I highly recommend incorporating Rick Ross into your daily Instagram Story rotation, if he isn’t there already. These days you’re likely to see him exploring the grounds of his 100-room estate, which formerly belonged to Evander Holyfield, while spouting aphorisms with a distinctly Rick Rossian spin like, “Perfect day to boss up.” These are the fruits of a decade’s labor as one of the most consistent presences in hip-hop: Ross led one of rap’s most exciting recent crews, usually delivered above average and sometimes classic albums, and stayed relevant with features on bangers and lyrical barfests alike.
Ross is also quite funny, with a dry wit, casual delivery and non-sequiturs that make for reliably laugh-out-loud moments. His comic timing has always been evident in his music (“Fuck the prosecutor, tell him the Bugatti’s new!”). But it’s on full display on Instagram, where he offers commentary on events like Nate Robinson’s knockout by Jake Paul—one clip ended with him vowing to support Robinson by wearing one of his jerseys the following day, only for the next morning’s video to open with him declaring “I think it’s no secret that I don’t actually own a Nate Robinson jersey.”
He’ll weigh in on a hot-button debate: where most rappers neglected to shun Tory Lanez for allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Ross made his opinion clear with several videos ridiculing Lanez. Or take this video from the start of the pandemic, where he essentially labels men bucking against the shelter-in-place order as perpetuating toxic masculinity with harmful repercussions (“You wanna seem hard but don’t bring that fungus home to mama and them.”)
Then, of course, there are his beefs, primarily his perennial feud with 50 Cent, which he’s taken to stoking by…playing and celebrating old 50 Cent music, only with a hint of snide disrespect and backhanded compliments. Most of these videos feature blatant branding, usually with Wingstop (one of Ross’s most heavily promoted business investments) or his Belaire champagne so heavily foregrounded that it only adds to the hilarity. There’s a level of theater to it all that’s in keeping with his musical persona, and a tossed off casualness: Rick Ross is doing too well to really care about beef.
That contentment is evident in the new album title, Richer Than I’ve Ever Been. It’s probably true: Ross claims that in the last three years, he’s more than doubled his amount of brand partnerships. But unlike some of his peers, corporate pursuits haven’t diluted his appeal. Richer is very much a Rick Ross album: lush production, intriguing features, deceptively intricate lyricism, and a splash of controversy. Ross initially released an image on social media that was implied to be the album’s cover, showing him dressed more like Queen Elizabeth than a Florida street rapper, then seemingly scrapped it for a more straightforward approach. And lines on the album intro have been interpreted as maybe going at Jay-Z, previously one of Ross’s most prolific collaborators.
GQ’s two conversations with Ross across the last several weeks occurred before that subliminal diss became evident, but we got into everything else from the cover, to whether he’d do a Verzuz with 50 Cent, to how the new album reflects his life now.
The album cover changed. Why? That first cover was hard. People are saying you felt pressured because it was so unorthodox.
It was never an album cover change. That was a photo that Jonathan Mannion took at the photo shoot for me that we released when I announced my album date at the Miami Heat arena. We did the announcement during half time and we released the image and it’s a beautiful image. I love it. But you know, I’m consistent with having my face on my album covers and I want you to see me. That’s just a part of the Rozay 101 branding.
Talk to me about the art direction of when you and Mannion were shooting that image. It’s really striking and not something we might typically expect from you.
It was just us having fun. We were out by my pool and I wanted to take a few images where people see the lion’s eye, the ring I had on, and I was laughing and we just had a good time. But to me, the images was just dope as fuck, and so that’s why I just wanted to throw that out there and I do love it.
At today’s shoot you’ve been playing “Wood Wheel” on loop—you always play a lot of UGK and 8 Ball & MJG on IG stories. What is it about UGK that puts you in that mood to get the shine on?
That era for me, that was me coming up in my last years of high school, [as I was] just figuring myself out. Just asking myself, “What you fixing to do?” And that’s when I understood and knew I wanted to make music. So I was listening to that shit from when I woke up in the morning to when I went to sleep. And that went on for years. And what 8Ball, MJG, that Texas sound of Rap-A-Lot Records, Scarface, Geto Boys—when I heard that arrogance of Pimp C, and when I heard that aggressive, nonstop word play coming from Bun B, that combination together with the production they chose, I said, “Boy, this shit here is next level.”
