From outdoors kid to corrections officer to king of the Maybach Music Group empire with a plethora of homes, chicken joints and #1 albums to his name, Rick Ross has come a long way in his thirty eight years. Having recently released the brilliant Mastermind, Ricky is busy popping black bottles and planning to take over the film industry. I joined him in his herb-scented hotel room - mellow beats blaring from his iPhone – to consider who should hold the title of ultimate bad bitch, accuse him of bothering pandas and discuss the future of hip hop.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
I grew up in a house where my mom was a music fanatic. She played everything from Rebbie Jackson to Elvis, you know? She was most definitely into her old school soul music.
Do you remember your first ever gig?
I believe I do. My first significant gig at least. I had a little show for $750. It was a little dingy underground spot called V.I.P on 79th street – that was the corner where all the hookers and all that shit would be on. But that’s what we had to make do with, you know?
Was it a good show?
Real good. I only had one record and a couple of hundred freestyles that I just kept doing over and over. As long as they kept jumping, I kept going.
How do you gauge success?
I think everybody’s different. With me, I may gauge it through the freedom and the ability to create our ideas and make films. If there’s an artist I believe in and I can push a button and have a major company support the act as well, that’s success. That’s priceless.
Was making money always a priority?
Making money is always a priority but money only comes secondary to love and family. If it’s something that you love there ain’t a price you could put on it. Cause if I could give every dollar I have to bring my dad back, I would do it ten times and take a loan out. You can’t put a price on family and love.
Do you think your family viewed success in the same way when you were growing up?
The dream was to get a Cadillac. My dad had a Bullitt that wasn’t in the best shape and my mom had a clean Oldsmobile, cause my dad wanted my mom’s car to be a little nicer. But I remember their late night plots to get a Cadillac so, at a young age you realize that ‘okay, that’s what’s going on’. My mom’s working hard to show us love and the only thing she asks for is a Cadillac… okay… you make a mental note of things like that
Cars seem really important to you. Do you have a favourite?
I do! My favourite is my 1973 Caprice classic. It’s similar to the first car my granddad ever gave me. It’s just a classic to me and where I’m from and my community. And the ’73 is rare – you will never find one just sitting around somewhere.
When you reach $100M, will you stop? Will you feel like you’ve achieved what you want to achieve?
It depends if I’ve achieved what I really wanted to achieve, you know? The $100M ain’t my primary goal. Of course that’s great, but it’s even bigger than that. I feel we’re gonna create films that generate that, you know what I’m saying? So once again it’s just going back to position – having that freedom, having that power. You can see your dreams come to light. So first coming in the game it was to get $1M… but times change, people change. It’s bigger than just me now. We changing other dude’s lives. We changing families’ lives. So it depends on if everything we’re working on comes through.
Which rappers are you rating at the moment?
Of course my MMG roster – Gunplay, Rockie Fresh, Stalley, Meek Mill, Wale, Tracy T, Fat Trel, DJ Scream. We got a mean, strong roster of talent. To me, that’s what I invest in more than anything else. I invest in talent and dreams.
I feel like nowadays there seems to be a rise in the amount that people are talking about money in hip hop, like actual figures, actual amounts that people get for a verse. Why do you think that is?
It’s something to be proud of. When you’ve done verses for free for over a decade and WOW, I get a cheque! Mother fucker! I got a hundred, thousand, mother, fucking, dollar… and if you aren’t an artist, maybe you don’t understand that, but as an artist online piracy, bootlegging, every record we sell or every car that you hear the music bumping in, that doesn’t necessarily mean we get paid for that. But I feel that as artists that’s not something we should gripe about, ya underdig? That’s just the times that come with the times. If you embrace what you love, you gonna do it regardless. So that’s what we do. But I guess when you can create a value to something, you create it inside yourself – your idea, your book was NY Times bestseller, the ideas. That’s what that moment is.
And which of your tracks are you most proud of?
Tears of Joy was always one of my favourite records. Most definitely. Off my new album, Black and White is something I’ve never really done… I put a Southern soulful drawl on that record and the message is different, you know?
You’ve got lots of great collabs on the new album, how do you select your collaborators?
I really just base my collaborations on the feeling of the record. As you can see I had Lil Wayne on the album and it’s not just because Lil Wayne was in the no.1 slot in the charts at the time – I think that’s the worst way to pick your artists of your features. Myself, I just do it on the feeling, and I know that feeling that they gonna bring to the record.
What do you see for the future of hip hop?
I see it being bigger than it’s ever been – bigger than we all could ever imagine. I feel that the hip hop culture has spawned the biggest impacts on the world for the last 15-20 years and you know, most recently, I feel the success of instagram and twitter. I’m just talking real shit – I feel that all that’s come from embracing the culture and taking it somewhere else and shit like that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Can you describe Diddy in three words?
Rich, ambitious and co-executiveproducerofmastermind.
Why did you call the album Mastermind? Is it because you’re a mastermind?
Most definitely! I’m smarter than we all will ever know. We all don’t have a clue. I just thought it was me pulling together the energy I felt it needed and taking it where it needed to be.
If you had to give up either drinking or smoking, which would you give up?
Drinking, right now.
Smoking’s your favourite…
Who has the greatest beard ever? Apart from your own, obviously.
And how do you get yours so thick?
Who is the ultimate bad bitch?
The ultimate? That’s a good question... whichever one I make mine!
My friend sent me this picture of you the other day… can you to explain it?
What the fuck is this? That’s not even a good photo of me… I have no clue what the hell that is!
You don’t remember that situation?
Baby, that chain I had on was about $200,000 – there’s no way I would walk down a cliff to take a picture with panda bears with all my jewels and dem fresh Nike Cortez I had on… it would be impossible!
Awesome, I’m glad we got that cleared up.
What you gotta understand is that it’s cool smoke too much shit like that… as long as they keep my shoes in there and as long as they show my watch.
Talking of watches, what do you want for your birthday?
What do I want for my birthday?
Yeah, what should we get for you?
You’ll buy me anything I say? Anything?
I would say shares in the Miami Dolphins… but you can just take me to Wing Stop. I’m not gonna get the usual 10-piece, I’ma get the 20. I’ma double up on you baby girl!
It’s a date.