Rick Ross, real name William Roberts II, grew up in Carol City, Florida, an impoverished northern suburb of Miami. Forming the rap group Carol City Cartel (later known as the Triple C's), Ross began rapping towards the end of the 90s. Starting out with a brief stint at Suave House Records, former label of southern legends Eightball & MJG, he ended up up on Miami-based Slip-n-Slide Records. Slowly but surely Ross began making his way up the rap ladder. Waiting in the wings for his time to rhyme, Rozay learnt a lot whilst housed at Slip-n-Slide. As a label they were moderately successful thanks to Trick Daddy, known in the world of rap as the Mayor of Miami, and stripper-turned-rapper Trina. Not releasing any material of his own until a joint venture between Slip-n-Slide and Def Jam took place, Ross did pop up on three cuts from Trick Daddy's Thug Holiday album while also appearing on four of Trina's five albums.
At a time when Atlanta and Houston artists were establishing their cities as southern strongholds during the mid 00s - Mike Jones, Ludacris, Chamillionaire, and Paul Wall were all dominating commercial radio - Ross aimed at putting Miami back in rap's national spotlight. Releasing 'Hustlin'' in June of 2006, it caught the ear of a few executives within the industry. A bidding war ensued, which included offers from Bad Boy CEO Sean "Diddy" Combs and The Inc. (formerly Murder Inc.) president Irv Gotti. Regardless of such high-profile interests, Rozay opted to sign with Def Jam after Jay Z, who at the time was president of the label, offered him a multi-million dollar deal. Helping Ross to push 'Hustlin'' nationally, the record went on to sell over 5.6 million copies which saw the RIAA certify it 5x platinum.
Following the success of 'Hustlin'', Rick Ross released his debut album, Port Of Miami, the same year. With the help of Miami-based songwriting/production team The Monsters & The Strangerz, it went on to sell over 500,000 copies. In many circles the album is regarded as one of the best from the "coke rap" sub-genre. Also featuring the Scarface inspired 'Push It To The Limit', the album further promotes rap's obsession with the drug game. With his second album doing the same, Trilla appeared to have a bit more direction in the creative department. Critically received better than its predecessor, the album featured production from big names such as Mannie Fresh and DJ Khaled, as well as up-and-comers the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and it also saw the likes of R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Jay Z, and Lil Wayne all add their vocals to it.
With fame, controversy can sometimes follow. Taking his stage name from Los Angeles drug kingpin "Freeway" Rick Ross, who once ran one of the largest crack cocaine distribution networks in the America during the '80s and '90s, Rick Ross ran into a few complications. Not seeing the name association as a way of paying homage, the once successful kingpin sued the rapper for using his name. Filing a copyright infringement lawsuit, the reformed criminal set out to collect $10 million for the unlawful use of his name and character similarities. Eventually thrown out in 2010, Ross responded by saying, "It's like owning a restaurant, you're gonna have a few slips and falls. You get lawsuits, you deal with them and get them out your way."
Another controversy that many actually thought might be the end of the rapper's career, due to his opponent's track record of killing careers, involved beef-heavyweight 50 Cent. Apparently started because of a sideways look 50 gave Ross at an award show, various records went back and forth between the two rappers, but it was 50's mocking of the Smoking Gun revelation that Ross used to work as a correctional facilities officer that lit up blog pages like the 4th of July. Lyrically claiming to be a hardened criminal with multiple tales of both drug dealing and gunplay, Ross' credibility appeared tarnished because of 50's dog-with-a-bone attitude to demolishing rap careers. However, somehow making it to the light at the end of the tunnel, Ross handed 50 his first loss and became a bigger star for it.
Around the time Ross released his third album, Deeper Than Rap, he also formed his own label Maybach Music Group. Beginning with himself, the Triple C's and Masspike Miles, the label went on to sign Meek Mill, Wale, Stalley, DJ Scream, Rockie Fresh, Gunplay, Teedra Moses, and former B2K frontman Omarion. With an arsenal of talent, Ross had his sights set on success. Already signed to Diddy's management company Ciroc Entertainment, his affiliations were piling up.
Always seen with the likes of Lil Wayne and Baby (aka Birdman), whom he recorded a bunch of tracks with in 2008 under the moniker The H - the resulting project, The Lost Tapes Vol.1, was made available for free earlier this year - also DJ Khaled, French Montana, and Drake, if marketing oneself in the world of rap had an award, Rick Ross would be the yearly unchallenged recipient.
