Rick Ross Finally Has The Luxury Of Time

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Rick Ross interview richer than i ever been
Rick Ross sit downs with HNHH for an exclusive interview, where he talks about taking his time with the release "Richer Than I Ever Been," his sprawling Georgia estate, his role as an elder statesman in hip-hop and much more.

Rick Ross’s aura glows even when he’s not in sight. “What’s happenin’, what’s happenin’?” his joyful, baritone voice echoes from off-camera as he steps into the frame with an already-lit Swisher Sweet in hand. His spirits are evidently high, cracking on his publicist’s sorority hoodie as he dons a crimson red and black Maison Hideoki sweatshirt. “We fuck with Deltas! We rock with Deltas. We see you,” he says with a grin on his face. 

It’s a Thursday morning in late January and HBCUs are fresh on Ross’ mind. After all, they did have a significant role in putting the Boss in his current position. The night before our call, Ross attended DJ Hemp’s 25th anniversary of Demp Week in Tallahassee, simultaneously serving as a celebration for the release of Richer Than I Ever Been

The trips to Tallahassee – a city that had a prospering rap scene in Florida during the peak popularity of Miami Bass – expanded Ross’ name through the state. HBCUs have historically played a significant role in breaking up-and-coming artists. Events like those held during Demp Week were opportunities for budding stars, hustlers, and students to expand their network in one of the most influential demographics in America. T-Pain, for example, was blazing hot locally before an opportunity with Akon’s Konvict Muzik came about. “I’m Sprung” became a starting point for Pain’s revolutionary impact with vocoder filters but Ross watched his career unfold during his trips to Tallahassee in the early 2000s. “That’s why I preach about networking to these youngsters,” he says. “Because the hardest working mothafuckas in the room right now, that’s who you gon’ be seeing at the top.” 

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The power of making connections is one that Ross preaches on his Instagram Story, where he frequently provides daily aphorisms for the hustlers and the go-getters (the next Rozay, to be specific) and promotes his list of business ventures, from his partnership with Berner for his own Cookies-branded cannabis strains to alcoholic beverages like Luc Bel-Air champagne, which he says is on pace to outperform Dom Perignon. “To me, [networking] is the most valuable asset that you could ever obtain or accumulate. And that's coming from the mouth of the biggest boss—the superpower,” says Ross. “It could be self-proclaimed, that’s cool with me because I’m involved in so many areas. I’m talking about in major ways and we went in big ways. That's why I say that in the morning. I don't give a damn if only a hundred people listen to it. The next young Rozay is going to hear that and is going to let that stick to heart and go get it.” 

Ross’ Instagram Story is not unlike DJ Khaled’s during his Snapchat reign. There are motivational posts to start the day with bright hues of optimism in Ross’ voice as he roams his expansive property. He offers a glance into his garage that houses a portion of his 100+ car collection. His pool – the biggest in America – absorbs the sun rays in its aquatic blue water as Ross gives thanks for morning glory. Then, Ross will return to the Bel-Air Towers with a line-up of black and gold bottles with even more gems to offer the next generation of hustlers. 

Ross is comfortably located at the Promised Land – the nickname for the largest single-family home in Georgia previously owned by Evander Holyfield. Sitting on 235-acres of land and counting, the Promised Land is an embodiment of two-plus decades of work, from having “ciphers with Yeezy before his mouth wired” to the “Maybach Music” tag defining an era in hip-hop’s quickly-approaching 50-year history. 

The 109-room estate would be an overwhelming piece of land for any single person. In a pre-pandemic world, a rigid schedule like Ross’ wouldn’t allow for idle time to bask in the opulence of each room in the house. However, lockdowns and isolation mandates presented an opportunity to entertain his curiosity about his home and shaped his new daily routine.

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A day in Ross’ shoes further emphasizes his daily mantras for the common hustler. From the moment his eyes are open, Ross is taking on a plethora of calls and text messages – underlining the importance of networking. Afterward, he might partake in a glass of one of the many alcoholic beverages he’s invested in – today, it’s Villion Cognac – before squeezing in a light workout. The most crucial part of his day-to-day schedule is walking through his home and skimming through beats that capture the essence of the Promised Land. "Whatever it is, it’s most definitely being productive and it’s gon’ be some cool, fly shit,” he states matter-of-factly. The time he spent working behind the scenes – accumulating music, tapping in with younger artists, and writing his second best-selling novel, The Perfect Day To Boss Up – was part of an “extremely valuable” process that he counts towards materializing his eleventh studio album. 

