Rick Ross just took a bite out of an ice cream sandwich that he got for free from a food truck promoting Wu-Tang: An American Saga. It’s a Wednesday afternoon in late October and he’s standing parallel to the front doors of Complex’s New York office building, right next to the heart of Times Square.
Seconds after his next bite, he’s recognized by a couple of bystanders who walk past the truck. Unbothered, he graciously takes a few selfies, and even obliges two police officers who waited in the small crowd to say they’re “huge fans.” Eventually, though, Ross makes a break for a black SUV waiting on West 43rd Street.
Settling into a black leather seat in the SUV, Ross finishes the ice cream sandwich. We’re getting ready to take a scenic drive through Manhattan and Brooklyn before he makes an appearance at the Brooklyn Nets-Miami Heat basketball game at the Barclays Center.
Before we take off, I ask him if the ice cream was a hit or miss. “Not gonna lie… This motherfucker pretty good,” he says, sparking a blunt out the cracked backseat window.
Rick Ross isn’t riding around New York City to review cold desserts—although that might make for an interesting miniseries. He’s here to promote his 11th studio album, Richer Than I Ever Been, which is slated to drop Dec. 10. The project will arrive at the end of Ross’ 15th year in the industry, an impressive feat for any rapper who’s made it through the ebbs and flows of the music business. Looking back on his career so far, Ross is feeling more than “pretty good” about where he’s at and where he’s going.
“I will start with family, health, being alive,” he explains. “What’s rich if you ain’t in that position? A nigga really want to be as healthy as possible and getting to enjoy this little time that we got here with the ones that mean the most. So that’s what comes first when I talk about being rich.”
“Rich” is a word that Rick Ross throws around freely, and it has multiple definitions. When he uses it to describe his next album, “rich” likely refers to the quality of sound. It’s been a little over two years since Ross dropped Port of Miami 2, and although the length of his break between releases isn’t all that uncommon in rap, Ross says he took his time with this project. “I’m not in a rush to release the album, just for the sake of me putting some shit out,” he says. “As a young artist, there was so much that I wanted to do and release. But where we at now, we got this shit laid out. Now what we gonna do is give it to them when the time is right.”
Ross has declared that this album will be his “best” yet, and he promises it will highlight his technical skill. “It has more lyrical wordplay,” he asserts. “I’m on some shit. I felt there was some shit I could do different coming off of Port of Miami 2. So on Richer Than I Ever Been, maybe the first five records could be overwhelming with the way the production is and the extent I’m going to with the wordplay, the rap shit. That’s most definitely a difference, versus me giving records that’s just about the vibe.” He compares a handful of the tracks on this LP to his 2012 collaboration with Nas, “Triple Beam Dreams.”
“I got a $3 million watch, but what else the f*ck I need? We got to buy a piece of the Heat. Give me three years, and I’ll be able to do it.”
Ross insists that he isn’t “trying to out-rap nobody,” and says the music is just a reflection of where he is in his life right now. “Every time you come back like this, you should always try to elevate the game,” he adds. “The music’s got to match where you’re at mentally, where you’re at money wise, and your personal shit.”
There’s good news for the Rick Ross fans who were reeled in by hits like 2006’s “Hustlin’” or 2010’s “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” because he confirms there will be a few big club anthems and luxurious production. He teases big collaborations with rap’s heavyweights: “Future and I did some cool shit. Me and the little homie Lil Baby did some shit.” And he hints there could be a new collab with Drake that’s better than anything they’ve ever done before.
Drake and Rozay have an impressive catalog of classic collaborations, including “Stay Schemin’,” “Lord Knows,” and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle.” Most recently, Rick Ross appeared on “You Only Live Twice” on Certified Lover Boy. But Ross declares that 2013’s “Made Men” is his best Drake collaboration.
“When you say me and Drake, I automatically go to some of the more underground records, because that’s when we was just recording that shit and putting that shit out on tapes,” he explains. “Can you imagine that era when Rick Ross and Drake was recording a record and just putting it out? Think about it, ‘Made Men’ ain’t on anybody’s album.”
There’s plenty of speculation about where their collaboration on Richer Than I Ever Been will rank next to “Made Men” and all their other songs, but when I start fishing for more details about the track, Ross switches gears.
Ross may be rich in terms of his health and rap career, but the truth is, he’s very rich in the traditional sense as well, thanks to his keen business acumen. Today, he has an empire made up of 23 different business ventures, and in the last two years, Ross authored two books detailing his journey in music and business. His partnership with Wingstop is stronger than ever, he recently locked in movie production contracts for the use of his Atlanta property, and just a week and a half before our conversation, he launched a new line of CBD wraps with Hempacco Packaging. “It helps to wean you off of tobacco,” he explains. “And for people like me that suffer from seizures, this shit helps you sleep better and helps with anxiety.” Taking another puff from his blunt, he exhales and adds, “I’m pro-cannabis, and I had a problem going to sleep. I still can’t [go to sleep] all the way, but with this, I’m making progress.”
“We created a sound. When it comes to that luxurious sh*t, it’s nobody whose name is going to come before mine.”
