It’s a Tuesday afternoon in SoHo, and Rick Ross is running late. A series of random NYC traffic pile-ups threw the rapper-turned-Maybach Music Group kingpin way behind schedule. He’s attempting to reach lower Manhattan by way of Brooklyn, where he was interviewed at Wing Stop, a franchise he owns. His arrival comes in three stages. First, his stylist Talia Coles arrives, with a giant roller suitcase in tow, filled with clothes she has tailor-made to fit Ross’ now shrunken frame. Three years ago, the rapper suffered a series of seizures (two in one day) and embarked on a journey to better his health. He’s reportedly lost over 100 pounds and has been dressing the part. The next to arrive is a pair of men to “scope out” the venue — one being Kendell “Young Sav” Freeman, Vice President of Maybach Music Group. Minutes later, Rick Ross emerges flanked by his manager, publicist, and a handful of people behind them.
There’s a reason why they call him the “bawse,” as he takes over the entire 4th floor studio with his team. To the left, a chair is set up so one of his men can get a haircut. Gucci Pucci sits adjacent to the pop-up barbershop, calling out to Ross about studio time following his photoshoot. Ross is seated at a large metal counter. His clothes are strewn everywhere. In a form-fitting Versace top with shades, jeans, and black Nike Dunks, Ross carefully observes a custom black jacket embellished with a red lace pattern. He has a pair of burgundy Versace shoes with gold hardware and a pair of black Jordans resting next to the coat. “I need some black Timbs,” he says in his smoothly gruff tone. He hands his assistant several hundred-dollar bills to head a few doors down to buy the Timberland boots needed to complete his outfit. “And grab yourself some K-Swiss or somethin’” he says with a charismatic smirk. Another person is taking his order for Smoothie King, while Ross casually burns the edges of a hand rolled cigar.
Rick Ross’ sixth studio album, Mastermind, dropped this past March, met with another spot at the top of the Billboard charts. His MMG team is equally solid, boasting the promising upstart Meek Mill, the midlevel success story Wale, and the now reality TV fodder French Montana. Earlier in the day, Meek and Wale were entangled in a Twitter beef, and a few days after that Meek Mill was held in custody for violating probation and now faces jail time. Rick Ross discusses the former situation calmly and professionally, focusing more on his upcoming feature film, a possible new album, and artists he’s looking to sign to MMG. Rick Ross is an artist, but above all, he has a business to run. And one thing about the Carol City, Florida native is that he doesn’t fuck around when it comes to his money.
Mastermind dropped a few months ago. How has the response been?
It’s just been of course another number one album, but more importantly, I did something different. I touched a little bit of Napoleon Hill at the intro, I spoke on being the richest gangsta, which you know, means being successful is a priority. Things like that. I planted those seeds, and that’s what I love the most. And I’m still on the road, I’m still promoting and it feels good.
You had a bunch of life changes in between these last two albums, healthwise. You’re getting smoothies at a shoot when some people would probably be getting something crazy fattening.
Yeah, we just left Wing Stop, girl. I ain’t even gon’ lie! I’ma be honest [laughs]. But, I did everything else for so long. I’ve lived that life for so long, every combo you could imagine – I did that. So now, I just feel like I’m at the point where I just want to put myself in the best position, and that starts with me. It’s just best for my health, and it’s the best I’ve ever felt.
Are you at a point where you’re like, “If I feel myself getting a little too stressed out, I just chill?”
Yeah, with me I’ve been really smoking good, and now I got my mCig situation where I got my e-cigarettes where I’m vaping my trees now. With me, it’s just all about sitting back and chilling. That’s the words I like, “It’s time to chill. Let me chill for a little while.” That’s when you sit back and do what you do best.
How has getting this new body changed your fashion sense? You’ve always dressed fly, but there’s a noticeable difference.
Is it? Is it?
Okay, okay! I think you might be noticing more, that’s what it might be! But at the same time, I’ve always loved the same things I’m wearing now. I’ve always loved them; it’s just maybe I can present them a little better now.
You work with a very specific stylist, right?
You know, I get a couple pieces from here and there, but my number one stylist, Talia Coles, she’s wonderful.
So what is your personal style right now, summer 2014?
Winter I’m all black. When it’s coming to the end of the year, everything I want to wear is all black. That’s just the way I feel. You know, after New Year’s, I’m still in all black. But now that we’re at this point in the year, that’s when you’ll starting seeing me pull out some colors. You’ll see me with Versace just kicking it with a nice, clean, crispy pair of Reeboks or some clean Dunks. I just keep it fundamental fly.
You were going hard with an album every year after 2008, 2009, 2010 and then you did two years to 2012 and 2012 to 2014 with Mastermind. What are we doing next? Another year, or two years?
Um, it might be shorter than that! I don’t think for just myself anymore, I think for my team, too. I put a lot of time into my situation I have over at Atlantic Records with all my artists. We just announced Meek Mill’s new release date, September 9th of this year. This is going to be a classic album. But I also equate those into my situation too. I also take those records into my account, I want to see all the homies take off of the strip. That’s when I’m most comfortable, just to see Meek and Wale and Gunplay – the whole team on sizzle. So I may touch sooner than later.