The reflection of Ross’ position as an elder statesman in rap is conveyed clearly through his unmatched ear for production on Richer Than I Ever Been. Classic anthems like “BMF” and “Hold Me Back” embodied grit and resilience, the type that Big Meech and Larry Hoover carried in maneuvering through, and eventually overtaking, America’s drug trade. Richer Than I Ever Been is the result, where the chase for the American Dream manifests itself into hundreds of acres of land with pecan trees growing from the soil, and geese and deer roaming freely. 

"This is a reflection of me in the back of my mind when I think of Rich Forever," says Ross, just days after the 10-year anniversary of his 2012 critically-acclaimed mixtape. “I stayed away from my big beats, and as much of my playful rhymes, and I went straight directly to get my point across on whatever it is I was doing,” he continues.

"This is a reflection of me in the back of my mind when I think of Rich Forever."

One could argue that the true measure of wealth isn’t determined by money but by the most invaluable asset of all – time. And the luxury of time isn’t afforded to every artist. Some have fizzled out. Others lose their footing. However, an artist’s consistency can turn the trust of a fanbase into a currency – and these profits seemingly create time, allowing the artist to turn their long-standing vision into a masterpiece. “You got to remember, the music still comes first. That's most important,” he says, “So, that determines when it's released.” That’s rare leverage for any artist but Ross has earned the right to move at a pace of his own. Everyone is on standby, waiting for the Boss to pull the trigger. “That's the best thing any team can tell me,” he adds. 

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Richer Than I Ever Been faced numerous delays. It was announced after Ross unanimously won his Verzuz battle against 2 Chainz. And while supposed “finishing touches” were announced a month later in September 2020, it took a full year and three months for it to finally drop in its entirety. 

Ross’ led the campaign with the release of 2020’s “Pinned To The Cross” featuring Finn Matthews, a record inspired by the protests that occurred after the highly-publicized police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Between the powerful marches against police brutality and systemic oppression, the long-standing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bleak realities of Trump’s potential reelection, hope withered across America. A study published by the American Public Health Association suggested there was a trend between the pandemic and rising crime rates hitting low-income communities the hardest. Shai Buggs, a co-author of Neighborhood Racial and Economic Segregation and Disparities in Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic, explained that it ultimately boils down to the already-established socio-economic disparities. The pandemic only exasperated these issues further. “The greatest burdens of violence are shouldered by our most marginalized and economically vulnerable neighborhoods,” Buggs said. 

"I felt like being in the pandemic, a lot of n***as felt down, but at the same time, this is when we got to be our strongest. You’re richer than you’ve ever been, just being alive, homie."

“I felt like being in the pandemic, a lot of n***as felt down, but at the same time, this is when we got to be our strongest. You’re richer than you’ve ever been, just being alive, homie,” Ross says of the underlying message across his latest opus. Rick Ross is far removed from relying on a $1,400 stimulus check or even having to depend on the survival instincts that he once needed to maneuver through Carol City. However, the burdens that the average American household faces still informed the archaic message of Ross’ 11th studio album. “I keep reiterating that regardless of what the struggle is. We know we are in a pandemic. We know a lot of mothafuckas are face down, but at the same time, we have to be strong, stand up, and hold our head up.”

Gems like these are littered across Richer Than I Ever Been. They also indicate why the production is as subtle as it is lush. The stadium-sized production and monstrous “UGH” ad-libs are noticeably absent on this project. What it lacks in high-octane energy is compensated through his dedication to the craft of rapping. “The wordplay is so top tier with no stress,” he explains. “That's one thing when you listen to this body of work, you hear no stress, ain't no stress to it. Shit is smooth. I barely even ad-libbed this body of work. There are no punch-ins.” 

There was admittedly anticipation for high-profile collaborations on Richer Than I Ever Been, just as we were given on previous efforts, but Ross threw us a curveball. There was an expectation for a collaborative effort with Drake. Following a 10+ year rapport, built on songs like “Free Spirit,” “Lord Knows,” and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle”, fans expected a Drake collaboration but he didn’t end up making the final tracklist. Then, there was a heavily-teased collaboration with this generation’s most trusted hitmaker, Lil Baby, which, again, didn’t make the cut. It’s not like these records are lacking in his arsenal – Ross suggests there’s an abundance of collaborations he’s collected with both artists. 