Besides releasing the Maybach Music Self Made compilations, Ross went on to release two more solo projects, Teflon Don and God Forgives, I Don't. The latter of the two is often viewed as the Miami rapper's finest effort to date. With features from Mary J. Blige, Andre 3000, and many of his Maybach Music family, the tuned in youth of today listened in with attentive ears while embracing their inner tough guy. While sometimes a tad bit unnerving being that Ross embraces drug culture and gun crime, not since Death Row Records in the mid '90s or Rocafella in the early '00s had there been a rapper or clique that captured the hearts and minds of the youth the way Rick Ross and MMG did. Everything needs a soundtrack, and by painting audio hood movies, Rozay gives those in unfortunate situations something to inspire them, while also fulfilling the fantasies of those who like to like to take a walk on the wild side from time to time.
Not completely done with the controversies, Ross, in January 2013, was involved in a drive-by shooting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he and his girlfriend were the target. Not injured, but driving into a ground floor apartment, Ross was out celebrating his birthday. Later in the year he was then dropped by Reebok - they sponsored the rapper and endorsed his image - because of some lyrics he performed on Rocko's 'U.O.E.N.O.'. Looked at as someone who supported the act of date rape, he rapped, "Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain't even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain't even know it."
Regardless of these controversies, Ross still stands as one of the most loved rappers in today's industry. Known as the biggest boss (or bawse as he likes to spell it), his come up has definitely been one that has involved many movements displaying leadership qualities. With more years to go, even if his solo career begins to decline, Maybach Music have enough talent to be a rap mainstay for many years to come.
Words: Will "ill Will" Lavin
Nicknamed after a notorious drug dealer, William "Rick Ross" Roberts claims to have dealt drugs himself, prior to becoming an MC and gaining the interest of Def Jam president Jay-Z. Rather than merely lure Ross away from his initial label (Slip-N-Slide) with a lucrative contract, Jay-Z linked up with the entire label and netted a distribution deal. "Hustlin'," a leviathan, trunk-rattling single released a few months prior to Port of Miami -- Rick Ross' official debut album, following a series of mixtapes -- informed everyone within earshot about Ross' modus operandi. He's Miami's answer to Atlanta's Young Jeezy, Def Jam's breakout artist of 2005. He has a slow, husky drawl, almost always sounding like he should either clear his throat or drink some water, and raps almost exclusively about peddling coke and the lifestyle that comes with the trade. He's relatively less agile than Jeezy and doesn't sound nearly as experienced as a rhymer, but his imposing presence and uniquely enunciated pronouncements are alluring, even when his lyrics are random and amount to little more than space-filling, lumpishly projected nonsense -- like, say, "Ever seen a fat boy in a big body?/Know you wanna sit bah me, all you do is think bot it/Lease apartments to get kicked ot it/Next day buy a condo to get a kick ot it." On occasion, he shows promise as a lyricist with flashes of Jeezy or even T.I. when it comes to relating the ups and downs of the life. His pen redeems "Cross That Line," which features another autopiloted Akon appearance, just like Young Jeezy's similarly anthemic "Soul Survivor": "Lil' brother knowing life illegal/No toys, just playin' with pipes and needles." Jay-Z enlists a handful of A-list producers, including Jazze Pha, DJ Toomp, and Cool & Dre, as well as the Runners, who handle nearly a third of the tracks, "Hustlin'" included.
Words: Andy Kellman
For all the criticism thrown at Rick Ross' debut -- redundant, nothing new, by the numbers gangsta music, and so on -- the man himself had little reason to reconsider after the album climbed to the top of the charts. Add up his guest appearances and mixtapes and he's a walking bankroll, so it shouldn't be too surprising that his style and attitude toward the album format has changed little on his sophomore release, Trilla. For Ross, the full-length is a place to hold the singles -- big, slick, and grand singles that are hard, hypnotic, and just what's needed to get a gangsta party started. Even if initial single "Speedin'" didn't dominate the way he would have hoped, the follow-up anthem "The Boss" and the sleazy "Money Make Me Come" are killer, the latter being especially infectious and extra shameless. The rest of the album survives thanks to its production, with everyone from Drumma Boy to Mannie Fresh offering exciting trunk rumblers. Special mention goes to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who helm three tracks, including the soulful "Luxury Tax" with Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Trick Daddy. The huge guest list is also a plus since Ross would have a hard time carrying this album on his own, but when surrounded by talent he pushes a little harder and comes up with a handful of rhymes that aren't tired or clichéd. While Trilla might not earn this Boss any more respect, he's got the single and collaboration game on lock, and when his greatest-hits album rolls around, it'll be a monster.
