Rick Ross, Southern rap’s diamond-studded exclamation point, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his bombastic, chest-caving debut LP with a live-streamed concert on August 29th. The show, dubbed Tidal X: Port of Miami 10th Anniversary, will be presented by the streaming service for both subscribers and non-subscribers, and will feature the Boss performing from the actual Port of Miami in Florida’s Biscayne Bay.
On 2006’s Port of Miami, Ross’s measured flow brought hip-hop boasts to new champagne-saturated levels of hyperbole — vintage cars, diamonds that match the color of the salt water, favors from dictators and enough cocaine for a ground blizzard. The album, which featured singles like the battering “Hustlin'” and the Scarface-tweaked “Push It,” went to Number One, as did four of the seven albums that followed. Rolling Stone caught up with Ross to look back to his monumental debut and the 10 years since.
What’s good? It’s the boss, Renzel!
You gotta make an entrance!
You know what? I said, “Renzel.” But not to cut you off, I’m just leaving Portugal and I might have a new alias now. I might be [in luxurious accent] Ricky Ronaldo. I don’t play soccer, but they had love for me like I was Cristiano Ronaldo.
You have a 10th anniversary concert coming up.
Me, 10 years in the game, I never would have imagined it. … I said this year, I wanted to celebrate the 10-year anniversary, and not just with my city, not just with a concert with my city. But I wanted to do something that the world would see and appreciate. … So this Tidal X event, it’s going to be live-streamed globally all around the world. The surprises, you gotta watch. Who coming, you wanna watch.
Are you going to be revisiting mostly songs from that album?
It’s most definitely based around Port of Miami with a few exceptions, and like I said, I wanted to do it as big as possible. They shutting down Port of Miami and setting the fucking containers in the way where I could stand on them and the world can see me. Did we pull it off? Of course we did. I’ll be performing at the Port of Miami.
On a container?
Of course, man. On a fucking container, man. I hope it’s one of the containers filled with cocaaaaine. I hope it’s fuckin’ filled with 20 fuckin’ thousand kilos of cocaine and they just sat it there. And we’re gonna rock that motherfucker, man, like I never have. You’re going to be able to see the water in the background. … This’ll be the biggest concert of my life.
When is your trial?
I don’t have a specific date just yet. But it’s real soon, over the next two months.
Is there a possibility you may still be under house arrest for the concert?
The possibilities are endless, but the concert is happening.
Port of Miami is turning 10. In the five or six years before that record came out you were sleeping on couches struggling to get this rap thing off. What were those years like?
You know, five years before Port of Miami, I was to a point where I may have even felt like quitting … the style and the wordplay of my lyricism was more complex than what Miami was used to. Miami is a party city, a go-fast city. Miami built on cocaine and killing. I was talking about coming up, being an entrepreneur, getting rich. Everyone wasn’t familiar or understood what to do with that music. So a lot of people just basically felt it wouldn’t make it. So I just had to stay focused and I started doing other things. I started writing for other people and being in other studio sessions with other artists. That’s what got me that opportunity to get in the studio with a young Kanye while he was making beats for another artist. I wish I would have bought a lot of beats … at that time, but we had a lot of time to just sit in the studio and talk about different things.
What were some of the least boss-like things you had to go through when you were a struggling rapper?
We had a Florida DJ conference by the name of TJ’s DJ’s. It’s something that we really appreciated and respected. That was happening in Tallahassee and I remember myself, maybe 15 more local artists, we all jumped in maybe two or three cars and went up there this particular trip. We might have got us two rooms, two of those $19.99-a-night joints. There wasn’t nowhere to do nothing. Somebody had to go piss, just like everybody got woke up. “Hold on, watch out.” It was one of those things. But to us, what was important was just getting into the music conference and just looking in the eyes of some of the DJs and letting them see that passion that was burning.
When did you know “Hustlin'” was going to be this enormous hit?
As soon as I heard the track. As soon as I heard the track, whatever it did to my body, I said, “Boys, I never felt this way about nothing before this point. This different and I’mma approach this different. I’m going to write this different.” What I did was, I simplified my flow going into the second rhyme. I repeated the first line two times. So it’s more about filling in the energy and the vibe.