I remembered when I cut it down to 64 [songs], and I was like, ‘okay, out of these [64], I'm going to pick twelve,’” he recalls. “You got to understand that I got some of the biggest n***as in the game that I know, but it wasn't about that. Let's give them this. N***as know we could call up the big homies and blow up a f***** building in the background with Little X as the director. N***as know we could do that. That's easy. I can do that out of my pocket; I don't even need the label for that. I could fuckin’ get Spider-Man to come in and do the f***ing –,” he says with his arms extended towards the camera, mimicking Spider-Man’s web-slinging superpowers, “Like, the real [Spider-Man]. That's the homie, but it ain't about that. Let's go back and sit down with some n***as and do ‘Rapper Estates,’ let's do ‘The Pulitzer.’”

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In the streaming era, a deluxe edition serves as a cheat code to boost numbers with mid-throwaways. For Ross, it was an opportunity to revisit the 64-song batch and determine what songs can extend the project’s vibe without compromising the foundation of the original tracklist. Anderson .Paak’s dreamy vocals add a sense of warmth and nostalgia on “Not For Nothing” – a type of smooth bravado that could win back an old fling with fond memories. However, it’s AZ’s assistance on “Vacheron” that helps tie in the integral theme of the album – timelessness. Ross appeared on AZ’s Doe Or Die II highlight “Never Enough” in 2020. This time, AZ returned the favor.

“When I think of being timeless, when I think of being priceless. What comes with time in this game? What comes with time [when you’re] one of the greats?” Ross rhetorically asks, emphasizing the importance of AZ’s career in hip-hop. “I just wanted to, once again, go and tap into an artist whose voice has always been priceless. Rarely seen, but it’s timeless,” he continues. “And so when I think of Vacheron, this is timeless. This is priceless. You can't put a number on this. You can’t put a number on what AZ brought to the game.”

Their respective rags-to-riches story become the synopsis of “Vacheron.” AZ and Rick Ross gaze in awe at the luxury Swiss timepiece and define the symbolic value that Vacheron-Constantin watches carry. “Right wrist rocky, Rollie on the other hand,” AZ raps. “From cuttin’ grams to Summer Jams and the Grammys/ I’m poppin’ cham’ with the family, I’m bringing sand to Miami.” From AZ’s rhyme schemes to his flow, Ross says he was the perfect candidate for encapsulating the feeling of hip-hop that captivated him as a youngin’ in Miami. “On the production side, that was just Rozay tapping in—dim lights, the thick smoke, and wow, who gon’ go here with me?” Ross explains about the collaboration. 

AZ brings the essence of 90s hip-hop to the deluxe but Richer Than I Ever Been emboldens Ross’ roots in Miami – a city that he continues to take much pride in, even while he’s situated in Georgia. A place where dreams of extravagance were built on the backs of the local hustlers. “Let's take it back to the Miami n****as and let ‘em know: you never forget where we came from. We from the mud to the marble and we still hustlin’. We’re gonna have Falcon do the intro, the OG, the richest – man, please. We’re showing you what these relationships mean,” he stresses. It’s more than the relationships with bricklayers like the Willy Falcon’s or the AZ’s. It’s the relationship with budding stars who are glowing with potential, like Yungeen Ace, Major Nine, and Dream Doll. “We could go and get Madonna, Kanye, click over and call– we could do that, but we need to remind them the fundamentals of what a boss is.”

There are invaluable lessons in each baby step of climbing the hierarchy of any trade, be it a mechanic with dreams of owning their own garage or a part-time restaurant employee striving for a position in upper management. Ross has said on the record that he chooses to mow his own lawn and remains hands-on with every single venture – like mopping the floors of one of his many Wingstop locations. It’s that work ethic that’s placed Ross at the top of the food chain. 

Ross’ first job as a teenager was washing cars for the local hustlers. Ross would go above and beyond for an extra tip – organizing tape decks, filling up the gas tank, or practically anything else to provide the best customer service. The flashes of the grandeur lifestyle would lure Ross into the field years later but it was Willy Falcon, who alongside Sal Magluta formed Los Muchachos – one of the biggest cocaine trafficking organizations in South Florida – that planted dreams that only money can buy. “I knew what the hustlers in my community meant, the ones that I would see. But then there was Willy Falcon, the dude that I’ve never seen,” says Ross. He recounts hearing whispers of Falcon’s wealth across the city. The million-dollar speedboats that would cruise the waters of South Beach or the numerous properties that helped “build the Miami skyline into what it is today,” as Falcon states on “Little Havana.” “You just heard so much but there was always positive energy around it,” Ross adds, revealing that they might have future business ventures on the way. 