Did Pimp pass before you were able to work with him?
One of the pictures that’s on my Instagram that I posted with Pimp was us in the club just kicking it. We spoke a few days later, maybe a week before he passed away. So, yeah, I want to say RIP to him. RIP his mom, just the whole squad. Pimp was special.
Top 10, even.
His arrogance was priceless. And man, when I listen to that shit, I feel it because I know he’s speaking for every young guy who wants a house right up the street.
I hear you interpolate him a little bit in your rhymes, when you emphasize some of your enunciations, there’s that Pimp DNA.
Why not? You know, hopefully at some point, I should let all the greats that inspired me shine through me sometimes. And I hope they get to see that.
Last time we met was right before the pandemic popped off. How has the last year and a half been for you?
I’m learning. I really got to spend a lot of time with myself, reflect and learn. I got to write another book, a New York Times best seller [Perfect Day to Boss Up]. But it was dope because I got to just talk about the strategies of my approaches when it comes to entrepreneurship. So of course I was making records, but I got to do a lot of different other things
And you actually caught Covid too, right?
Mm-hmm. I was down bad. It ain’t no secret, boy. I had that real one. I ain’t had that regular [asymptomatic] shit. I said this before, my dick ain’t get hard for two weeks, man. I had never experienced no shit like that. I was looking around like… [laughs].
So when you go through an experience as serious as that, when it comes to the vaccine, where do you land on that?
You got to understand, when they first told me about the vaccine, I was like, “Man, y’all crazy. Rozay ain’t…” But as I moved around, the things I saw, travelling—because I still was going into clubs. You go in the club, it’s two women with a mask on, I’m still watching people pass hookahs around. But me, since the pandemic, I ain’t never let nobody hit my blunt. And I just really thought about my mom, my sister, I had really avoided going to see my mom because of the pandemic. At some point, I wanted to be around her, and she was really concerned with it. So it was all good. I let her know, “It’s on you. I’m with whatever you with. If we getting the vaccine, we getting the vaccine. If we not, we not.”
I noticed during that shelter-in-place period you got more into gardening, landscaping. Like Drake says, you’re on 235 acres but it seems like last year was your first time really getting to enjoy it.
Yeah, without a doubt. That comes with being richer than I’ve ever been. Real language.
When I see you gardening like Don Corleone or something, it makes me wonder, does retirement cross your mind?
Not for real. If I wasn’t making music that was better than the majority of everything that’s out, maybe I would consider it, but… You know, I’m a unique person. And I let the streets dictate [when it’s time for me to retire]. But I’m a hell of an individual, and my hustle is still unmatched. All I need is two or three more years, I’ll have the most money, without a doubt, around this shit. What? N-gga, this Rozay. You crazy?
Your albums always have experiments—putting unexpected collaborators together or taking rappers out of the element we’re most used to hearing them in. The one that jumped out to me the most on Richer Than I’ve Ever Been was putting Future, a trap artist, on a warmer, more soulful beat from Bink [“Warm Words in a Cold World”].
Why not? And what made the record really special to me is how Future switched his flow up, turned down his harmonizing and turned up his bars in that chop flow. When you’re on album 11, you can’t just go to [the things you’re already] secure with, you have to be creative. That’s what being an artist is about.
What are some other things that you did on this album that you feel proud about creatively?
Oh man, making sure I went and got some of the most talented youngsters from Florida with the record I have [“Can’t Be Broke”] featuring Yungeen ACE record and Major Nine. I feel that record is going to really resonate in a special way. And giving those youngsters the opportunity was big. Also, me going to find who the streets were saying was the hottest spitter right now, which was Benny the Butcher. Okay, let’s put him right next to me [on “Rapper Estates”], I don’t even want no hook between us. Let’s give it to them straight up and down.
A big point of contention these days is when big, blockbuster, A-list albums drop that have dozens of features but none from female rappers, since there are so many really talented and buzzing ladies out right now. So it was nice to see you make such a hard record with Dreamdoll on “Wiggle.”
