Freeway Rick Ross has influenced the Hip-Hop culture in many ways. The former drug kingpin is now channeling his energy to being part of the solution as opposed to the problem. The Drug Dealer, The Author, The Producer -The American Icon
By Percy Crawford (@MrLouis1ana)
(AllHipHop Features) When it came to drug trafficking in the 1980’s, there was not a more prominent figure in that arena than, Ricky Donnell Ross, AKA “Freeway Rick Ross.” Ross was the drug kingpin of the streets of Los Angeles and it was reported that his grossed revenue at one point eclipsed $900 million. Ross claims to have sold $3 million dollars’ worth of drugs in one day. His reign would come to an end in 1996 when he was sentenced to life in prison under the 3-strikes law in which he purchased over 100 kilograms of cocaine from a federal agent. Ross was illiterate until the age of 28 but began reading and studying law during his first prison stint; a move that would pay dividends and make him a free man. Ross discovered a loophole in the legal sentence that saw his sentence reduced from life to 20-years in which he was released in 2009. While in prison, Dade County rapper, William Roberts, AKA Rick Ross had run with the kingpin’s name with no intent to pay homage or drop the alias. After a trial, in which the lawsuit was dismissed and the rapper prevailed, “The Real” Ricky Ross turned his attention to other ventures. In 2013 he wrote an autobiography that was nominated for several awards, he’s helped produce documentaries and in the process of creating a biopic. With the help of, top-shelf manager, Haze, Ross is also managing musicians as well as pro boxers.
I recently caught up with the icon who pulls no punches while discussing a number of topics, including the guy he refers to as “The Rapper,” his upcoming biopic and turning down $850,000.
AllHipHop: It’s an honor to conduct this interview with you, my brother. You have a lot going on right now. How are you doing?
Freeway Rick Ross: I’m well. How are you?
AllHipHop: I’m great. No complaints at all. You are getting into managing some boxers, you manage some recording artists in particular, Nakuu. Staying busy, but not being put in one box. You’re expanding.
Freeway Rick Ross: Definitely! It’s a battle, man, but I’m up for the challenge.
AllHipHop: You are really focusing a lot of time and effort into building a community that you feel you had a hand in destroying. How important is that venture to you?
Freeway Rick Ross: Ah, man that’s the upmost. It’s not the community that I destroyed, I would say it’s the community that slavery destroyed. That slave mentality is what allowed me to sell drugs to my people.
AllHipHop: When you approach these ventures to be in the community and push things into a positive direction, are you met with a lot of stumbling blocks because of your past or are people willing to help and give you the resources needed and the resources that you ask for?
Freeway Rick Ross: I would say for the most part, nobody really gets in my way. If they do, they don’t let me know it. It’s kind of a subtle thing where people usually don’t tell me no. I usually get my way. But it still has been a struggle as far as financing, but that’s not me and my past, that’s just being Black in America. They don’t care what your credit score is, what area you live in, if you’re black in America, they don’t want to loan you no money. They don’t care how good your idea is. They going to tell you to sell it to Microsoft. “Why Microsoft didn’t buy it?”
AllHipHop: You said something during your documentary, “Crack In The System,” which was a very good documentary. We’ll get into that a little later, but you had a quote and you said, “When they locked you up, they took away everything, but the one thing they couldn’t take away was your dream.” Is that what keeps you pushing forward that mentality?
Freeway Rick Ross: They tried to put me in a box. They put my body in a box, but my mind was running free. What I meant by that is, what happened to us as a people is that, we no longer dream. We no longer see ourselves with the great ancestral that we have. We built the Pyramids. We did things that man now can’t figure out how it was done. We were doing eye surgery before anybody else in the world. But what happened is, we forgot where we came from. If you don’t know where you came from you don’t know where you’re going. So, what that does is that kills your dreams and turns your dreams into nightmares; which we run from. We use drugs to get away from our nightmares. Our nightmares is not being able to feed our families, not having money to pay the light bill or getting ready to be evicted tomorrow. If you getting ready to be evicted tomorrow, there is no way you can dream about a better day because you got this nightmare staring you in the face. So, what I said is, no matter what position you put me in, I’m still going to look forward to a better day. To a day that you will no longer have your foot on my neck.
AllHipHop: Do you feel like you are getting closer to that day?
