Whats in a name? Everything. It can be haphazardly given, a carefully contemplated nom de plume or even a wayward nickname that sticks, but eventually your name will come to represent the many facets of your being. "Freeway" Ricky Rossthe man serving out a bid in the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institution for drug traffickingtakes pride in his name. He earned the Freeway moniker when gaining his legend running a multi-million dollar cocaine ring that spanned from South Central LA to the Midwest and beyond in the 80's. Google it if you need evidence. Meanwhile, Def Jam/Slip-n-Slide artist Rick Ross (né William Leonard Roberts) name rings heavy in the Hip-Hop game; initially for rising to the top of a crowded rap heap but most recently for leaked photos depicting his alleged stint in the late 90s as a Corrections Officer. Holding down a square gig isnt anything to clown but in The Boss case, the uniform doesnt jibe with the former drug kingpin image that permeates his music. But the real dilemma isnt Ross resume (really, how do you think drugs get into prisons?) but his vehement denials despite mounting evidence to the contrary.No matter where you stand in the Rick Ross as fraud debate, Freeway Ricky Ross is at least one individual with legit qualms about the matter. The artist Rick Ross name is a blatant ode to Freeway Ricky Ross, but its not a juxtaposition the latter endorses. Via e-mail with Ricky Ross we asked the reformed drug dealer with eyes on flipping his fame for positivity questions pertaining to his feelings regarding Rick Ross-gate and Hip-Hops overall infatuation with the drug trade. Pay heed, because it get no realer. AllHipHop.com: How did you get in contact with the artist Rick Ross: did he reach out to you or did you reach out to him?Freeway Ricky Ross: I have friends that work at a lot of magazines and right before he got ready to blow up I got a lot of mail asking me how I felt about him using my name and asking me if I wanted to holla at him. So one of my boys gave me his number. No, he never reached out to me.AllHipHop.com: Youve mentioned having spoken to Rick Ross a few times before, what were the conversations about and what did you take from them, as far as his character? Did you ever implicitly say you were not okay with him using your name?
"I told him it would be best that we have a sit down. He [explained] to me how he picked my name and that he definitely owed me. He said that the first thing he did was mention my name on a record. And when he did that people's ears perked."
Freeway Ricky Ross: The conversation was basically about him using my name. The first couple of times he talked real cool. I really couldn't talk to him the way I wanted to because all my phone calls are monitored and I was under investigation at the time. But I told him it would be best that we have a sit down. He [explained] to me how he picked my name and that he definitely owed me. He said that the first thing he did was mention my name on a record. And when he did that people's ears perked. This is probably true, a lot of people probably dont know he knew my name, but in 96 there was a media [blitz] with me. I made every major newspaper in this country. I also made all the talk shows. I was doing three or four interviews a day. So we agreed that we would do a sit down in the visiting room and discuss what was going on with our situation. Here is the address that he gave me to send the visiting forms to: [REDACTED] Hialeah, Fl as well as a phone numbers. 305-[REDACTED] or 786-[REDACTED]. He just tried to reach out to me about three weeks ago before all this stuff hit but I refuse to have contact with him. What was really surprising with the whole conversation with him [was] that even though he was in the studio a numerous of times when we spoke, he not once asked me if I would say a few things on his album. I never requested, because it was kinda of odd cause I had talked to a lot of rappers and they wanted me to say something on their album and was willing to pay without me asking.
"No I never told him it was ok to use my name. I told him I wasn't trippin but we needed to sit down and talk. Cause I would never be involved with a Millie Vanilli"
No I never told him it was ok to use my name. I told him I wasn't trippin but we needed to sit down and talk. Cause I would never be involved with a Millie Vanilli. I built this name to what it is today to where I can go to any prison in this country and get saluted.AllHipHop.com: You also mentioned the artist Rick Ross going as far as calling you a snitch. Did you see that coming?Freeway Ricky Ross: Yeah he did an article in the Ozone Magazine. No I never thought he would call me a snitch. Thats a serious jacket to put on somebody. And from what I did,150 soldiers got out of prison. It was cops that was planting drugs on innocent people and I had no problem taking them down. But I can understand why he don't like cops to go down.AllHipHop.com: To some extent most, if not all rappers tweak the truth whether it be speaking on things theyve seen from afar or exaggerating their own experiences, but how much would you say is too much?Freeway Ricky Ross: Yeah I agree the rap game now is way over exaggerated. Back in the day guys like King T and Master Spade and Ice T,they told stories and when they did they made sure that people knew who the real playa was. Take me for instance, I can't rap, but I am friends with all the rappers from L.A. How would it look me being famous and putting together a album and let someone rap for me? Do we know if he is really even rapping? I think to trick the kids into believing he is real is playing too far. And I get letters all the time of people asking am I real.AllHipHop.com: Drug dealers have long been deemed as heroes in hoods throughout the USA, even the world. Considering what you have gone through, what is your take on the phenomenon now?Freeway Ricky Ross: Yeah I guess you right, in the ghetto drug dealers have always been heroes. Well when I start selling drugs life looked really bleak for me. I was flat broke no skills, illiterate, dumb and blind. So when a person [is] in that condition anything looks better than where they are at. I had accepted prison and death as a part of everyday life. Even killing and dying didn't make a difference.AllHipHop.com: You have been called the Walmart of Crack due to the vastness of your business at its height. Was achieving the infamy you did always part of the plan or was it something that spun out of control?Freeway Ricky Ross: Well to be honest with you when me and my partner started off we only wanted to make 5000 dollars. But it became addictive. When I had 1000 none of my partner had 2 dollars. I have always been the leader of my crew. They say I was born with leadership ability. And I do thrive on power. So after a while of being in the dope trade, and a few lucky breaks, the picture started to get clearer. Then I felt I [had] found what I had been looking for all my life. My niche. Its like anything else. The more you practice the better you get. I learned some valuable lessons out of the dope trade.AllHipHop.com: Your case brought to light the involvement of the government at least partially in bringing drugs into the U.S., did you ever feel like you were a marked man? I mean, this is the U.S. government!