I really believe that’s going to be a hit record. She deserves it. She earned this position, it wasn’t no favor. She’s really spitting bars. Her tone was so dope. She went right in the studio, handled that business. I said, “Yo, her future bright.”
Are you feeling any other female spitters out right now?
Just coming right off the dome, let’s say for instance, on that [theoretical] “Wiggle” remix, it’s a good chance I may reach out to Megan [Thee Stallion].
Reaching album number 11 is no small feat.
Eleven is a beautiful thing for where I come from. It’s amazing. It’s phenomenal. It’s almost indescribable for the type of music that I’ve made, the collaborations that we have made, the shit that’s on the horizon. I have been able to be a part of some of the most incredible shit in hip hop. I collaborated with the greatest ones except Big, Tupac. But the shit me and Nas did, me and Kanye did, me and Jay-Z did, me and Lil Wayne did, me and Khaled did, the shit me and Drake could continue to possibly do, as well as coming up on my eleventh album, and n-ggas still buying verses from me like I’m fucking SpottemGottem, a new n-gga or something. You feel me?
I got 20 business partnerships now. My last album, I ain’t have 10. You understand? That’s how quick this shit’ll turn. So when I tell you in three years, people going to have to feel me, you understand. The ultimate position I’m in is now I have the music, let’s reflect where my mind is at, and put it in words now. And to me, it’s not difficult other than getting the details. And now that we’ve done that, I’m fixing to get ready and feed the streets. Richer Than I’ve Ever Been. They better be ready for some crispy, classical Rick Ross, aka Rick Ravioli.
We have to talk nicknames. You have Rozay, Renzel. Now you’re talking about Rick Ravioli. Are these alter egos? Do they reflect different zones you tap into the same way say, Nicki used to call an aggressive track her being “Roman,” Beyonce had “Sasha Fierce,” Jay-Z had his “Jigga” phase…
It might be. I never had that conversation. What is an alter ego?
Like you, but a different version of you.
Ooh, Renzel is that sexy, “Diced Pineapples” talk. When I say, [for example] Ravioli, that’s something that’s been spinning off because I’m in a new position. I own a $3 million timepiece, you understand? This one [Ross gestures to the watch he’s currently wearing] is only a quarter million. I put my chain on, that’s a half a million. You understand? And when I put that on, I may still throw on a baseball cap, and spin that to the back. But it’s all just ultimately, at the end of the day, manifestation, still enjoying myself. The word play. I’m going to let the album let people know, don’t ever question the ability. Y’all know I’m getting money. I’m—I was fixing to say top 10, but you never know how many of these rappers really broke, so I may be even closer to the top 10.
Now is that [Forbes] list the only list you’re worried about? When it comes to rapper rankings, are you tripping over that? Because something like Verzuz starts conversations where people start comparing legacies.
They could do whatever they want. When Rozay run out on the stage in the arenas, and I perform records that’s 12, 13 years old—I could perform [a banger like] “Pop That,” I could perform [an album cut like] “Tears of Joy”… They’re screaming like it’s a new record.
How did you like doing Verzuz [with 2 Chainz]?
That shit was cool. I saved a bunch of records for Verzuz Two.
You got to ask yourself would he come and do a Verzuz with Rozay. I mean, you got to ask yourself honestly, would he come and stand next to Rozay in the arena or wherever it would be? That’s really your question. I don’t even think it’s a question of if I would do it. That shit light.
50 would be light work? It’s 20 songs…
Come on, now. I helped the views on his shows. On TV, he didn’t do nothing, man.
Have you been watching BMF, considering your own BMF connection?
Man, I saw the first [episode]. I was just trying to support the homie Meech [the incarcerated head of Black Mafia Family whose rise the 50 Cent-produced show chronicles], the n-ggas in the street. I’m a real n-gga. I could put [my issues with 50] to the side. I know he may have made a quarter million off the whole season. I’m happy he made that quarter. [I laugh at his backhanded compliment] You know that’s what he made. Why you laughing like that? And make sure you put all these details in. I’ll never let you interview me again if you take that out. Keep it. But, look I know he made 250k off the whole season, and that’s good. Tell him I said, “Congratulations.”
Well, this is a great segue to-
You going to tell him?
