Rick Ross has learned a lot over his past decade-plus in the spotlight. Fans know him as Ricky Rozay, the swaggering Miami artist who once rapped, “I know Pablo Noriega, the real Noriega/He owe me 100 favors,” but the man behind the persona — William Leonard Roberts II — has a story to tell too.
That’s what he hopes to accomplish through his newest memoir, Hurricanes: the opportunity to share a side of himself he hasn't revealed through his lengthy music catalog.
Hurricanes, like Ross’ own story, begins with the music. It is dedicated to his “big brother,” Carol City, where Ross grew up and began to cultivate his interests and talents.
His first hit, “Hustlin',” and the ensuing album, Port of Miami, catapulted him to fame in 2006, and the long-awaited sequel, Port of Miami 2, was released last month.
“So much has changed from the first album, so the approach would have to be somewhat different,” Ross says of the 13 years that have passed since the release of his debut album. “But the passion is what remained the same. And I think that’s the reason I’m so relevant at this point — is because of the passion.”
With his tenth studio album, Ross returned to his roots in a way, and he hoped it might help him find closure surrounding the highs and lows he’s experienced over the years. He lost one of his best friends, manager Black Bo, to heart disease; lost a promising collaborator, Nipsey Hussle, to a senseless murder; and nearly lost his own life after suffering a number of seizures now revealed to be caused by drug use.
Instead, as he explains in Hurricanes, while creating Port of Miami 2, he found himself transported back to the emotions and drive that propelled him in 2006.
He was careful in the production of the album — apprehensive about giving the impression he might be trying too hard to sound current or different — as opposed to delivering the classic rhymes, beats, and bars his fans know and love.
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The result was a balanced project that allowed Ross to tackle some tough topics while also amplifying and expanding on the elements for which he’s best known.
“What I didn’t want to do was to alter my sound to make it feel like the younger artists or what’s currently popping or going on,” he says. “I just wanted to do what I do the best. And I wanted to stay in my lane, which I feel we really did.”
He did, however, bring on a few members of Florida’s newest crop to assist in some spectacular ways on Port of Miami 2. A shining example is a feature from Denzel Curry, who also hails from Carol City.
“At this level of the game, where you’re trying to make something really great that will stand the test of time, it's not really a lot of room for favors,” Ross says. “I gotta be a fan of your music, and Denzel Curry is a great example of somebody being incredible — and from Carol City, right here in my neighborhood, 305, M-I-Yeyo.”
There are also features from other Florida natives, including Greezy and Gunplay, as well as verses from big-name artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, and Nipsey Hussle.
Ross is happy to see the evolution of Florida hip-hop over the past few years — a number of talented artists have begun to permeate the mainstream. As with any prominent hip-hop environment, pockets tend to form naturally, with artists separated by zip codes and city lines, but Ross hopes to see rappers from all over the state collaborate for the sake of the music.
“I hope I get to see Miami dudes collaborating with Broward County dudes and Jacksonville, Tampa. It don’t really matter where you at. Let’s just remove those lines, and if the shit dope, let’s just fuck with it,” he says.
Ross knows a thing or two about beef. One of the biggest conversations coming out of Port of Miami 2’s release was the absence of a Pusha T verse on the Lil Wayne and John Legend-assisted “Maybach Music VI.” Many listeners anticipated the opportunity to hear Pusha T and Wayne on a song together after their long-documented, contentious history. That didn't happen.
“Ultimately, it’s just, is this gonna help them put the differences behind each other?” Ross says of his own concerns about the song. “Obviously, I didn’t feel it was. But, trust me, nobody wanted to see that happen more than Rozay.”
The decision is an illustration of Ross’ unique ability to navigate the industry after so many years as a prominent name in hip-hop. But that status has come with sacrifice. Ross’ personal struggles with fame existed largely out of the spotlight until he began having seizures in 2011. Then, in 2018, they recurred and he was hospitalized — though it was reported at the time to have been a possible heart attack.
Ross reveals in Hurricanes that the seizures were a result of codeine interacting with other drugs and alcohol and that one seizure was so severe it caused him to defecate in his bed. People don’t want to talk about the lows, he says, which is why he waited so long to publicly discuss his health problems.
“People pay you to have concerts or they pay you to come sign autographs. They pay you to come for 30 minutes, 45 minutes,” he says. “You don’t have time to discuss a lot of different things, but I guess that’s what the memoir is for.”
Since suffering the seizures, he’s begun living a healthier lifestyle. He’s given up codeine, prioritized his diet, and lost nearly 85 pounds.
“It was really time for me to make a change if I wanted to stay alive, and all these things had to fall into place,” he says.
Ross has undoubtedly faced some demons, and he carries the memories of the people he’s lost as he continues his journey. The cover art of Port of Miami 2 shows him holding a photo of Black Bo, who passed away at the age of 45. Quoting Nipsey Hussle in Hurricanes, Ross writes, “The Marathon Continues.”
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His identity is now a multifaceted one: artist, father, entrepreneur. With a new lease on life, Ross is concentraing on moving forward.
Aside from the release of his new album and book, he’s also taking part in the second iteration of his favorite film, Coming 2 America, with Eddie Murphy. The movie is set to be released next summer, when Ross plans to launch a film production company.
“Regardless of where we started, the sky is the limit,” he says. “We’ll never stop hustling.”
Rick Ross. 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 9, at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, Chapman Conference Center, 300 NE Second Ave., Bldg. 3, Second Floor, Miami; booksandbooks.com. Tickets cost $27.99 via eventbrite.com.