"I am not afraid of the US Government. I fought the government and won. The only thing they can do now is kill me. But I will never stop"
Freeway Ricky Ross: No I never felt like a marked man. I come from a humble beginning. What was really hard for me to believe is how could Rick Ross the guy that everybody in school used to make fun of because he had holes in his shoes, teacher said that [he] was least likely to succeed. And I am not afraid of the US Government. I fought the government and won. The only thing they can do now is kill me. But I will never stop.AllHipHop.com: Tell us about your current endeavors (books, films, etc) and what do you plan to do first upon your release?Freeway Ricky Ross: Man my endeavors go on an on. Well my biggest and [most] cherished project right now is www.freewayenterprise.com. I have plans to take this site and take on the likes of MySpace and Facebook. I am looking for the brightest computer programmers and engineers to make this happen. As for film we are in the process of looking for writers. We already have a budget in the bank. I am also in discussion with a mega star. And I have a lot of control on how this movie comes out. I will be co-writer [and] co-producer and co-director. This will be my project and I will be in charge. Polychrome Pictures will be producing. I am also starting my own book publishing company. Where I will be focusing on giving inmates a way to get their books published. I am putting the finishing touch on my autobiograghy. I have Kwame Teague the writer of Dutch as my co-author. Just from the first four chapters I have had offers. I have a novel that I have finished called The Black Scarface with co-author Jimmy DaSaint. I also run a mentoring program where I teach young people how to get paper legally. I also do that inside. My name is just as big on the in as it is out. I get much love. Also my blog is going to be a education platform. Where people can learn how to put th eirlife on track. And if they have question I answer all my letters personally. I am also working with Wendy Day. She is helping me put together my record label. I am looking for the best and brightest artist; something new, something I [wouldn t] mind listening too. My number one goal upon my release is to teach our youth how to think for themselves. And not be tricked by all the stuff the powers that be are putting out. They dont have our best interest at heart. Its all about the dollar. They will sell you poison to get your money.AllHipHop.com: Through the positive endeavors you are putting together/organizing it seems like you are trying to make amends for your past transgressions. However, there are those who will see you as nothing more than a person who made millions at the expense of many lives. What do you say to them?Freeway Ricky Ross: I guess you can call it making amends or maybe wanting to change my legacy. But what I have learned is that our youth respect my realness. And without realness you dont have anything. My past doesnt really haunt me. I am not one that harbors on mistakes. I move on. And I can't knock the way anyone else sees me. And the book is not finished yet. There will be many more to come. I say to them believe what you must. But my life will be considered an experiment for the human race.AllHipHop.com: Though its nothing new, much of todays Hip-Hop music has rappers glorifying the drug dealing lifestyle. I believe its a lifestyle you no longer condone, is there anything that can be done to counteract these incessant images prevailing in the music?Freeway Ricky Ross: You are absolutely correct, I no longer condone dope dealing but I can no longer point the finger at people who does. You know Jesus said my people suffer from a lack of knowledge. And you that has never sinned throw the first stone. Oh definitely there are some things that can be done. Somebody like myself can show our children that you don't have to have a special gift from God or be a rocket scientist to make it successfully in this world. From my studies selling drugs is one of the hardest businesses a man can do. I guess that is why everybody wants to do it. It takes a lot to wake up every morning know that this could be the day you go to prison or kill somebody or get killed. Tough life. Peace Freeway Ricky Ross.