It's a rough climb from the gutters of Carol City to the top of the Billboard charts. You've got to take your hatchet and clear the path of snakes and weeds. Good thing Rick Ross is on his fitness tip.
"It's just like hiking for the first time," the Teflon Don says. "You're not sure what the next hill has for you. It's difficult, but once you conquer that hill and go back up the second time, you're more confident than ever."
He stands onstage at Parrot Jungle. The Port of Miami's cranes light the darkened sky behind him. He's surrounded by hundreds of fans, peers, former mentors, and closest homies for a concert live-streaming on Tidal. As Ross booms a raspy serenade to his city, he can't help but reminisce.
The Carol City kid who played football and watched dope dealers drive potholed streets in expensive cars couldn't have imagined this celebration. He couldn't have pictured platinum-certified status, deals with Jay Z, and the launch of his own gritty label, Maybach Music Group.
Just ten years ago, the then-30-year-old rapper held a pen in his hand, about to write the fateful lyrics to the breakout hit "Hustlin'." He could almost taste his glory.
"It was my time even if it wasn't yet," Ross remembers. "I felt like I could see through those different windows of life."
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Ross named his debut album Port of Miami in honor of the mean streets that raised him. He took the moniker Rick Ross as a nod to the coke dealers who first showed him a way out of poverty. Though he chose a different path, he sees much of himself in those urban antiheroes.
"You gotta remain grounded out here, because it's easy to get yourself jammed up," he says. "I like to consider myself an entrepreneur. I'm a hustler; I just make dope music. You got to keep it grounded, you got to, but I'm still Carol City to the bone."
After ten years, eight LPs, and nearly 4 million units sold, Ross relaxes in plush thrones, stays in glittering South Beach hotels, and covers himself in cashmere sweaters. He still dreams up new hustles. He recently finished writing his first film. He smells like weed and expensive cologne, and today he's the one driving luxury vehicles on the streets of Carol City, a more positive inspiration to those who dare to dream of a brighter tomorrow.
"Miami is a unique city. When they got your back, can't nothing stop you," he says. "It's cool if you're mopping floors. I shake the hands of the dude who's sweeping and mopping the floor the same way I shake the manager's hand. That doesn't determine where you're going to be ten years from now, 20 years from now. If you're a dreamer and a hustler, in ten years, it's going to be a big difference."