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Freeway Ricky Ross (photo: Andres Herren)
Four years free, Freeway Ricky Ross discusses his transition from prison, his new upcoming HBO documentary, the possibility of a feature film, and his beef with “Rozay.”
By now most are familiar with Freeway Ricky Ross, the notorious 1980’s drug lord who was undisputedly one of the key players in the crack epidemic that nearly ravaged the Black community. Fast forward to 2013 and acquaint yourself with the new Freeway Rick Ross, a man who is working hard to make amends with the community he once hurt. For starters he is producing quality media, including an upcoming HBO documentary and a feature film with director Nick Cassavetes (Co-Writer, “Blow”; Director, “The Notebook”). He is also working on a budding interactive social media site for musicians. On a grassroots level, his involvement with various community outreach programs is also noteworthy. Today, after having served a 20-year prison sentence, Rick Ross is definitely back on the LA scene—vindicated and doing big things.
It’s a little after noon and Ross arrives at The Sentinel with the friendly, easy-going demeanor of an average Joe. He sports a modest, white graphic T-shirt and a full beard. He is surrounded by a small entourage consisting of his attorney, the publisher of Get Money Magazine, his new recording artist, and family. To the unsuspecting eye, one would never guess that this man once sat atop a multi-million dollar drug empire. That’s because he’s dropped the drug business and is embarking onto show business.
His newest baby is a documentary entitled “Crack in the System.” Co-produced by Freeway Studios, (Ross’ production company) and Marc Levin (Director, BET and HBO) the provocative feature is set to be released at the end of the year. The multi-part documentary will not only serve as a tell-all, which chronicles the life of Ross, but will also explore the socioeconomic effects of the crack epidemic today. Antonio Moore, Ross’s attorney/business partner and former Deputy DA, proudly discusses their new brainchild.
“It’s going to really have Rick’s story on a personal level that will really show things that people may not know about him,” Moore passionately reveals. “It’s going to really go into detail about Iran contra. Also, what makes a kingpin and why the decisions were made to become what he became. It’s going to talk about the real of what happened back then and how it affects today, including the rapper Rick Ross, and his impact on black America today.”
On the contemporary stage, the rapper Ricky ‘Rozay” Ross is synonymous with “Blowing Money Fast.” He used the phrase to coin his lavish spending habits on his fourth single B.M.F., from the Teflon Don album. To the real Freeway Rick Ross, “Rozay” represents a smoke and mirrors act, one who blows smoke up his fans’…fannies. While Ross was wasting away years of his life in prison, “Rozay” the former correctional officer turned rapper was busy lyrically jacking Ross’s lifestyle while failing to recognize his legendary namesake. Today the two Rick Rosses are entangled in bitter, pending litigation over the name, and neither party is letting up. The rapper has seemingly become the one legal thorn in the former kingpin’s crown.
“He’s a fraud; who likes a fake?” Ross coolly ponders. “From the beginning I basically told him you don’t have to play like you me. You can be my friend and people will still give you love and you can be yourself. He stopped taking my phone calls when I told him that and he changed his number. He went into a defensive mode like, ‘ok, I ain’t gonna mess with this dude no more. You know this dude want me to be real,” Ross laughs.
Despite much unwarranted adversity, the real Rick Ross has a plethora of projects in the works. In addition to “Crack in the System,” he is also working on a new biopic with Emmy Award-winning writer and actor, Nick Cassavetes.
“We’ve talked to Jamie Foxx about it, and he has read the screenplay; I gave it to him myself,” says Moore, Ross’s attorney. “We’ve talked to Wahlberg, (actor Mark Wahlberg} we’ve talked to Dre [Dr. Dre] for 2 or 3 hours, and the goal is to tell this story with no vanity. The truth from the dope man’s head,” Moore adds.
The truth about this legendary former “pusha man,” however, extends far beyond his “dealership;” On the streets of L.A., he also served as the neighborhood Daddy Warbucks. Having grossed nearly a billion dollars during the height of his career, he is known to have used a lot of his earnings to help support those in his community who needed it the most, paying other folk’s rent and putting food on dinner tables. Remaining true to form, Ross still has that giving spirit, and has created several programs to help those in need.
“I had to come out here and immediately start helping other people in the streets, when I’m thinking somebody should have helped me transition my life back from prison. I didn’t have that. I just got out of prison 3 years ago. I got people who are school teachers and football coaches; they call me and ask me, ‘Man can you loan me 100 dollars, can you loan me 50 dollars?—my son just got in trouble.’”
One of his programs, called Freeway Literacy Foundation, is an organization dedicated to building literacy, leadership, and entrepreneurial training among today’s youth. The organization has already begun to work with teachers, community organizers, and entertainers to boost readership. Ross, who was illiterate until he was 28-years-old, was taught to read by his “cellies” in jail. Ultimately, it was his ability to read that got him out of jail.
“I read enough to where I was able to read the law books and find issues in my case that my lawyer, who went to Harvard, couldn’t find,” Ross explains. The 9th circuit court of appeal agreed with me and said that the way that I analyzed the situation was absolutely correct and they reversed my case. The three people that introduced me to my 3 favorite books probably impacted my life more than anybody.”
Ross is also working to create more jobs in the community. Realizing how bad the economy had become upon his dismissal from prison, he decided that there was a dire need for Blacks to create more jobs for other Blacks. Thus the birth of Freeway Mixtapes, a website that serves as a platform for upcoming musicians to market their music and sell their own merchandise for free. He also created a t-shirt company.
“We are not only printing t-shirts but teaching other people how to print t-shirts,” says Ross. [We are] starting a program where we have kids come in and learn how to design t-shirts on the streets and sell them and make a few dollars, because right now it’s really about us figuring out how to do for ourselves. My goal is to bring a new mindset to the people so that we will be out here. We will do what we have to do to get ourselves in a position where we can make ourselves successful. If we don’t, we [are going to] continue to slip.”
Despite the self-imposed roadblocks resulting from a life once committed to trafficking, Ross has paid his dues and is truly living his life the free way. He has quietly merged into the mainstream and moved over to a different fast lane that will undoubtedly command a new level of respect.