In addition to existing partnerships he has with ventures like Rap Snacks and Luc Belaire Champagne, Ross is eyeing a deal similar to PayPal Mafia, in which a group of individuals create different businesses and give equity to their friends. Ross says it’s a strategy that will make everyone rich, explaining, “That’s the game for 2022. Everybody leaves invigorated with a whole motherfucking drive to push for you and spread the love to the next tier. That’s how big boys do it.”
“I got 120 cars, but what the fuck else can I get?” he adds. “I got a $3 million watch, but what else the fuck I need? Everything else got to be big boy shit, too. We got to buy a piece of the Heat. Give me three years, and I’ll be able to do it.”
Rick Ross can accomplish a lot in just three years. In the first three years of launching his own Maybach Music Group imprint, Ross turned it into a competitive brand that helped solidify the careers of artists like Meek Mill and Wale. This year, Meek and Wale dropped two critically acclaimed albums, Expensive Pain and Folarin II respectively. Seeing your team win is of course a positive of running a music label, but there are times that things don’t go as planned.
Following the release of Expensive Pain in October, Meek Mill unleashed a now-deleted rant on Twitter, where he claimed he hadn’t seen any of the money that his label was making from his music. “I haven’t get paid from music and I don’t know how much money labels make off me!!!!! I need lawyers asap!!!” Meek tweeted. “Ask the record label how much have you spent on me as a artist? Then you ask how much have you made off me as a artist? I’m about to make my record deal public by Monday just to let the world see what these people on!!!”
Ross did not immediately comment on Meek Mill’s accusations online, and when I ask how he wants to respond now, his answer is simple. “I don’t respond, that’s how,” he says frankly. “That’s all we’ve ever did was win and I’ve never responded to anything, because I’m the boss, and the boss ain’t got to respond. You keep winning.”
Though Ross isn’t interested in talking about some feuds, he agrees to comment when Drake and Kanye’s infamous beef is brought up. For years, the world has been entertained by Drake and Ye’s back-and-forth with subtle jabs in their music, and on this October afternoon, Ross makes an interesting prediction about their ongoing feud. “I can’t do nothing but smile,” he laughs. “I enjoy the shit-talking they do because I’m sure that’s all they do is smile. Them niggas in $50 million houses, listening to niggas in these funny tweets because this shit be really hilarious. I feel as a real nigga, it’s no other way to take that.”
He pauses for a moment, passing the blunt up to the front passenger seat. “Be honest with yourself, would it surprise you if they debuted a new record or something like that? That’s what real brothers do. So that’s all Rozay see. Do I think they trippin’? Hell no. I already know they’re thinking of this next shit and who they’re going to put on it.”
Rozay was onto something. Just a few weeks after our car ride, Ye and Drake nearly broke the internet with a photo of them reuniting and taking a step to squash their beef. The reunion occurred after J. Prince urged Ye to reach out to Drake in hopes of freeing Larry Hoover from his life sentence in prison. Now, the two are set to perform a benefit concert together on Dec. 9.
As we pull up in front of Sweet Chick—a restaurant chain backed by Nas—in Brooklyn, Rick Ross seems to be feeling nostalgic. Taking a smoke break as we wait for his order of Caribbean cuisine, he reflects on the mark he’s left on the game thus far.
“When it comes to my contributions, it depends on what angle you want to see it,” he says. “What I know I’ve done on a personal level was just show motherfuckers how to do it, and to do it yourself.” He explains, “I came from Miami. I ain’t have no big producer. We put in the work and went around, city to city, and put together a fucking database of the best producers, regardless of how big they was. We created a sound. When it comes to that luxurious shit, it’s nobody whose name is going to come before mine. And that’s coming from the pianos to the harmonies, the flows, the John Legend collaborations.”
Two days later, Rick Ross hits the Audiomack stage during Day 2 of Rolling Loud NY to show just how much skin he has in the game. It’s only minutes before his set, and the crowd is overwhelmingly packed. Due to a last-minute schedule change, Ross switches set times with Wale, and as he emerges from backstage, the crowd roars. Muted speakers make it almost impossible to hear him perform some of his biggest hits, including “I’m Not A Star,” “Bugatti,” and “9 Piece,” but it doesn’t seem to matter to those in attendance. Die-hards recite every word.
Fifteen years is a long run for any rapper in this business, but at 45 years old, Ross says, “A nigga still moving like he was 15 years ago.” Retirement isn’t even in his periphery. “That’s just something that I have to see when the time comes. I’ve still got a lot of game to give.”
In Ross’ next chapter, he’s looking to elevate to new heights. “I want to be the biggest,” he says. He’s already achieved a lot—he is often referred to as the “biggest bawse,” after all—but he’s thinking even bigger. “No, like Tesla,” he says. “I got them aspirations… Renzel Musk. $150 million wet my lips, but I’m still hungry. I need it all.”
Ross says he’s on pace to get to Elon Musk’s level of “big.” Just give him a couple more years. “The fact is, I am richer than I’ve ever been,” he says. “But the bigger fact is I’m more excited than I’ve ever been.”