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King: Rick Ross
Crowning Achievement: The release of Albert Anastasia, the first record to include "B.M.F."
Predecessor: Trick Daddy
Royal Court: Ice Berg, Ace Hood, Plies, SpaceGhostPurrp
He has shown a consistent ability to make hit albums and club/street anthems, despite having his all-important authenticity scrutinized and questioned due to his stint as a parole officer. His public image (and our perception of him as an ethical man) took an immediate hit because of his date-rape lyric in “U.O.E.N.O.” But through it all, Rick Ross still reigns strong as the King of Miami.
To be a leader in rap in Florida, historically, you’d either have to make trunks rattle like DJ Magic Mike or be able to make butts shake on a dance floor like Uncle Luke. While street-based Miami rap had long been a factor thanks to groups like Poison Clan and rappers like Half Pint, Trick Daddy was the first to lead the Magic City into the forefront of the rap world.
Although Rick Ross’s rap roots are outside of Miami—he was born in Mississippi, and first came into hip-hop through EPMD’s Erick Sermon in the late 1990s—he soon landed on Slip-N-Slide, the Miami-based label that also housed Trick Daddy and Trina. Around the same time as Trick Daddy’s last major label release, Rick Ross appeared on the scene with a booming sound and lavish personality on “Hustlin’.”
Leveraging his first single's menacing sound and different iterations of drug trade-fueled fortunes, Rick Ross has released four No. 1 albums (Port of Miami, Trilla, Deeper Than Rap, God Forgives I Don’t). His only album that did not reach the top, Teflon Don, is arguably his best. At the same time, Rick Ross’ rap skills have come a long way from “Hustlin,” when he was mocked for rhyming “Atlantic” with “Atlantic.” And he’s consistently featured on records by some of the biggest names in rap and R&B (Usher, Kanye West, Jay-Z, DJ Khaled).
Ross’s sound has played a major factor in his success, and he’s been at the forefront of new musical movements within hip-hop multiple times. He worked with producers The Runners and Lex Luger early on, before either redefined the sound of the genre’s mainstream. He’s also been able to develop not only his own career, but to help build others. His Maybach Music Group label has rejuvenated the careers of regional spitters Wale and Meek Mill, who are now commonplace on rap radio.
Two of the challengers to Ross’s throne are recognizable names with moderate commercial success (Ace Hood & Plies) but limited appeal to break out to the same level as Ross. Two others are youngsters with different paths to fame. Ice Berg focused on building his buzz in a grassroots manner, thanks in part to a cosign from Trick Daddy. SpaceGhostPurrp, meanwhile, has gained popularity through an enigmatic internet presence and a great ability to recreate the feel of 90s underground rap tapes from Memphis. —Scott Brown