THE WEISSMAN REPORT:
The Rise and Redemption of Rick Ross
Written by Douglas Williams, Editor-In-Chief Sunday, October 02, 2011 02:22
On June 18, 2010, Rick Ross sued rapper "Rick Ross" (real name William L. Roberts) for using his name. Ross filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the rapper in a California Federal Court. (The Weissman Report) It's a Saturday afternoon and a strong voice answers a weakening telephone. There's a 4-month-old boy protesting intermittently in the background whilst the voice fights the crackle of reception. The voice advises that "the battery is dying," he's not certain how much longer it has to live, but he'll replace it and call back in the event that it happens. The voice suggests the discourse begin, in spite of the impending demise of the phone. A question is flung at the voice, the voice snatches it and begins to run with it like it had done it before, but then the telephone does what it warned it would do it succumbs. The voice is no longer there. Silence tames the tension as moments of uncertainty linger like liquor store loiterers.
The telephone rouses certainty with trumphant ringing, and then the voice determined to honor its word blurts out, "Douglas, this is Rick Ross again, sorry 'bout that," in a tone so considerate it cloaks the man it belongs to like fine linen tossed over a tattered sofa. The voice is living inside of Ricky Donnell Ross, known to history as "Freeway Ricky Ross." The urgency to honor his word can be sensed in the brief time it took for Ross to call back. And it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that he'd quickly ripped the battery from the phone, shoved a new one into its place, and then punched the numbers with purpose. Ross once ruled a world in which abandoning his word could put him into the ground. But, if you listen closely to the quiet conviction in Ross' voice, you get a sense that honor may have been inherently embedded into him. Ross has spent his life flirting with risks, so, the telephone didn't stand a chance, this is what he does he assesses risks, sets aside the fear of failure, and then he pounces on opportunities.
The U.S. government says Ross made a mind-numbing $600 million dollars during his drug-trafficking tenure, but he doesn't hoist his legacy boastfully. He is revered by admirers infatuated with the underworld, but it becomes apparent that Ross is acutely aware of the beast he birthed twenty years ago. Ross has been breathing for 51 years now, and thus he has trained his mind to mingle with his heart and hamper the Hustler's spirit. Ross is aware that he can't erase his past, but he is confident and optimistic that he can punctuate positivity in the present.
Ross, who says teachers called him a "dummy" when he was a kid, concurs that he was partly an enabler of self-destruction. But, in the interim between his two major prison stints, he embarked upon a path of philanthropy: In 1989, he purchased a dilapidated theater in South Central, Los Angeles, which he intended to renovate and turn into an outreach center. His efforts attracted supporters like Magic Johnson, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube. However, Ross would eventually return to prison after he'd been setup by an old drug business associate who asked Ross to introduce him to a dealer in return for forgiving Ross' debt of $30,000, which he'd borrowed from the dealer in an effort to keep his legitimate endeavors afloat.
On March 2, 1995, the deal was simple; Ross would introduce the men, he would have nothing to do with any drugs involved, his debt would be forgiven, and then he could return to his new life of legitimacy. But, unbeknownst to Ross, the old associate Nicaraguan drug trafficker Oscar Danilo Blandσn Reyes was working with federal agents who descended upon Ross when he approached a Chevy Blazer stuffed with 100 kilos of cocaine. Ross was sentenced to 20 years and returned to prison until he was paroled in May, 2009.
This interview with Ross commences and he offers considerate answers to the questions posed of him. As he begins to explore his thoughts, it becomes evident that the so-called "dummy" may have been the victim of inferior tutelage because Ricky Donnell Ross is chillingly perspicacious and damn-near a genius. How does a man who could not read nor write the words "and" or "the," orchestrate one of the largest drug operations in United States history? You read it correctly, "Freeway" negotiated multimillion dollar real estate deals without being able to read anything other than his name and his mother's name. Ross eventually disclosed his illiteracy to a cell mate during his first major prison bid who then recruited a couple other inmates to help him teach Ross how to read and write. Ross was "reading a newspaper a week later." He eventually picked up a few hundred books.
Every once-in-a-while during the interview, Ross unveils the toughness he's had to develop in order to slay the beast he created. If you've been around enough, you're not offended by his shortness with you. You're not offended when he briefly retrieves bitterness. Here is a man who attempts to atone for his sins, only to be perpetually persecuted for them.
These days, Ross has started a trucking company and a social networking site (which he designed himself while in prison). There's also a feature film about his life in the works, a documentary and he continues on the lecture circuit. But it all may come to a halt in the next couple weeks.
On October 11, 2011, Ross will stand before a judge who will determine if he should be thrown back in prison. Ross' parole officer violated him recently, accusing him of "associating with felons." Ross accepted telephone calls from the men who taught him how to read and write who are still incarcerated. Ross also obliged photo requests from a pair of convicted felons during one of his many speaking engagements. He admits he knew one of the men, because he'd served time with him, but he was unaware that the other man was a convicted felon. The parole board is asking that Ross be sentenced to six months in prison.
