and supply some mafia boss in the joint with shit that’s why that nigga got respect in the street – fuck five-o

  • DADE COUNTY 305

    THIS FAT GREEN ASS NIGGA USED TO CAVITY SEARCH INMATES! NIGGA WE STILL DONT BELIEVE U IN LIBERTY CITY, CAROL CITY, SOUTH MIAMI, LITTLE HAITI ETC. NIGGA U NEVER HAD REAL STREET CRED DOWN HERE IN THE 305!!! TRICK DADDY IS A REAL STREET NIGGA. TRICK IS MR. 305 IN THIS RAP SHIT. 50 U NEED TO SIGN TRICK ASAP!!!!

  • macdatruest

    Yea Trick Daddy should sign wit G-UNIT, look how it worked out for Lil’ Scrappy!!!! Yayo is Fiddy’s grimey Farnsworth Bentley, for real. That nigga Lloyd Banks traded his career for the idea of a career. M.O.P. aka R.I.P. all then niggas finished. Rick Ross was a CO, but Hot Rod went at Nas on his first track and Olivia got a dick. Mase got busted wit a transvestite and Fiddy make dildos.

    I guess what Rick Ross did when he was a teenager wasn’t Super Boss Status, but few teens were kingpins. What about what these G-Unit niggas is doin as grown ass men. Dildos and Trannies?? Yea okay-any nigga that say they don’t fuck wit Ross on some street levels, but say they fuck wit g-unit, I know yall niggas gay.

    Some nigga was like he aint heard a hood nigga bump magnificent yet, I aint heard of a gangsta that make sex toys bitch ass niggas. and if you say its all marketing, then don’t knock Ross for marketing an image. Nigga aint selling gum shaped like his balls or no shit and callin’ his self a killer. Thats that Gay Unit shit

  • Tator

    How come nobody’s heard from the inmates who was locked up when Ross worked there? Or how come nobody from Florida has actually stepped out to put Ross on blast (besides Trick, and they still got on a song afterwards)? Just wondering why we care so much when people closer to the situation don’t mind.