I will. But this is a great segue to, honestly, the number one thing I really wanted to talk to you about: you might be the funniest rapper there is.
Oh, my God. I’ve never heard that in my life. I swear to God. [To his publicist] Have you ever heard that before? Tell me, what’s funny?
I’ll thumb through your IG stories—talking about 50 reminded me of this, because you’ll just be like, in your crib drinking Belaire…and blasting Lloyd Banks. Who is obviously associated with someone you have a very public beef with. And you’re nodding along to some classic G-Unit or classic 50 and then yelling “Banks, you need some money?” It’s very dry and hilarious.
Come on, man. Be honest. You know it’s rough out there. Sometimes you just got to be honest. Tell Lloyd that I’ll let him come to the promised land, and I’ll have a conversation with him. I don’t have no problem with Lloyd Banks.
Well, you respected the music when you were rapping along. You listening to “Hate It or Love It” is a classic clip on Twitter.
What I said?
Well you specifically dialed in on the line about his mother…
Because his mom, he said she was a bulldagger, right? That’s what you liked. And that was dope how he said it.
Would you act? Do a comedy?
There ain’t enough money in acting. That’s what I was just saying. Your man made 250k for the season doing that. That little season, Starz TV shit. What channel is it really?
It is actually on Starz.
That’s on Starz? I really was joking. He should’ve just went Revolt. Just go Revolt next time. Tell Curtis I said, “Go Revolt.”
You talked about Drake earlier, and you specifically said what you guys “could” do. I know you may be getting tired of this question, but when you guys name your latest song together “You Only Live Twice,” you’re really teasing us, hinting at the YOLO album.
It could happen. It’s still a possibility. We’ll put it out there. That would be easy.
Speaking of “You Only Live Twice,” Drake is on that song with some bars, seemingly, for someone you’re cool with.
Who is that?
First and foremost, you have to remember, Drake when it comes to the flow… His shit is so dope and classy. Even when he’s saying [something slick]… And the type of person that I know Drake is, and the type of person I know Swizz is, it’s a possibility they could have a collab out by… 9pm tonight.
I’ve always wondered about this: Is it ever awkward in a scenario where you’re on a song with someone else, and they have words for someone you’re cool with?
No. Maybe it would become awkward when I know somebody may lose their life behind it. If it’s just some n-ggas getting off they chest, I love to be a part of it. It’s hip hop.
That was kind of like when you tried to get Pusha and Wayne together on [“Maybach Music 6”].
And once again, I love both of them.
Would you still work with Pusha even though…
I love Pusha. We were just at an event recently, enjoying Luc Belaire.
Good to know. You must get this every time you drop an album that doesn’t have a new “Maybach Music” sequel on it, but was there, or is there, a “Maybach Music 7” in the wings?
I mean, I actually did do one and it’s Ronald Isley on the chorus.
Oh my God.
It’s a phenomenal record, but when it comes down to certain records and samples [clearances] and beats, and then the time it takes me to get it redone… I don’t want to just throw it out just to throw it out. So you can expect to hear that in the future. Ronald Isley, I love you and I appreciate you.
And that one had some guest rappers on it too?
I got you, trust me. I got you, trust me.
Speaking of the “Maybach Music” series, whatever happened to the one with Bobby Womack?
Man, that shit is special to me. These records really are special to me—the records I have with Alicia Keys, the records I have with Adam Levine, Bobby Womack. I’ve had my record with Alicia Keys over five years and I’m not sure when I’ll put that record out. It’s done. My record with Bobby Womack, that means so much [especially] after he passed, it’s like, “wow.” I got a Dolph record ready to go that I could have put on the track list. But some things ain’t just meant to just go. Some things take time and really take heart, man. Some things really take passion and direction.
You were on one of Dolph’s first big records, “Preach.”
Right. I knew when I met Dolph—he was a young hustler out of Memphis, and DJ Q out of Memphis introduced me to him, and he was just solid from day one. I saw his work ethic, I was there for him, vice versa, and we became close. He’s a great loss just for all the leaders in the streets and around the world, we got to protect our leaders, man. We got to protect them.
Styled by Groovey Lew, assisted by Daniel Jones
Grooming by Pedro Antunes