Words: David Jeffries
Everything is big with Rick Ross. Triumphs, blunders, singles, videos, and everything else he does is huge, but having the audacity to call his third effort Deeper Than Rap is extra risky, especially since it's his first effort since being "exposed" as a former corrections officer. That's poison in the gangsta rap game, and while there's little here to sway the haters -- and certainly nothing "deep" -- the rapper's ability to steamroll over all of his shortcomings, along with all of our preconceived notions, is simply remarkable. In a sure trilogy of albums, Deeper Than Rap is the surest, kicking off with a decent 50 Cent diss and closing with a "Run with me or run from me" ultimatum that's gutsy enough to feature harps and castanets. While that's enough fuel for the haters to burn the whole place down, anyone willing to ignore Ross' iffy relationship with street cred and his incredibly narrow subject matter (money, women, victory) will find Deeper is the superstar, gangster weekend album done right. Boss of them all is the grand "Maybach Music" with T-Pain, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne all in top form. Same goes for the cut's production team, the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who are also in charge of the slippery and swaggering "Magnificent" with John Legend, plus the Caribbean-flavored highlight "Yacht Club." "Face," with Trina, is the street cut of note, and "Usual Suspects" places in the album's top five, although Nas' loyal fanbase will find his contribution rather ordinary. Redundancy is an unsurprising and ignorable issue thanks to all the hooks and slick beats, including a batch from the returning Runners. Even if this isn't much "Deeper" than the average Three 6 Mafia album, the glitz and guts of Deeper are a big step up, making Ross sound like a Miami-fied version of Young Jeezy.
Words: David Jeffries
Losing none of the momentum put in motion by his 2009 effort, Deeper Than Rap, Rick Ross keeps a very good thing going on Teflon Don, arguably his best album to date. You want rap-style luxury? Then Deeper is the better fit, but Teflon plays up the chilled and soulful elements of its predecessor, meaning Ross has graduated to a level where words like “organic” and “poignant” come into play. The former is best represented by “Mayback Music III” and it’s swirling, ‘70s-flavored dreamscape created by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production team. Ross allows guests T.I. and Jadakiss to go first on the cut, then grabs his cigar for an uplifting story of ghetto triumph that goes from pushing to pleasing the folks (“Parents never had a good job/Now it’s black American Express cards"). When it comes to “poignant,” the evidence is dotted throughout the album with the rapper reflecting on where he’s been, and he often questions his own lust for fame. He chants the title to the opening “I’m Not a Star” as if it was a remindful mantra, but it’s his new love of contrasts that’s really interesting, following Kanye’s swaggering on “Live Fast, Die Young” with “Seems to me we gettin’ money for the wrong things/Look around, Maseratis for the whole team/Look at Haiti, children dyin’ round the clock/I’d send a hundred grand but that’s a decent watch”. The familiar party and thugging tunes work too with “B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast),” “No. 1,” and the mixtape favorite “MC Hammer” -- now with added Gucci Mane verse -- all coming correct. Add all the Illuminati references in the Jay-Z team-up (“Free Mason”), a decent smoking song (“Super High”), and a track where Cee-Lo’s performance just might make you misty (“Tears of Joy”), and it’s obvious Ross’ albums are no longer just vessels for his singles.
Words: David Jeffries
Going cinematic comes easy when your life's a movie, and since Rick Ross' previous 12 months included platinum albums, numerous awards, and some pre-gig CPR and resuscitation on an airport runway, it seemed sensible that the Miami rap superstar cited Scorsese and Tarantino as influences for God Forgives, I Don't. "Yeah, such a breath of fresh air/Get a blowjob, have a seizure on a Lear" is the typically brutish and bold way he addresses the recent past on the great, familiar anthem "Maybach Music IV," but his detractors should note that he didn't cite Michael Bay or Brett Ratner as influences, meaning he's looking not just for bombast but for that new, kinetic kind of gangster noir, just like Marty and Quentin. On key track "3 Kings," he's found it, acting as a Tony Soprano-type character whose thoughts bounce between the meaning of life and the table dance happening in front of him, while mammoth guest Jay-Z shows up with some free-association freestyling that's wonderfully clumsy and fun, while stone-cold legend Dr. Dre uses the loose atmosphere to growl and drop some product placement ("You should listen to this beat through my headphones"). Hip Hop royalty being so free and flippant takes the superstar team-up cut to another level, and when it comes to putting his Maybach spin on new ground, Ross proves he can thrive in "Prototype"-like surroundings during the smooth as silk "Sixteen," which slowly struts over eight minutes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced elegance with OutKast's Andre 3000 along for the ride. Being overly serious is never an issue as Ross chills in the red-light district during "Amsterdam," offering big-boy insults like "You a bitch, where your Honda Accord?" along with the depraved brilliance of "I laughin' at the people who labeled me poor/Now I'm pissin' on Europeans, you'd think it was porn." Then, three of the expected thug tracks -- "Hold Me Back," "911," and "So Sophisticated," with Meek Mill -- help anchor the album before it's on to the unexplored with a Pharell Williams-helmed finger-snapping cut ("Presidential"), some naked passion with Omarion ("Ice Cold"), and a bright cut with Wale and Drake that compares fine woman to health food ("Diced Pineapples"). All of it works, there's plenty of ambition with little overreaching, and the most striking bits of the album are striking for unexpected reasons. That makes three lavish triumphs in a row for Ross, with this one being the richest.
Words: David Jeffries