At the time, you got a little bit of blowback for rhyming “Atlantic” with “Atlantic.” But it ended up helping carry the record.
Right. Because that was the flow. It was the vibe. It wasn’t about skill at the time. It was more about the beat and the feeling. I wasn’t rhyming, thinking about the people who doubted me like I did on a lot of other records. That beat makes you say, “Fuck everything else, fuck everybody else. It’s just me and this track. Let’s do what we want to do.”
There’s a narrative about you that after Port of Miami, you stepped up your lyrical game. But what you’re saying is that, on the first record, you consciously held back.
Most definitely! You got to think, I was an artist that was penning daily raps for 10 years in the market that didn’t really know how to market that type of music. … When I said “Atlantic,” I said that because at the time I had just set my project on the desk over at Atlantic. Which which they didn’t move on. So that being on my mind, I said “Atlantic” twice. Just to make sure everybody in that office heard that.
One of the more interesting things about Southern hip-hop’s reign in the past decade has been its influence on EDM culture. Now we have a bunch of white DJs calling their music “trap.” What did you think the first time you heard that?
I embraced EDM from the beginning. I believe the EDM culture may have fucking grew out of Miami. Because when you went on South Beach in the early Nineties, there wasn’t hip-hop clubs. You were going into the fuckin’ white, rich, upscale clubs and all they played was fuckin’ EDM. You dig? When we eased through the backdoor and was just looking around, there wasn’t no fucking rap music being played. It was [imitates house beat] and so after awhile, you kind of get the rhythm of it. When you see the bitches enjoying themselves and you see, “Oh, that’s how they move. I see what’s going on. I fuck with this.” Ultra. That shit been coming to Miami and it only make sense it come to Miami, because we’ve been an EDM fuckin’ hotbed for so long. Before motherfuckers in Ultra even knew who I was, I was walking through that motherfucker with the blunt lit, smokin’ good. … Might have been on ecstasy or some shit and just looking around, watching the concert like, “Fuck I wish I was up there.”
Have you performed at Ultra since?
Yes, I have. It was a few months back. I actually went out with Carnage [and] Marshmello. We rocked that bitch, then we took Carnage to the strip club. Carnage bought that motherfucker. We was throwing money in the DJ booth. That was the first time we did that.
You’re such a boss that you actually know who Marshmello is?
Of course. That’s my fucking homie, man.
Another example of your music transcending its original use: You ended up suing LMFAO for jacking your catchphrase, “Everyday I’m hustlin’.” When did you realize that you needed to take action?
It really was when I first seen it. I was like, “Wow, these two corny guys just jacked my song. …” You know, the member of the group admitted that they sat in the studio playing my song over and over for hours while they they came up with their ideas. My record was so powerful that it actually worked for those guys. It actually went to being a big piece of a Kia commercial and spiking Kia car sales. By one of the members of the group[‘s] father being a well-respected music executive [Motown founder Berry Gordy], I thought we’d be able to work something out. But the court sided with them, which, of course, I am appealing. I’m confident something will come back around. At the end of the day, I’m the biggest boss. I’m self-made. Those corny guys, they was born into whatever. You know, their dad paid for their great Michael Jackson lawyers and all that. But I’mma stay focused and we’re going to keep it positive and we’re going to keep moving. We’ll holler at ’em. We’ll see ’em.
One of the best things about your public persona, its that whenever there’s an Internet controversy about you, you get in front of it by flipping it into funny lyrics or doubling down on the boss aspect. How did you learn to become Teflon?
You learn that in the streets of Miami. It’s kill or be killed. And anything short of killing me, you ain’t doing shit. I’m not impressed. I don’t have no fear. I fear no man.
When you were having the seizures, everyone was pontificating that if you were on drugs or had diabetes or whatever. And then you come out with “Maybach Music IV” and rap “Get a blowjob, have a seizure on the Lear.”
I say that ’cause I really did get my dick sucked on a Lear before. I done got pussy on a Lear. At the end of the day, it didn’t kill me. In real life, you’re going to go through obstacles that you’ve got to overcome. And as long as it don’t kill you, hold your head up, family.