Freeway Rick Ross: I feel like I’m getting closer and if I’m getting closer, my people will be getting closer as well. But as a majority I would say, no. I would say right now, our people are sleep walking. We believe that we are okay, when all of the statistics show that we are probably 30-years behind where we were in the 60’s and the 70’s. I can remember when everywhere you turned in L.A. there was a Black face. When I look at L.A. right now, you have to look and search to find a Black face. We have lost our grip. We no longer own some of the most valuable property in this country. Our mothers and fathers took the inner cities. They didn’t give us the inner cities they took them. And now we’ve literally gave them back.
AllHipHop: Do you feel like the black people that we do have in power or in a situation that can change, things aren’t proactive? For instance, what’s your take on the Steve Harvey and Monique situation? Do you feel like, Monique was in the right knowing and demanding her value, Steve was right in saying accept what they give you because eventually the money runs out or should it not have been handled on his show on national television?
Freeway Rick Ross: That goes two ways. I could see why somebody would say take what they offer you if you got a plan. See the thing about, Steve Harvey as well as Monique; I don’t think none of them really have a plan. I mean, they have a plan for themselves as far as, “You know what, I got a big house.” You know I’ve been to, Steve Harvey’s Ranch. I spoke at his Ranch when I first got out of prison and it’s a beautiful place. And it’s a place that he shares with the inner-city kids once a year, but what he needs to be sharing is the mentality of how he captured that. That’s where the brilliance is. The brilliance isn’t in how big your Ranch is or how many cars you got or if they offered you $500,000. When people see my documentary… I didn’t get a dime. But when I went into the documentary, I went into the documentary with the concept that, I didn’t care if I didn’t get paid.
Because this story is more valuable to my people than any amount of money that anybody can give me. Yes, I’m struggling, my mother was struggling and yes, I may get evicted next week, or next month or 6-months from now, but my documentary was more valuable than the money. The message was more valuable than the money. When you see the documentary, you will see that they took my mom’s house. I had the opportunity to sign a contract for the movie during that same time. They offered me, $850,000 to walk away and sell my rights. But I had a plan and I said that my movie was more valuable than me losing my momma’s house. I could recoup her house, but I could never recoup if I allow them to take my story and do with my story whatever they wanted to do with it. See the documentary I had my hand heavy in that documentary. I produced about 75% of that documentary. So, when you see that documentary, that’s my work. Marc [Levin] and those guys worked the cameras and did the angles, they did that. But the meat and the potatoes to that was my work.
AllHipHop: Ike Turner signed over his likeness, the movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is released, most that were around the situation said the movie has a lot of inconsistencies and fabrications. Being that you already had to fight for your name and likeness with the rapper, was there no way in hell you were signing over your likeness to movie producers because at that point they could have painted you in whatever light they saw fit.
Freeway Rick Ross: Absolutely! You know what they told me, “We may let you come on the set sometimes.”
AllHipHop: They may let you come to the set of your sh#t, your story. Unbelievable.
Freeway Rick Ross: To my sh#t! For the greatest story in US history. You know, Esquire Magazine said that my story is the greatest story in the past 80-years. It’s in the 80th Anniversary Magazine; special edition. Obama was in there, Clinton was in there, Dr. Dre was in there and they said that none of those stories could match with mine. And I have someone telling me they may let me come around my story. But that’s what it is, when you don’t do what somebody want you to do, they punish you. But like I said I had a plan. And it was bigger than me, it was bigger than the money. I had people who I knew needed help. And they needed to see somebody that had backbone. I don’t think that a lot of our leaders right now have backbone. They bend over at the slightest blow of the wind. They bend they turn and twist. How do we have so many billionaires and not have not one job-developing center nowhere? Name me one place in this country where we have black owned and black financed job development center. How can that be? You know, as soon as they get the money, they want to get out the hood to never return.
AllHipHop: Being that you are a guy that have seen so much money and made so much money and to come out and start all over and turn down a $850,000 price tag to not let someone else tell your story, I think that speaks volumes as to what type of character you have?
Freeway Rick Ross: Let me tell you what I found out about myself, when I first started off selling drugs, it was about the money. But then it got to be not about the money, and it was about the game. It became just about the game. So, when I play now, I know from that lesson, don’t make it about the money. Because if you make it about the money you still can be controlled, you are still a slave because all they gotta do is put that paper in that machine and push that button and it start to turn out that paper. “How much you want?” “$70 million…nigga?” “You want $70 million, nigga, okay.” “You want $300 million, nigga?” “Oh, you want a billion, nigga?” “You can’t help your people though, nigga!” “You can’t give none of them this money.” You know we got black colleges, around those black colleges I looked, and I saw absolutely no incubators. None of the stuff they got around Stanford for those young kids to walk over to venture capitalist or an angel investor, so that they can express their ideas.
