Becoming the Bawse: Eight-Part History of Rick Ross, From Street Rapper to Maybach Mogul
But Rozay's success didn't just happen. Big homie had to pay his dues as an up-and-coming MC throughout the 2000s, earning respect and defending his street cred.
This is the evolution of Rick Ross.
(Foot)Ball So Hard
Rozay's a thick dude. Tipping the scale at over 300 pounds, he's the type of strong fat that rules the offensive line, not the flabby fat often found at water parks. And before the rap game drafted Ross to be its 300-plus-pound prince, football seemed like a viable, paper-chasing profession.
"When I started playing football in little league, all the small dudes could play, but I was too heavy," Ross said in a 2009 interview with Rap Up Magazine. "I was so focused that by the time I got to the eleventh grade, I was a blue-chip All-American [at Carol City Senior High]. Over two years, I went from being nobody to being considered one of the top three linemen in Florida."
Albany State University took notice and offered Ross a scholarship. However, the would-be rapper only stayed a year, trading in two college semesters for a life of crime.
Lured by the potential for serious cash, Rozay hustled his way into a gig with the Florida Department of Corrections. He was hired as a corrections officer in 1995, earning a base salary of $22,913.54 before steadily worked his way up the law enforcement pay scale until 1997, when he resigned making just under $26,000 annually.
"I never tried to hide my past," Ross said in a 2008 interview with Don Diva Magazine. "I put my name inside my CDs. My company has my [Social Security number]. I could've put a company name."
Some in the hip-hop community feel that Ross's pre-rap professional past tainted his street credibility. But the MC disagrees.
"I never ratted on a nigga. I never prosecuted a nigga. I never locked up a nigga, that's first and foremost. I always felt that me being the nigga that I am, I never owed a nigga an explanation. When I'm making my music and I'm talking about blow, it's because I did it.
"When I say that I'm rich off cocaine, it's because I did it. Those are the street principals that apply."
Trick Loved the Kid
If you were a hungry MC in Miami during the late 1990s and early-to-middle 2000s, signing with Slip-n-Slide Records meant you'd made it. Trick Daddy had become one of the best-selling thugs in hip-hop, and Trina was "Da Baddest Bitch."
Soon, Rick Ross started popping up on Trick and Trina's mixtapes, and often performed alongside them at concerts. Homie built a solid fan base, and when he finally dropped his debut, Port of Miami, on Slip-and-Slide in 2006, it debuted atop the Billboard 200, selling nearly 200,000 copies its first week.
On "Hustlin'," Ross rapped about the dope game and bragged about alleged relationships with infamous drug dealers and even a former Central American dictator. "I cut 'em wide, I cut 'em long, I cut 'em fat ... I know Pablo, Noriega/ The real Noriega, he owe me a hundred favors."
A few years later, however, Ross's past as a corrections officer was revealed. Trick Daddy felt cheated and the relationship between Ross and Slip-and-Slide began deteriorating.
Trick Don't Love the Kid
"The sad part about this is when the first corrections officer picture came out," Trick Daddy recalled in a 2008 interview on Angela Lee's satellite radio show on Sirius Shade 45, "about a week later I saw an interview, the interviewer said, 'So Rick Ross, how do you feel about Trick Daddy calling you a prison guard?' Time out. Ain't no way you went for that dumb ass shit right there."
In the rap world, being called a prison guard -- even if you were, at some point, employed as prison guard -- is not much different than being called a NARC or a pussy.
"I've been arrested and convicted of more crimes than he been pulled over and written a ticket for," Trick added. "When did I have time to be a pussy?
"I'm a real Miami nigga. I was born and raised in Miami. I'm not moving to no-fuckin'-where. I'm not going nowhere. My studio was in Carol City for three years. That whole three years that player hatin' shit [Ross's DOC job] was going on."
On April 12, 2009, the Bawse released his next record on the label, Deeper Than Rap. But soon, he and Slip-n-Slide would be dunzo.
The Teflon Don
Ross's fourth studio record, Teflon Don, was released in the summer of 2010, and it quickly became one of the year's most critically acclaimed rap albums.
While Rolling Stone gave it three-and-a-half stars, the New York Times claimed that Teflon Don "establishes him as one of rap's most potent and creative forces" and Pitchfork named it one of the 50 best albums of 2010.
Ross's crossover appeal was obvious. And soon, everyone from hipsters to straight gangtas were downloading the Maybach Music capo's mixtapes. So began the year of the Don.
Man of the Year
Clad in a black tuxedo, dark sunglasses, and a pinky ring the size of a Mini Cooper, Rick Ross appeared on the cover of The Source's December 2010 issue. He was the mag's "Man of the Year."
Ross was humbled. "It's unexplainable," he said. "For me to commit my life and chase this dream for over a decade without making a penny, it's no way to explain when you finally seeing the fruits of your labor."
The following year, Ross turned the spotlight onto his crew.
Maybach Music World Takeover
In May 2011, Ross and MMG released its first compilation, Self Made Vol. 1, featuring the Bawse on 11 of 15 tracks, though never as the lead MC. He was just showing support and backing up some of the dopest rappers in the game, like Wale, Meek Mill, French Montana, and Stalley.
GQ took interest and profiled Rozay in that year's October issue. Again, Ross was exposed to broader audience, building his reputation as a hip-hop heavyweight -- theoretically and literally.
"I'm enjoying life," he said in the piece. "Being a boss. Like all true bosses, one day you gotta give it up... I just have my homeys or whatever bringing me the best food. I smoke the best weed. I get the best massages. I keep myself in shit like this."
Of course, Rick Ross couldn't speak with New Times for this piece. He was far too busy doing baller shit like "selling dope straight off the iPhone" and collaborating with Dr. Dre and Jay-Z on "classic hip-hop shit" like "3 Kings."
No doubt, big homie is the Bawse. And believe, the takeover ain't even complete.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.