It does seem like Art of War shit.
It’s most definitely that. You know, I’ve had issues with the biggest artists in the game. And I had the issues because I wanted it. I wanted it. I did it. I do look at myself being a little bit more immature at those times. I felt like for me to be the boss that I know I’mma be in this game, I have to be tested. And I felt like the tests were taking too long to come, so I went out there and I instigated a few things. Now when I look back at it, I don’t regret doing it at all. … And since me having beef with these other big artists, I’ve only gotten richer. I’ve only become more successful. I be one of them dudes, like, “Yo, I don’t give a fuck who it is. You pour me a cup of that drink and I’ll go in the studio and come back out in two hours and it’ll be a fucking world war.”
By the time you hit 2014’s Mastermind, you were showing the darker side of the hustle – a more confessional side that let people peek into this wall you constructed. What was that like for you to do that?
I felt like it just came with time. People have become more familiar [with] who I am, with time. When I told people I’m a boss, I meant that and it’s 30 franchises later. Was I serious or was I joking? Right now, I’m on house arrest and I’m in Dubai. I went to Jumeirah in Dubai today. So when I say I’m a boss, is he joking? Is it just a rap song or do he fucking mean it? Would you have to fucking kill him to tell him he wasn’t a boss? You motherfuckers got to ask y’all self that. Most of the money I get don’t even come to me in my fucking name. I made Forbes on house arrest. I’m the boss. Is he joking or is it a song? When you go buy Evander Holyfield’s house and throw the biggest pool party of the summer, is he joking or is it a fucking song? When he goes and purchases Checkers franchises because he really loves the Big Buford, is he a boss or is it a fucking song?
“When he goes and purchases Checkers franchises because he really loves the Big Buford, is he a boss or is it a fucking song?”
Well, the last two records are definitely moving away from the outsized boss lyrics.
Most definitely the last two albums, my message was different. I recorded it and released Black Market on house arrest when I really couldn’t move anywhere. That was the first album I ever released without doing radio, promo, nothing. And I still touched the streets the way I wanted to. I popped off, what, 70 [thousand] on house arrest and no radio. So the message was most definitely different in the timeframe, because of my situation. … I was touching on Trump back then, which got my album pulled from Wal-Mart. Now you can make “fuck Trump” records and it’s cool. … What they failed to do, the bar behind what they pulled the album [“Assassinate Trump like I’m Zimmerman”] for was so important. “Now take these words as they came from Eminem.”
I don’t think Eminem would have had the same problems if he had rapped the lyrics you got in trouble for in “U.O.E.N.O.”
Without a doubt.
After that controversy happened, have you second-guessed anything you said since then?
I most definitely learned from the experience. Women, I’mma always respect and hold to the highest regard.
So, it did make you think about how people talk about women in lyrics?
To me, it’s not about how women are being portrayed in the lyrics. It’s about when you say something that can be taken abusive to women. Rozay better than that. So Rozay say something, you have to look at it four or give different ways before you move on something that’s in any way abusive to women. My daughter, my mama, those are the most beautiful people in my life. And so that’s why after anyone I offended, I made sure I apologized. You know, I learned from that situation.
What about the music you’re working on right now? Is there a direction for new music?
Boss. Ricky Ronaldo.
So you’re going back to full boss?
Full boss, man. My trial coming up on my case. I’m just staying positive, insha-Allah this ankle monitor’ll be coming off my ankle and I’ll be able to move the way I want to move. When I left Def Jam, going to Epic Records, that was August 1st. It was a situation where any music that I released, it would’ve been ate by Def Jam. So now I’m wide open. We fittin’ getting right into what we do. That’s why you ain’t getting no music over the last couple of months from the Biggest.
Rap music right now is so melodic and impressionistic. Do you feel any pressure that you’re coming out in a totally different landscape?
Not at all. That’s what make me the boss. That what make me the nicest.
How will you know when you’ve fallen off?
It’ll never be a day that Ricky Ronaldo will ever fall off. It’s never be that day. Being a boss, you know when it’s time to step out of the ring and sit ringside and enjoy the fight with your family and your friends and your sexy loved ones. But my particular situation, you know, my appetite is still the same.