Is the rap game the new drug game? With all these rappers fronting, styling and profiling you would think so. From it’s origins in New York to LA gangsta rap to the bling-bling of the 90s to the South’s ascension hip-hop has always took its cue from the streets. And Y2K7 finds cocaine rap en vogue with artists like TI, Jeezy, the Clipse, Lil Wayne and Miami’s own Rick Ross doing their thing telling tales of street life and the drug game. And with BET’s American Gangster series detailing the criminal exploits of real life gangsta’s such as Fat Cat, the Chambers Brothers and Freeway Rick Ross a correlation can be made and a question posed, where does reality stop and entertainment begin?
Hip-hop artists have long borrowed monikers from street legends just as long as they’ve told the drug lord stories in the rhymes. From 50 Cent, who took a Brooklyn stick-up kid’s name to Scarface to Biggie referring to himself as the black Frank White, juxtaposing the gangster creed of death before dishonor and portraying the criminal lifestyle in videos has been a recipe for success. By promoting the thuglife image of a hustler from the streets who lives by the code of omerta many rappers have made a career. Call it fake, call it fronting or what you will, the formula has worked and a multitude of cardboard gangstas are flashing gang signs and making their would-be criminal associations known in their videos on MTV, VH1 and BET. But as Irv Gotti found out it can go too far, as in all the way to a court of law. And the way some of these entertainers portray themselves they shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves in court. I mean get real. Case in point the rapper Rick Ross.
William Roberts aka Rick Ross who released The Port of Miami last August promotes himself as the most respected hustler in hip-hop. And to be fair he’s had a lot of success, but to hear this dude talk you’d think he was the second coming of Tony Montana or is in the penitentiary, but he’s not and never was although the dude who he took his name from is. Freeway Rick Ross, an alleged Hoover Crip from Los Angeles, California who was one of the biggest drug dealers from the 80s, and is seen by some as being responsible for the nationwide crack epidemic that plagued inner city areas in the crack era. BET’s American Gangster told his story, but we’ll retell it quickly here.
Freeway Rick went from a low-budget car thief who stripped stolen vehicles near Harbor Freeway to selling cocaine by the ounce. The he met Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, two wealthy Nicaraguan cocaine brokers determined to finance the ousting of the Sandinista and reestablish the Somoza government in their country. Through them Freeway Rick started getting kilos and with Blandon’s cocaine he was the first to mass-market crack. Ross flooded cities across the nation with the inexpensive ghetto-designed drug and by 1984 it’s alleged he was getting 100 kilos a week. By 1985, its said he earned two hundred million dollars and from 1982 to 1989 its alleged
he moved 3 tons of cocaine.
The thing was that Freeway Rick was unwittingly supplying the money used to buy weapons for the contras, a CIA backed anti-Sandinista squad of guerrillas trying to overthrow the government in Nicaragua. It all came out later that Freeway Rick was an unknowing pawn in Oliver North, Ronald Reagan and the CIA’s game of running guns to the contras and returning with plane loads of cocaine that hit South Centrals streets as crack. The story was big news in the 90s. Very well publicized and California Representative Maxine Walters upped the ante by putting pressure on Attorney General Janet Reno to reveal the corruptness of Reagan’s administration after the story broke. Gary Webb, a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News investigated and broke the story culminating in a book and later his death under mysterious circumstances. All that is said to make a point and now back to the rapper Rick Ross aka William Roberts.
“I just put a couple of names in the air and that Rick Ross shit just ringed to me. I didn’t know anything about the dude personally, but the name sounded right to me. To be honest I didn’t know shit about him.” The rapper said recently in FEDS magazine, but this is after a previous article where he admitted being a druglord historian. He commented on how that was his thing, tracking the careers of the notorious underworld gangsters. “I started hearing more about the dude from the West Coast. I actually spoke to him over the phone. We got to chop it up. I always acknowledged him, but I don’t want to make it seem like I took the name because of him.” The rapper continued. Gorilla Convict calls it like it is and for real dude is fronting. Obviously, he took the name to emulate the infamous kingpin.
About the whole deal in a recent AS IS interview from prison the real Rick Ross said, “You know in the hood anytime someone takes your name they are supposed to show some respect and I feel he should show me some.” So I guess all that chopping it up shit from the rapper is some fantasy. It doesn’t sound like Freeway Rick talked to his namesake. So Rick Ross the convict was the real drug dealer, that is an undeniable fact, but Rick Ross the rapper, what are his credentials?
