Rick Ross: Can’t Knock the Hustle [Full Story from October 2011 Issue]

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“We need to get in there before they get to us.”

Red, Rick Ross’s Security Chief, a man with the shoulders of a linebacker, speaks as if the rapper’s tour bus were being swarmed by flesh-starved zombies. It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, and the enormous vehicle has pulled up behind Club Adrianna’s, a nightclub outside of Chicago.

This kind of place can be perilous for visiting rappers, a fact underscored by the 2006 shooting of T.I.’s friend Philant Johnson after a similar appearance in Cincinnati. As Ross and his entourage are shepherded through a back entrance by hulking club security personnel, people in the crowd shout “Rozay!” and mimic the rapper’s signature deep-bellied grunt.

By the time the convoy cleanses several rooms of locals and shoves through a mobbed mezzanine, the DJ has shifted into a set of Ross’s hits. Finally deposited in a private area, Ross is presented with bottles of Champagne and sparklers. The crowd crushes inward, looking for photo opportunities and handshakes. A sequoia-sized member of Ross’s crew stands sentinel, scanning the sea of faces for anyone whose expression is a little too excited or icy. Wearing a black nylon jacket and his ever-present sunglasses, Ross is at home in the swirl of chaos. At this moment, he is exactly what he has always wanted to be: a rap star who performs in front of thousands but still gets love in the hood.

Later on, back on the bus, after a frenzied extraction, the 35-year-old rapper launches into an animated, 30-minute paean to his own authenticity. “There was five different gangs in that room,” he says, grabbing a handrail as the bus curls through the Illinois darkness. “Crips. Folks. You don’t see these other tough-guy rappers there. Check their tour schedule. They don’t go to Detroit, to Chicago. That’s the difference.” The spiel includes talk of his murderous Miami mentor, meeting with Larry Hoover’s son and the foulness of snitches. He even threatens Kreayshawn, the fledgling Bay Area rapper who called Ross “fake” in a recent freestyle verse. “I can’t wait to slap the shit out of whoever carries her bags,” he says with a sneer. “And I hope it’s her nigga. Dirty bitch. You better know who the fuck you talking about. I’ll pay 50K to mess up your whole week.”

If the last year has proven anything, it’s that Rick Ross should not be concerned about his credibility. Despite a number of issues that could have doomed an inferior artist—the discovery that he worked as a correctional officer in Florida’s Dade County, an embarrassing ex-girlfriend who pranced around New York City with his rival 50 Cent, a lingering perception that his persona as a cocaine baron was overblown—he has risen to greater stardom than ever before. His last album, 2010’s Teflon Don, was critically lauded and spawned monster hits like “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and “Aston Martin Music.” Ashes to Ashes, a follow-up mixtape, yielded more of the same with “John Doe” and “9 Piece.” He made high-profile cameos on tracks with Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. He assembled a divergent group of artists for his Maybach Music Group label and, in May, elevated their stature with the compilation album MMG Presents: Self Made, Vol. 1. Squabbles with other rappers (Kreayshawn notwithstanding) and questions about his past are old news. With his fifth album, God Forgives, I Don’t, scheduled to come out this fall, Ross has his pudgy toes on the precipice of greatness.

“I’m enjoying my last few moments at No. 2,” Ross says, sitting on the bed in the back of his tour bus. “It’s like I’m watching the No. 1 man on stage, my legs crossed, I’m smoking big, hollering at the bitches in the crowd. And this album gonna do it. I got the formula.” His sunglasses are off, and his eyes are heavily lidded but alive. “Everybody on my dick,” he says, “like they supposed to be.”

The First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, a concert venue about 30 minutes outside of Chicago, has towering support pillars and an ugly roof, which provide all the ambiance of a freeway overpass. After an afternoon of rain and hail, skies clear up in time for performances from Ross, Lil Wayne, Keri Hilson and Far East Movement. The sprawling crowd is a snapshot of the rap audience in 2011: kids with braids throwing up gang signs, frat bros in Hollister shirts, groupies in shrink-wrapped dresses and teenyboppers wearing hoodies emblazoned with “Love Pink.” And there is Ross, leading this weird congregation in chants of “I think I’m Big Meech.” He bounces along the catwalk, hunched down, his chin tucked into his chest. It looks a bit like a turtle trying to get off of a hot plate. “Took me 10 years to stand right here,” he announces to acknowledging applause. As Ross polishes off a set that includes hits like “Hustlin’ ” and “I’m on One,” steam rises from his bald, sweat-sheened head. Walking backstage, he yanks off his shirt.

For a man of significant huskiness, Ross is not bashful. Whether performing, during photo shoots or in the privacy of his trailer, he strips off his tent-sized tees with the casual exhibitionism of a sunbathing Frenchwoman. The folds of his upper body are a maze of tattoos—he says he has more than 100. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are inked on his chest. The Statue of Liberty and Richard Pryor on his abdomen. On his right thigh is a portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the New York City painter, who died in 1988 of a heroin overdose. Basquiat, who did the cover art for Rammellzee and K-Rob’s “Beat Bop” in 1983, has become a popular name-drop among rap’s aspiring art appreciators; Jay-Z, Nas and Swizz Beatz have all made their admiration known. Ross doesn’t say much about Basquiat’s actual work, but he is enamored of his storied rise from homeless obscurity to the top of the art world. “I connected to that totally,” Ross says. “Just chasing his dream. It wasn’t about how much knowledge he had or who he knew. It was just his talent. And that’s what it was with me.”