AllHipHop: There will eventually be a biopic on you.
Freeway Rick Ross: Oh, we about to shooting in like 50-days.
AllHipHop: Okay bet! I have to ask you this question, in a perfect world and if you could make it happen, who would you select to play the role of “Freeway Rick Ross” in a biopic?
Freeway Rick Ross: You know who I like is the kid, Childish Gambino; Donald Glover. I like him. He wears his hair like I used to wear mine (laughing).
AllHipHop: When do you expect to have things wrapped up?
Freeway Rick Ross: Right now, the script is being worked on. We were up last night until about midnight trying to put all of the finishing touches on the script. We already have our director. I can’t announce his name though. They keeping everything hush. We have, Kim Hardy. She is the casting director and she’s also a producer to. We got Reginald Hudlin who is a producer.
AllHipHop: How different is it for you being on the managerial side of things?
Freeway Rick Ross: I used to be a manager way back when. My job was to teach the guys how to do their job better. That’s what a manager does. What I like more about this here is, I don’t have to worry about no cops coming putting no gun to my head and telling me to get on the ground, or raid my house or have my momma in the front yard telling her to get on the ground and then handcuff her to a fence.
AllHipHop: I’m sure you’re exhausted on talking about the rapper with your name, but I want to ask you this, do you feel like he was more disrespectful in the way he took your name as opposed to the way, “Philadelphia Freeway?”
Freeway Rick Ross: I like, “Freeway” because he came out and said it. He told the truth. What the rapper [Rick Ross] should have did was came out and said, “You know what, I love this guy, I wanted to be like this guy so much that I adopted his name as mine. He’s my hero. Look, I tattooed his name on my hand. I’m absolutely infatuated with this guy. I’m infatuated with everything that he did. How could he start with $125 and turn it into $3 million a day sometimes?” If he would have did that, we wouldn’t have had no problems. He thought I was done. He read that article that, Jesse Katz wrote in the, “Texas Monthly” that I had to make him re-write in the “L.A. Magazine.”
AllHipHop: Does it still bother you or do you have so much going on that it’s an afterthought at this point?
Freeway Rick Ross: I’ve moved past that. I still would like to work with him. I think that I could help him revive his career. He been hot for what… 6 or 7-years and I’ve been hot for 40. I think he’s talented musically, but other than that his brilliance is not really there. No disrespect, but I feel that if me and him walked through these ghettos together, he definitely wouldn’t have had the problem with the ‘GD’s” that he had. I definitely would have been able to keep him out of that and some of the other problems that he’s had throughout his career. But you know, I got so much other stuff going on. That’s not even a thought in my mind no more. I don’t even entertain it. His notoriety is gone way down. You used to hear him on the radio everyday all day and now you don’t even hear him on the radio anymore. He’s not really a factor. Right now, I’m taking on Los Angeles City Hall.
AllHipHop: What’s going on with that?
Freeway Rick Ross: Well you know they implemented a social equity program in Los Angeles. What that was, they gave out like 190 licenses; marijuana licenses here in Los Angeles. Only one black person got a license. So, what happened, the founder of our organization, Bo Money who is the founder of, NDICA went to the city and got them to implement a program called social equity. Where they are going to give blacks and Hispanics licenses to operate dispensaries. Black and Hispanics probably participated with marijuana when it was illegal more than anybody else. We were definitely targeted more and prosecuted more than anybody. So social equity is going to back give for some of the harm that the war on drugs did to the black and Hispanics community.
AllHipHop: Did you ever think you would see the day where marijuana was legal?
Freeway Rick Ross: I never thought this day would come. When I got out of prison… I was in Texas, so I didn’t know that they had legalized marijuana in L.A. until I hit the streets and saw the dispensaries. I was like, “What the f#ck?” I was totally taken off by it. But I’m more taken off by it that the Los Angeles City Council was gonna let foreigners come up in here and let them buy all of the licenses that they promised to social equity. I just couldn’t have it, so I had to put my gloves back on.
AllHipHop: Mr. Ross, the honor is all mine, brother. The real Rick Ross is definitely not a rapper and I appreciate your time and wish you the best with all of your endeavors. Is there anything you want to add?
Freeway Rick Ross: Let everybody know that we can be whatever we want to be, we have to put our mind to it, dedicate ourselves and keep a one-track mind. And as my man, Mike Concepcion told me the other day, stay hungry! Thank you!