"I knew what the hustlers in my community meant, the ones that I would see. But then there was Willy Falcon, the dude that I’ve never seen. You just heard so much but there was always positive energy around it."

It’s the same entrepreneurial spirit that Falcon carried through the highs and lows of the drug trade that Ross holds so close to his heart. And for many rappers of the new generation, Ross holds a similar level of prestige based on his business acumen and the uncompromising quality of music that he continues to deliver. 

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Artists like Dolph and Nipsey were the roses that grew from the concrete. Independent artists who built a legacy through unwavering determination and work ethic, and a grind that, in many ways, reflects Ross’ own come-up. There’s an appreciation for the craft itself. That’s why Ross proposed signing Nipsey Hussle to MMG early in his career. The deal didn’t manifest but the conversations, Ross says, lasted years – discussing business moves and potentially being label mates to simply being fans of hip-hop.

The deaths of Nipsey Hussle and Young Dolph remain two of the most prominent losses in hip-hop in the past few years. Their music captured the experiences of growing up in their respective neighborhoods while their entrepreneurial ventures offered opportunities for their community. Ross identified their potential early on and nurtured it with wisdom and game. 

He recalls running into both artists with a somber tone. Ross’ familial roots in Memphis resulted in some of his first interactions with Dolph when the budding star was getting his feet wet and running around the city. With Nipsey, Ross watched the vision of The Marathon Store take shape from its barebones structure as an empty warehouse to the launch of a brick-and-mortar store housed at the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson. “Losing Nipsey and Dolph for this generation, I'm sure, was just as equivalent or greater to what BIG or ‘Pac was for my generation,” Ross says after a short pause. 

"Losing Nipsey and Dolph for this generation, I'm sure, was just as equivalent or greater to what BIG or ‘Pac was for my generation."

Ross speaks about providing mentorship to new artists as a duty that comes with longevity in the game. In recent times, he’s embraced artists like DreamDoll and Florida’s Yungeen Ace with placements on his album, while Benny The Butcher and Freddie Gibbs have forged a brotherhood through elite lyricism. “The youngsters need that game in the same way that I needed it, and I needed it all,” he says. Whether it’s the DreamDolls and the Yungeen Aces, or the Benny The Butchers of the world, Ross recognizes similarities in their grind to his. 

Relationships with artists like Freddie Gibbs and Benny The Butcher are just as treasured as the high-profile relationships he’s shown on projects like God Forgive I Don’t when he asserted himself among Jay-Z and Dr. Dre – two artists he’s grown close with since then – on “3 Kings.” Or trading bars with André 3000 on “Sixteen.” “Rapper’s Estates” with Benny The Butcher is a demonstration of lyrical excellence, bridging the gap between two generations. Previously collaborating on Benny’s “Where Would I Go” on 2020’s Burden Of Proof, “Rapper’s Estates,” became a torch-passing ceremony that came from conversations at the Promised Land. When he got shot, he came down to my crib to kick it with me, discussing next moves and possible records. Of course, one of those records ended up on the album, ‘Rapper Estates.’" Ross recalls the Griselda rapper being wheeled around the premises as they discussed potential moves, collaborations, and the ambitions of wealth that could afford such a home. ​​This is how we gotta be, homie,” Ross recalls telling Benny. “If there's any way that we gotta be quarantined, then this is what it should feel like. It ain't gotta look like this, but this is what it should feel like. Everything in your reach.”

About The Author
Aron A. is a features editor for HotNewHipHop. Beginning his tenure at HotNewHipHop in July 2017, he has comprehensively documented the biggest stories in the culture over the past few years. Throughout his time, Aron’s helped introduce a number of buzzing up-and-coming artists to our audience, identifying regional trends and highlighting hip-hop from across the globe. As a Canadian-based music journalist, he has also made a concerted effort to put spotlights on artists hailing from North of the border as part of Rise & Grind, the weekly interview series that he created and launched in 2021. Aron also broke a number of stories through his extensive interviews with beloved figures in the culture. These include industry vets (Quality Control co-founder Kevin "Coach K" Lee, Wayno Clark), definitive producers (DJ Paul, Hit-Boy, Zaytoven), cultural disruptors (Soulja Boy), lyrical heavyweights (Pusha T, Styles P, Danny Brown), cultural pioneers (Dapper Dan, Big Daddy Kane), and the next generation of stars (Lil Durk, Latto, Fivio Foreign, Denzel Curry). Aron also penned cover stories with the likes of Rick Ross, Central Cee, Moneybagg Yo, Vince Staples, and Bobby Shmurda.