FOR MORE RICK ROSS, GO TO PAGE 2

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  • bullets

    Fuck you mean it doesnt matter? It doesnt matter that your influencing young people to hustle in a time where you cant make money off of hustling? Its ok to portray a lifestyle someone can easily imitate and die while you’ll never go to jail for recording? Its not OK is Ross talented YES! He could easily write deeper songs especially with the beats he rides but dont you dare promote fake thuggin saying stupid shit like it doesnt matter you fucking magazines are worst than the news sometimes, everytime you write something stupid like that just remember impressionable young mindds read this crap…..

    • $yk

      realest comment I’ve seen in a while here not submitted by me…co-sign x100…trust the populous saw it…keep going…

    • talkshit

      so because Ross raps about dealing dope, automatically every young person is going to deal dope too? If so, don’t blame fucking Ross blame the parents that don’t know to raise their children to have a mind of their fucking own. I admit he does have to the platform to promote something better but it’s ENTERTAINMENT

      • $yk

        then you should know that the ENVIRONMENT has just as much of an influence on a young mind as the parenting will…parents CANNOT be around their children EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.

        So since you admitted he COULD be speaking on something different, why not ask WHY DOESN’T he, instead of letting it slide?

        Like floridaborn said down there, dudes are brainwashed…y’all will let a cat sell you oregano…and let him tell you it’s kush, when you KNOW it’s oregano…but the baggy he’s got it in makes it look official so you take it home and STILL try to tell yourself it’s kush…when you KNOW it’s oregano.

        If all else, your parents told you to stand up for something, or fall or ANYTHING…

        • jimmyjam33

          eminem used to rap about raping and killing his own mother, murdering people and shit. bet u dont bitch bout tht. only reason dude turned all cute and cuddly is cos relapse flopped. its all sales.people pick and choose who they want to hate on. its has nothing to do with any ritcheous cause either.

          • blank

            nigga please relapse did not flop, secondly you cant compare ricky to Em couse Em was a real street cat, ross is just a phony

  • josh

    I really want to read the rest of this, just to see how he responds to being called fake, because he totally is. It’s factual.

  • ryan

    How can you be number 1 when you’re big enough for 3 people?

  • Screwed Up Click

    Trust me dude wouldnt be fuckin with alot
    of people here in the industry if he really was
    fake take for instance ja rule made hitz and
    had huge numbers but 50 made fun of him
    no expose or anything of some recent employement
    before the rap game either way if that indeed
    happen how would it have hurt ja rule was called
    out on singing thats it and all fans left the building
    and that was it just because somebody is a gangter
    in da damn club come on dude ran up on by ja like three times
    but yet ja rule was still the pussy whats up with that
    what im tryin to get at is that if ross really indeed have a
    fake life before the rap game he wouldnt have had a
    careeer in the rap game when he started
    motherfuckeers just hatin on the biggest boss in the game
    admit it you would love to be in the position Ross is in
    even That other Real Snitch FREEWAY RICKY ROSS wanna be like him but cant get anybody to back him up but some fag named HDickryda
    Im Out N go buy all maybach music artists records
    there all worth it and are all relevant like it or not

    • floridaborn

      awhe man.. You are a sad sad little boy if you honestly believe what you just said. Ja rule was about as real as a 48 dollar bill. His fans were middle white America, presumably what you are, that believed his 2pac imitation. Ross has already beenexposed for being a corrections officer, a picture was put up by dj vlad, and he admitted himself in a radio interview that that was his past life and he “did what he had to do” Video was included before you say it wasn’t him. You must have just got into S.U.C cause any old head that’s been into rap would see right through this phonie.

      Damn rap is really brainwashing these simple minded people..

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  • Swang Ryda

    Dude i know dude was exposed for being a c.o. but
    for a year not like he was doin it years to come pussy
    you a brainwashed hata get ya papa up son come on
    ova trust me IF YOU SAYIN S.U.C. AINT FUCKIN WITH
    ROSS THEN YOU A FUCKIN HATA I CAN NAME THREE
    OF THE TOP SCREWED UP MEMBERS THAT HAVE WORKED
    WITH HIM AND OTHERS OUTSIDE OF THE SCREWED UP
    CLICK THAT HAVE WORKED WITH HIM
    TRAE
    Z-RO
    LIL FLIP
    BUN B AND PIMP C
    SLIM THUG AND KILLA KYLEON
    WHAT U GON SAY HE FAKE N THEY JUST
    WANTED TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF HIM
    GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE HATA
    AND GIVE THE MAN THE RESPECT HE
    DESERVES AND ALL OF HOUSTON FUCKS
    WITH RICKY ROZAYS MATERIAL SO
    WHAT THE FUCK YOU GOTTA SAY BITCH
    U OVER THERE BRAINWASHED OFF THEM
    FAKE NIGGAS T.I. AND GRAND HUSTLE SHIT

  • digisnacks

    regardless ross is a wack rapper. people will do songs wit anyone if tha money and song is right

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    Phonte said it Best, “I rap because I love HIP HOP, NAH I rap cause i got bills”

    be F’n real.

    Rick ross doing everything in his Will to put money in his pocket and food on the table. People always holla I want that real hip hop…

    …look at how many Style P Phonte 9th Wonder Slauhterhouse and etc cds sold…

    now look at how many lil wayne cds sold.

    YOU CAN’T KNOCK the HUSTLE.

    rick ross makes good not great music and rhyming about “real” stuff might be out of his element and might bankrupt the dude..especially if he aint real. in fact, maybe he is so fake that its real to HIM.

    at the end of the day it is music. and nobody gets on any other genre of music or movies. the dude is an artist and hip hop heads are the worse for putting its artist in a pigeon hole.

  • moneoverall

    everybodys commints are kinda irrelevant if dont agree that this man rick ross makes good music even if you think that he is a fake drug lord……..even all of the boss this and boss that…….and being a correctional officer none of you of you lame mufukas could ever put together any of the classics that were on the teflon don……… maybach music 3 touched my soul

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