That’s one thing about you as an executive but also an artist: you always give your artists room to shine, which is something that not a lot of executives/artists do.
You know what? I actually used to watch that myself, and I don’t know if they actually knew the world could see that, but the world sees that! If I just wanted to focus on myself, I wouldn’t want a label. But the amount of music that I create, the amount of music that I love being around and that I love to watch being created, that’s why this is natural for me.
On the way here, something was going on with Meek Mill and Wale. As the owner of the label, how do you handle when there’s conflict between two of your guys?
It’s a misunderstanding. As soon as the tweets went out, I spoke to both of them on the phone. Those two guys, they’re brothers. At the end of the day, they’re brothers and it’s time to turn up right now. It’s time for all of us to turn up and stay turned up, you know what I mean? But it’s all love between those two and everybody knows that.
The fact you got on the phone though shows how much you care.
Of course! That’s why you seen whatever was said, the little brotherly jabs and then that was it. That’s all you’re going to see. They’re two real dudes, two successful dudes, and we all came from the same place. When I first brought them on the team, we all drove to our first video set together. It was just us three, and I felt we all was at the bottom at the time. You know, Wale was in his new situation, Meek in his first situation, and me in my very first situation being a CEO, being a bawse with my own label deal. So we all was on the same flow, and once we mention that, it’s all good.
It’s just a testament to how you handle beef, because you’re pretty laid back about conflict, and when it’s done it’s done.
Of course! That’s how it’s supposed be, because we’re not here for that. What we’re here for is this, the culture! Fashion, the clothing, sneakers, sending that message – that’s what it’s about. You know certain things will occur; that’s just the nature of the game. There’s going to be dust kicked up at every arena, and you should all expect that. But at the same time, we’re focused on what we came for.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Rick Ross?
You know, I really don’t know. I’m pretty sure in different conversations, you may have different things because I’m a very unique individual, but I let the numbers speak for Rozay. Your assumptions or your ideas, I keep it numbers.
You released your first album eight years ago. If 2014 Rick Ross could tell something to 2006 Rick Ross, what would you have told him?
Savor the moments even more! That’s the good and the bad. It’s because when you look back on certain situations — when you look back on let’s say a beef or a disagreement you may have with an artist — as you grow and you get bigger and you get better, you really realize how small these incidents really were. Something that could be on the blogs and be the talk for the day, maybe even the week or maybe even the month…as you grind and you grow, you realize in hindsight that was nothing. Enjoy those moments. Stay out there and relish those moments!
You seem really happy right now.
I really am. My business, I have a great team, Gucci Pucci came from day one. I’m just a kid from Carol City in Miami where they didn’t make street music. They didn’t make the music we made, but I wanted to be the first one to make the music I made.
There still isn’t a ton of street music in Miami. You kind of cornered the market.
It’s a beautiful thing; I just feel there’s so many more artists in Miami. I feel there’s a lot of young artists in Miami that’s getting ready to take off, but I just want them to continue to remember it takes time! I’m just fortunate that I believed in myself and I was patient. At the beginning, when I first started writing rhymes, you couldn’t have told me, “It’s going to be a decade before you could make an album!” You never think that. I could make a mixtape in a week! What you mean? But it’s only something you’ve got to experience. Once you experience it, you could tell someone else that and they can actually look you in the eyes and believe you, and actually reenergize themselves. Everybody’s battery gets low at some points.
Are you eyeballing any new artists to sign to MMG?
As far as artists that are not signed to MMG, I do like a lot of artists that I’m looking at. It’s two artists in Miami that I’m really loving, K Kutta, I’m really loving his music as well as Iceberg. I’m loving what Troy Ave’s doing up here in New York City, and to me, it’s all about getting that ball rolling and getting that momentum going.
Have you spoken to Troy Ave?
Yeah, we’ve met on multiple occasions. He came down to Miami, we went to the NBA game and shit like that, but just to see him making his music and getting on his grind – that’s what I’m looking for in different artists so you never know!
Are we going to see a fashion line?
It’s a good chance, a real good chance. But that’s something that I wouldn’t just rush into. We already be splashing around in our little sweats and tees. A lot of sweats you see me in are custom and tailored, but I believe this year you’re going to see me doing a lot of different things. This time of year, I love the relax-wear, so a brand like DGK with just some sweats, tees, a fitted, you know what I’m saying? They make the skateboards and the socks, so if you out in L.A. and you’re smoking good, I want to buy some DGK. I want to go from the sweats and maybe splash around other things too.
So what’s next?
We just finished writing our first film. We’re still in the final works. We haven’t released the title or nothing like that, but I want to begin production and filming before the year’s out, so maybe as early as next summer we can do something.
You’re cornering all markets.
We just doing what I feel artists are supposed to do. When you’re an artist that’s sat back for so long and watched...and not in no way envy others’ success but just with an open heart and an open mind watching EPMD, watching Rakim as a youngster, watching NWA and Eazy-E and watching Mac Dre and watching No Limit and Cash Money and then Trick Diddy coming from Miami – it’s like, “Okay, I see what they’re doing!” You just absorb certain things and you learn from that, and you apply that to your game. That’s all I’m doing right now.