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Still, Ross's real-life rock tale, unusually direct delivery, and use of repeated incantations attracted the attention of Jay-Z in 2005. The hip-hop star then made way for Def Jam distribution of Ross's label, Miami's Slip-n-Slide. Ross says his street-wise image isn't compromised by affiliation with Def Jam; his objective is for people to hear his record.
"This album was twelve years in the making to be a classic," says Ross. "I had connections in the music world through business. Those individuals became aware of my interests, my writing, my talent.... I ghost-wrote raps for years. This is more than a decade of my life, and people who hear it a lot of people are going to stop and think about Miami."
Ross is similarly unapologetic and direct about the image he presents as a gangster turned music mogul to his fans.
"Look, my philosophy is this: Get the money," Ross says. "My objective for my people, the example I wish to set is: When we have more money, we have the agenda. Once we blacks control financial operations, that's where talking about other things begins."
Ross ties his identities wealth accruer, sensitive musician, former hoodlum, lifeguard together with a rather nimble sense of humor that doesn't come through clearly in lyrics or dialogue. The condition upon which Ross granted New Times an interview was that it "better not be boring." When we presented him with a word-association game, he provided the following multiword responses:
New Times: NASA
Rick Ross: You mean, the Space Shuttle? Why'd you pick that?
NT: I think it's about to take off again or something. Hawaii.
Ross: Weed! Really good weed! The best weed in the world. I think the best of the best is from ... which island is it? Kahoolawe?
NT: I don't know! Construction.
Ross: Oh, man, there's too much construction in Miami. I'm just driving, right now, trying to get something to eat, and I can tell it's going to be another hour before I even make it to the next light. That's too much construction.
Ross: No, I try to resist that. If you're really important, you're not tied down to a cell phone, an instant message. I try to do one thing at a time.
NT: Ocean liner.
Ross: Really big, large ships. Extremely large vessels.
Ross: At ... the Port of Miami! Oh, I get it.