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Independent Weekly: “Rick Ross’ Sluggish Crawl Toward Maturity”


Like everybody else on the internet, I pontificated about Rick Ross and how he’s sorta awesome right now but also really, really retarded? I was able to sneak in some mini-history lessons on “Freeway” Ricky Ross and the whole C.I.A/crack conspiracy too, which was cool. This was interesting because I wrote my piece last week, along with all the other people writing their thinkpieces and it’s fun to see where pieces intersect and where they go off in some weird, other direction. Click below to read it:

“Looking at him [in 1979], one would not have imagined the slender, slightly pop-eyed teenager to be a successor to anything but a hard row to hoe. A sometime thief, sometime student, he was clinging to a tattered dream of becoming a professional tennis player.”

So wrote Gary Webb in his 1999 book, Dark Alliance, offering a description of “Freeway” Ricky Ross, the LA crack kingpin and CIA/ contra/ crack conspiracy fall guy—and the dude from whom William Leonard Roberts II, better known as the rapper Rick Ross, swiped his name. Neither slender nor pop-eyed, Ross is bearded and bloated and raps in an abyssal growl, mostly about how he’s a superhero cocaine dealer. His debut single, “Hustlin’,” from 2006’s Port of Miami, housed absurd boasts like “I know Pablo, Noriega—the real Noriega” over a booming loop of organ, synth, and wordless, spaghetti western vocals.

The Miami rapper appeared at the height of the last decade’s wave of weirdly clever, gleefully nihilistic crack rap—Clipse, Dipset, Young Jeezy—and reduced it to absurdity. Some rappers dismantled their boasts with an ugly aside or tinge of regret, but Ross had no time for novelistic detail or insight. It was all epic, coke-rap fibs. One day, a picture of the rapper in a correctional officer’s uniform appeared on the Internet. Though Ross initially claimed the photo was doctored, he eventually confessed: He’d been a C.O. for about 18 months, from December 1995 to mid-1997. Strangely, the street cred-destroying revelation didn’t signficantly affect the success of 2008’s follow-up, Trilla. No one took him seriously in the first place…

I’d also like to focus on a few other pieces on Ross for a moment. Joey of Straight Bangin’s excellent piece, “The Best Bawse That We’ve Heard This Far”, which begrudgingly accepts the rapper from a distance, Zach Baron’s “Who Does Rick Ross Think He Is?” which applies logic and reason to Ross’ delusional persona (killer line: “Because make no mistake: Ross’s targets aren’t random.”), and Jon Caramanica’s bizarrely naive review of Teflon Don, in which the Times writer somehow buys into every nod to “consciousness” and seriousness that Rawwss throws out there.

Written by Brandon

July 22nd, 2010 at 2:48 am

9 Responses to 'Independent Weekly: “Rick Ross’ Sluggish Crawl Toward Maturity”'

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  1. I read Webb’s Dark Alliance a couple of years ago but well after the whole hype from the original San Jose Mercury News expose died down. It’s a incredibly great story that basically reads like an epic film that would easily rival Blow, Scarface, or any other drug dealing epic film. I highly recommend that book and I’ll even add Max Mermelstein’s “The Man Who Made it Snow.” Rest in Peace Gary Webb.

    LL Cool J’s character God in the film “In Too Deep” said it best. “You got to give the people something to believe in,” I’m paraphrasing. Everybody else that is so worried about whether some one is real and how deep their street credibility truly is need to move on and get over it. People simply want to be fooled and entertained. Whether the rapper is a former corrections officer, a college graduate or former dime bag dealer who probably did less than a 1-2 as a juvenile really does not matter as long as he or she has the skills to pay the bills. Apparently Rick Ross is that dude. So William Leonard Roberts II will continue to channel Freeway Ricky Ross, Big Meech and Larry Hoover as long as he can continue to drop dope lyrics and use videos to make you believe he’s living the opulent lifestyle of smooth criminal. I guess it’s all good. WWF eventually got exposed for being fake, the organization eventually became the WWE, a publicly traded organization with high grossing PPV programming.

    Hopefully Mr. Rick Ross will either win or lose his lawsuit against the rapper Rick Ross and move on with his life and try to help correct the wrongs he was involved in.