Ross' possible incarceration will once again put a stop to his philanthropic efforts: He recently did a PSA commercial that encourages literacy, he organized a dance for kids during which he "gave away over $5,000 dollars worth of gifts," including high-end headphones that were donated by superstar "Dr. Dre." MGZ Productions a film production company Ross is working with donated Apple gift certificates. He was given 350 copies of George S. Clason's "The Richest Man in Babylon," one of his favorite books, which he intends to discuss and giveaway at juvenile halls.
You were a formidable tennis player you'd aspired to go to the next level, play in college and so forth. Do you still watch tennis?
Ross: Not right now, I don't have time. I don't take any breaks...I'm on a mission right now.
Have you ever watched Venus and Serena Williams? Are you familiar with their game?
Ross: Yeah, I remember when they were little kids they played with my kids.
Give me an idea of how good you were in your prime.
Ross: I played with the top Black pros, when they [returned from] circuit, they would come and get me to practice with me.
In regards to your leadership ability: You were able to unify the Crips and Bloods to further your business agenda. Aside from the obvious that money was their inspiration to follow you, how were you able to do what many civic leaders could not do and get the Crips and Bloods to work together?
Ross: Well, I showed 'em love, and [genuineness], which is very hard to find right now in this country. Because, what you see is not what you get, and what I say is not what I'm gon' do, and what I do is not what I said I was gon' do. I'm going to to the best of my ability do what I say...I'm gonna do more than I said I was, and what you see with me, is what you get. I'm not going to be a man today, and then behind closed doors I'm really a woman.
You were able to corral all of those personalities and some pretty rough people and get them to work together. What advice would you give the President on how to get Congress to work together?
Ross: I don't know if they're as tough as those people he's workin' with. [laughs] He's workin' with some pretty cut-throat people. He must first find out from their angle, what it is that he can do for them. How can he benefit them? Once [he] benefits them first, then he could come in and get them to benefit him.
So, was that your convention of thought in business?
Ross: Absolutely. Because nobody really cares about what you need or what you want. See, their only focus is what they need, and what they want, and how you could help them. But once you get their attention, then you can bring in your ideas.
In your opinion: Who are better liars, rappers or politicians?
Ross: [laughs] Wow, they both go hand-in-hand, really. The rap game today has gotten so far off course, you know, from what it was created to do, created to stand for...I would have to give it to the rappers.
Have you ever watched "Scarface," or "New Jack City" and films of that nature?
Ross: Absolutely. I've watched both.
When you watch those movies, what do they elicit inside of you? And when you listen to rap songs in which rappers illuminate how they were so prolific in the drug business and so forth, what is going on inside of your mind?
Ross: Right now or back-in-the-day?
Back-in-the-day and right now.
Ross: Right now, I don't listen to any of them (rappers) and I don't watch any of them (films), because I know that they pollute your mind. Back-in-the-day when I watched "Scarface" it made me believe that you could come over here barefeet, with absolutely nothing and own the whole world, with cocaine. When you listen [some] rap music, they're basically telling you the same thing that you could be smart enough to get away from 'the man' by selling drugs.
Do those films accurately portray the scope of the business?
Ross: Absolutely not.
What did you see in the business that you don't see in the films?
Ross: Well, in the movies you never see the destruction, you never see the people that get hooked. You never see anybody go to jail for the rest of their lives. You don't see the racism where a kid can be 18 years old and get caught with two ounces of crack cocaine that's only worth $900 dollars and they give him twenty years in prison...you don't see that in the movies.
Obviously, for you to have done the things you did, you had to have balls as big as Boise, Idaho
Ross: [laughs] Or [I was] a fool.
In the span of your lifetime, how have you been able to subdue fear? Describe your relationship with fear.
Ross: Well, fear is something that you must control. If you can't control fear, you'll be paralyzed for the rest of your life. There are certain chances that we have to take. I was in a desperate situation. By me playing tennis, I had a chance to see some of the finest things in life. I played tennis in backyards in Beverly Hills, I had been to big country clubs, I had [eaten] some of the finest foods. I rode in Rolls Royces in '74: a guy by the name of Otis Smith used to pick me up from school after I'd played tennis with his son and take me home [to] Watts in a convertible Rolls Royce. So, I had a taste of finer things in life and I had made up my mind that I was gonna obtain that by hook or crook.
How long did it take you to develop your ability to harness fear?
Ross: Well, you know, in the drug business, what happens is you gain momentum as you get bigger. So, when I got my first three grams, I was scared to death. [laughs] I'm lookin' over my shoulder, and checkin' in the mirror and everything. But as you stay around it for a while, you become accustomed to it and it gets easier. Then you can say, 'Oh well, three grams ain't nothin'.' And then when you get to an ounce you go through the same thing, and then when you get to fifty keys (kilograms) you go through the same feeling, and then when you get to a hundred keys you go through the same feeling. Until one [day] you're handling it on a consistent basis, it becomes like, 'Huh, that ain't nothin'.'