“I was a fan of the game. I sat on the porch and listened to the Cadillacs go by.” He said. “I was booming weed at 15 and had a bird at 17. I bought my first crib when I was 21. You know I’m the boss. I come from the cocaine capital. I was in the midst of the murder game on some real shit.” Yet he isn’t in prison and hasn’t been. What is he, untouchable? He hasn’t heard of conspiracy charges. Even the real Rick Ross, who unwittingly sold drugs for the CIA wasn’t untouchable. The rapper has even said how the money he makes from rapping can’t even support his lifestyle, implying that he’s still in the streets and in the drug game. I guess he’s not worried about an indictment, because his raps are filled with allusions to the life and his part in it. But is it his life he’s rapping about?
“All those things he saying is true but true for my brother.” David Ross said in the same AS IS interview about the rapper, but Rick Ross the rapper keeps the illusion going 24/7. “You know Noriega was down there in FDC forever man, with all my dogs. I used to send messages to him so that’s why I put his name in there.” He said in FEDS. “I’ve been involved in that kind of shit where robberies took place, I wasn’t even there. My homies pulled it off and came off so lovely. Go buy two homes, here’s your cut, a gift, its easy.” But it you were really involved in that type of shit would you advertise it?
I don’t think so.
“He found an opportunity and he exploited it.” The real Rick Ross said on the rapper. “I don’t know if there’s anything I really want to say to him.” And remember this is the dude the rapper said he chopped it up with. So maybe Rick Ross the rapper lives in a fantasy world. A carefully constructed facade and image built on lies. Because if he was the real don that he claims to be in his rhymes he would be counting millions instead of rapping about them.
“In the late 80s, Rick was counting a million dollars a day.” His brother David said. “The million dollars couldn’t be carried alone, no one person with a duffel bag. You couldn’t even pick it up. Two counters and you could count a million dollars in about ten hours.” Now what does the rapper Know about that? Nothing. “I feel that god had put me down to be the cocaine man.” Freeway Rick said, “I owned lots of property, I owned one motel. I had one of the first custom tire wheel shops in LA, beauty salons, shoe stores, junk yards, auto body shops and numerous apartment and housing buildings.” That’s the real life of a hood legend and ghetto baler. A real big time drug dealer is looking for ways to legitimize his shit. The rapper Rick Ross is only selling illusions albeit, successfully.
But fuck it, its only entertainment, right? Drug game, rap game- the lines are blurred. “I just took the same formula of ripping that dope up taking it to the streets and making a nigga buy that shit.” The rapper said on his MO. And if anyone believes that they’ll believe anything. Not to say you can’t respect the hustle, because dudes music is tight, But if you’re an entertainer be an entertainer. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Could you imagine the real Rick Ross trying to get in the rap game?
But the subject of Freeway Rick singing has come up- singing to the feds that is. Allegedly he cooperated with the feds when the whole contra affair came to light and subsequently received a reduction on his current sentence for that cooperation. Even on BET’s American Gangster it said he cooperated, so how gangster is that? “I don’t think it was snitching.” Rick Ross said in AS IS magazine and AS IS co-signed dude saying, “AS IS has love for Rick, we gonna ride with extenuating circumstances for Rick.” What do you think? Dude snitched on the government, if you want to call it that. It is what it is. But what about AS IS?
AS IS is the brainchild of Shabazz who used to write for Don Diva, the original street bible. With AS IS in circulation it now makes 3 street themed magazines- Don Diva, Feds and AS IS with Felon a fourth that probably isn’t operating anymore. There’s been a couple of others like Troy Reeds Faces, but it didn’t last either. Clearly Don Diva is #1 on the food chain and with the success of BET’s American Gangster, the numerous books coming out and mainstream hip-hop mags like King, XXL and The Source featuring gangsta content its no wonder the rappers are following the trend. This gangsta shit is bubbling and pretty soon, slowly but surely the tales of America’s black underworld gangsters will go mainstream in the entertainment world just like the mafia explosion in print and film in the 70s and 80s. America loves its anti-heroes and the vicious gangstas from the crack era are finally getting their shine on. Fake ass rappers or not.