    22 Jul 10 at 4:30 pm

  2. It does seem like folks are a little too concerned with Ross’ lack of lyrical authenticity. In real life, dudes doing shit at the level he portrays just don’t have successful rap careers on the side. So, if you want the music to reflect that kingpin lifestyle, don’t expect the man behind the mic to really be that. No one really believed Biggie was doing all of the things he talked about, but they accepted the persona. You could make the same case for Raekwon during the OB4CL era. That being said, Ross always does seem to take this shit to ridiculous new heights. At least, Biggie borrowed his name from a fictional kingpin.

    VEe– I never thought about it before but ‘Dark Alliance’, if they did it right, would make for such a great movie.


    22 Jul 10 at 7:31 pm

  3. Vee-
    Everything you said is spot-on. I think though, there’s still this sense that no one is taking Rick Ross seriously and it’s why he “Gets away with it”.

    I think there’s a huge difference between Biggie/Rae and Rick Ross. Namely, Ross is just egregious about it and he comes off like a poorly informed kid trying to keep up with the adults, with no regard for making sense or not coming off like an idiot. Like he has no interest or respect for that which he takes.

    It’s a trend in a lot of pop culture and just our culture at-large as of late. Namely that like there’s unspoken “rules” for what you can and cannot do/say are ignored by some douche and then everyone gets all impressed with it. Like yeah, if you violate the central rules of rap and have DEF JAM behind you, your album’ll be pretty dope. You see this in his casual use of street culture, hood icon, etc. Black Mafia Family, Larry Hoover. Or the ‘Behold A Pale Horse’-isms on “Free Mason”.


    22 Jul 10 at 7:39 pm

  4. The reason Ross seems so much more pathetic than those other guys is because at that time, it was kind of assumed that rappers would embellish their lives at least a little bit for entertainment purposes, whereas now there’s more of an emphasis on being 100% REAL, no matter how absurd the character you’ve created for yourself is. I mean, did anyone ever REALLY believe that Scarface and Kool G Rap had killed like 8 million people each? Or that Too $hort had really banged and/or pimped every single one of the girls in “Freaky Tales”/”Cocktales”, whose names all conveniently happened to be very easy to rhyme with eachother?

    In Ross’ era, if you say you’re a kingpin dope dealer, you’d better fucking carry yourself like one at ALL TIMES and don’t let anything slip into the media’s hands that might prove otherwise, or else the internet will be laughing at you forever and it’s potentially threatening to your career. The whole “realness” thing has become such a big issue that regular ass rappers have to create this whole “regular dude” schtick for themselves and push it hard in order to differentiate themselves from the coke kingpins just so the listeners aren’t in any danger of getting confused.

    Haha on second thought this was kind of a “captain obvious” post. oh well I already wrote it. :P

    mark p.

    23 Jul 10 at 2:59 am

  5. Mark-
    Nah, I actually think your point isn’t that obvious or rather, by phrasing it really simply and directly it reveals something about rap right now that people take for granted.

    That yeah, it’s more obsessed with real-ness than ever before. Before, not to get all David Shields about it (eff his book btw), we were interested in “real-ness” instead of “real-ness”. That’s to say yeah, RAWWSS isn’t a normal dude in his raps ever, he’s a superhero and he’s super obvious about that.


    23 Jul 10 at 4:59 am

  6. Wow, these comments are very insightful. I think I’m over the whole Ross being real thing. What’s the saying? Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see. (It also follows that you shouldn’t believe everything you think, but I digress). Not much has been Real in music lately. Gaga’s not really as gaga as we think. Ross isn’t as Bawse as we think. It doesn’t detract from their occupations, which, in short, is entertainment. They’re doing their job 100%. They’ve created a skillful diversion from daily life and we’re all in some form or another- whether we’re blogging about how much we hate it or downloading their tracks with utmost expedience on iTunes- actively participate in furthering their careers. I don’t see us reverting to the days of BDP and Public Enemy any time soon. I also, as was mentioned before, don’t see the real Ricky Ross having a fruitful career as a “dealer turnt sanger”. So understanding that no one can stay in their lane aymore snice the lies have been erased, let’s move on. *Shameless plug to follow* :)

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    Go cop it!


    27 Jul 10 at 9:13 pm

  7. I have to admit this is a pretty good article, how much reasearch did you put into it?


    13 Mar 14 at 3:01 am

  8. Very energetic article, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part 2?

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