I understand how you were able to harness fear in your business dealings, but just as a human being, were you ever paranoid?
Ross: I was very paranoid. I thought they were gonna kick my door in every night. I wouldn't stay in a house or an apartment more than two to three months. [I had] six or seven houses that I was living in and then I would still go stay in a hotel...to stop detection.
Was the mental turmoil worth the profitability?
Ross: Absolutely not. I think it was a complete waste of a creative mind and soul.
The psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term "cognitive dissonance," which essentially means that people convince themselves that what they believe is right in spite of being cognizant that it is wrong. Can you tell me of instances when you have seen cognitive dissonance play out in your life? Whether with yourself, friends, family or associates.
Ross: Absolutely. [I've seen it play out] with myself: I justified me sellin' drugs on the strength that if I didn't sell drugs, I was going to be stuck in the ghetto for the rest of my life, so, it was worth it for me to sell drugs. I also did it when it came down to sellin' drugs to certain people: If I don't sell it to 'em, somebody else will. Those are two instances that pop in my head right off the bat.
Let's talk about the "no snitching" code vis-ΰ-vis the duality of self-preservation and "honor amongst thieves": Why is testifying in the interest of self-preservation considered dishonorable, but killing a business associate in the interest of self-preservation in the drug business is not?
Ross: Wow...you're deep [laughs]...wow. Well, you know what, I never had to kill anybody because I made up my mind when I went into the drug business that life is too important, and too valuable to waste over money. So, I believe that most people don't value especially the Black life the Black life is very cheap [to them], it can be taken for as little as a thousand dollars. As far as the [dishonor] amongst thieves with the snitchin'... wow...that's deep [laughs]...that is deep...I don't know...you got me on that one.
Okay. Let's talk about the magnetism of wealth and power in regards to the drug business: Why is it so difficult for a person in that business to walk away with the millions? You got twenty million dollars in the ground, why is it difficult to dig it up, move to Brazil or some place, open up a surf shop and call-it-a-day?
Ross: Well, that one's easy: greed. And the ease of it coming, you know, once it starts coming it becomes easier to get. So, with the ease, you just continuously go. And like I said before, the more you do it and the easier it gets to do, then you feel like, 'I'm not doing anything wrong.'
A lot of celebs want to attach themselves to you to establish credibility and for the allure of being associated with "Freeway Ricky Ross," but have any of these people shown you any love monetarily?
Ross: No. A couple have, but very small gas money, rent money for one month. Nothing to say, 'You know what, I respect your business mind, I know you read 300 books while you were in prison, you educated yourself, let me see what you can do.' None have done that.
Based on your observations, from your life experiences, which is more addictive, money or drugs and alcohol?
Ross: Wow...money is pretty powerful, you know? I believe most people use drugs because of money they don't have the kind of money they want or need. Most people drink, I believe, because of money.
So then, how do you escape the grasp of the pursuit of money...or whatever it is you get from the pursuit of money...how do you escape that?
Ross: Well, you have to train yourself to be very disciplined. You have to not crave the trinkets that are placed in front of us on a daily basis: on T.V., in the newspapers and magazines, because those are the lures that really lure you in you're to the point where you're not important if you don't have those things.
What books have you read? Who is your favorite author? What books have you read that moved you the most?
Ross: When I was gone (to prison) I read like 300 books. "The Richest Man in Babylon," by George Clason. That book really showed me where my compass was off, because I believe the only reason that I became a drug dealer was because my compass was off. It wasn't because I was cursed or because I was a bad person. It really baffles me right now: Because I'm a convicted drug dealer, when I deal with people they accuse me of lying, [when] I haven't told a lie. They accuse me of being a cheater, and I'm like, 'Listen, just 'cause you sold drugs doesn't mean that you're all these other things.'
You once said you didn't think you were gonna live long when you were a young man, because of what you were doing. Now that you have endured all that you've endured, and survived up until this point, why do you think you're still here?
Ross: I'm here to make the world a better place. If I leave the earth and I haven't made the world a little better, in my living, then I have been a complete failure. I feel that I can teach my new son all the things that I've learned. And with that, put him on the fast-track to go further something that I didn't have when I was coming up. You know...basically, I got my teachings from the streets. I do feel that there's a purpose for me being here. I think that my purpose right now is to educate as many people as I can about life from the drug business, to how to manage money, how to start your own business. I feel that it is my job to teach people these skills that they need to know.
Everybody wants to be 'Rick Ross,' they want to be the 'biggest guy,' they want your persona and so forth. Do you ever tire of people wanting you around because of all that stuff you did back when you were young? As a mature, 51 year-old now, do you ever tire of answering questions about what kind of cars you drove, how many women you were with, so forth and so on?
Ross: Absolutely. How much money I made...I mean, the questions go on and on. What really baffles me is that they don't really ask me, 'How are you doing what you are doing today?' 'How did you get to this position right here today?' Because I believe that the things that I'm doing right now are going to outweigh the things that I did in the past.