The New Yorker Labels Rick Ross A Con Man Who Might Have Put The Last Nail In The Coffin For Rappers Who “Keep It Real”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rapper Rick Ross’ career has been fueled by the cocaine dealing he often refers to in his lyrics. In his song “Hustlin’” off of his debut album Port of Miami he rapped that he knew former Panamanian dictator/drug kingpin Manuel Noriega.

I know Pablo, Noriega.The real Noriega, he owe me a hundred favors,” he rapped.

 

In a subsequent interview with AllHipHop, Ross admitted he didn’t actually know Noriega.

 

AllHipHop.com: What did you mean when you said “Noriega owes me favors”? [Manuel "Manolo" Noriega, the Panamanian military leader who was tried and convicted for drug trafficking. He resides in a Miami federal prison]? What does that mean?

Rick Ross: Noriega owe a hundred favors, you know what I’m sayin’? It’s just like, you know, I kick it with [Pablo] Escobar nephew. He live down here. That’s my n*ggas, you know what I’m sayin’? So I just meant like, you know, real ties with real n*ggas. That’s what that meant. I don’t know Noriega personally, but I know n*ggas who have met Noriega. I know n*ggas who was in federal prison two, three cells down from Noriega. You know what I’m sayin’? And when I talk to them, I let ‘em know you know that’s something I meant to ‘em in the movies. I’m into sh*t like that. So I’m gonna stand to that. That’s all that means.

 

So began the rapper’s mantra of fake it until you make it that has worked for him thus far.

 

In a just published article titled ‘The Sound Of Success: Rick Ross’ Confidence Game,’ writer Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker places the blame on the Miami rapper’s shoulders for making it acceptable for rappers to embellish what they say in their lyrics to the point that the motto “keeping it real” has all but left the genre.

Frere-Jones’s article reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend recently who asked me if I watched reality tv. (I do not). He explained that even though people know shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” are totally scripted and anything but “real” some people can’t stop watching them.

 

Has rap become the new reality tv? And if so is Ross it’s leading actor?

 

Originally spotted at HipHopWired

 

Check out the article from the New Yorker below.

The Sound of Success

Rick Ross’s confidence game.

by

February 13, 2012

Cocaine dreams: in his raps about the drug trade, Rick Ross  doesn’t examine the morals—what he conveys is the security and relief of being  fabulously wealthy.

 

A central motif in contemporary hip-hop is rapping about  drug dealing by artists who may not actually sell narcotics. Among others,  Jay-Z, Clipse, and Young Jeezy have rhymed about a past or present involvement  in the trade on the street. It’s typically impossible to determine whether they  are telling the truth about themselves or simply the truth about their  environment, and it’s never been clear whether listeners care. The Miami rapper  Rick Ross, who is both physically and culturally very large, talks endlessly  about extensive work in the cocaine trade. His involvement with drugs remains a  mystery, but, in 2008, the Smoking Gun published documents revealing that  Ross—who named himself after the Los Angeles drug dealer Freeway Ricky Ross—was  once a Florida corrections officer with a perfect attendance record. He has  become more popular, critically and commercially, since the revelation, and has  modified his stories of drug selling only slightly. So rap fans must be either  very poor listeners or fairly sophisticated ones—much more likely the latter.

What matters is not the rap sheet but the rhyme, and the spin the m.c. can  give to the trade. Nas generally paints a grim picture of it; Clipse offer a  cynical endorsement of dealing; Jeezy sounds both thrilled and scared by the  amount of power that drug dealers have. Ross has become a respected rapper by  depicting the life style of a boss, or a don, two words that he loves. He never  cares to unpack the morals of the drug trade—what he revels in is the security  and relief of being fabulously wealthy. This is what his voice sells, the way  Sinatra once sold an implacable but supple kind of confidence.Ross’s success in mimicking drug lords has brought him the ability to live  like one of them. Profiles have documented his large homes, his fleet of cars,  his shopping sprees at watch stores, his solicitous entourage and flexible  schedule. Ross may represent the final abandonment of hip-hop’s mandate to “keep  it real,” a concept that goes by different names now but has not gone away.  Perhaps listeners know that this is a version of “Miami Vice,” a show that Ross  claims to have been inspired by. The appeal is less some kind of documentary  thrill than Ross’s ability to transmit the confidence that comes from blithely  running up roaming fees while driving a Rolls-Royce through Samoa.When Ross strays from the formula, the results can be inconsistent. Take “Triple Beam Dreams,” from “Rich Forever,” the solid and focussed free mixtape  that Ross released in January. The triple beam is a kind of scale often used to  weigh cocaine, and the song is mostly about drug dealing. Produced by the  J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and with a guest appearance by Nas, the track begins with  a distorted, flanging synthesizer chord (as if the title sequence read “Opening  scene: Beneath bridge”). Ross says rather than raps, “It’s time to take it to  the other side, the side you gotta watch A&E cable television for, homie,  but we live this shit.” It’s telling that he invokes watching television before  relating an allegedly personal story.

Nas is nimble and concrete in his memories: “My junior high school class,  wish I stayed there / Illegal entrepreneur, I got my grades there.” By contrast,  Ross sounds uncomfortable; his standard drawl, which is both booming and  restrained, is rushed, and his lyrics are a little, well, filmic: “Before you  sell dope, there’s shit you gotta learn, nigga / Home invasions, duct tape.”

To hear Ross’s strengths on full display, try “Fuck ’Em,” another track full  of menacing synthesizers and minimal, deadweight beats. (Ross rarely bothers to  speed up his beats or invest in productions that vary from the brushed-steel and  superhero sounds that exemplify his work.) Here Ross embraces signal, though  minor, innovation: he simply brags without variation, sticking to a pose of  invincibility. “Cars just like sneakers, just got me ten pair / Dubai, I been  there, but fuck that, we in here / Roll up and inhale, I live next to Denzel /  Alonzo, my condo cost three mil’, this shit real.” A different version of the  real, then, and a more convincing one. The combination of enthusiastically  documented personal accumulation and an unworried tilt in cadence is what makes  Ross Ross. He sounds like the boss he alleges he is, and if the details are  unwholesome it’s not particularly worrying, because it’s a movie. Everybody can  love Tony Montana; it’s much trickier to love Pablo Escobar.

Ross’s popularity can be understood as a matter of tone and  character. What was once called style is now more likely to be called brand.  Previously, rappers were evaluated for their nimble rhymes and sly wit, but Ross  refuses to engage in such a contest. As has been widely noted, he sees no  problem rhyming a word with itself. His breakthrough hit, “Hustlin’,” from 2006,  rhymed “Atlantic” with “Atlantic.”

His last full-length album, “Teflon Don,” from 2010, was a disciplined,  relatively short affair that captured a sense of invincibility. “MC Hammer” is  perhaps the ultimate Rick Ross song, a combination of doomy music and a series  of rhymes that reassure you that, no matter how dark the surroundings, sheer  chutzpah is all you need. It’s a bold move to name a song after MC Hammer, who  is not exactly a legend among m.c.s. Hammer is remembered now less for his  rhyming prowess than for the enormous, and fleeting, success that he enjoyed in  the early nineties. Ross uses this scenario as an opportunity for a joke—“I got  thirty cars, whole lot of dancers / I take them everywhere, I’m MC Hammer.” Landing unvaryingly on the beat, he continues, “Black Batmobile, it’s only the  new Ferrari / It’s called Scaglietti, one button like an Atari.” With Ross’s  self-assurance, what could be a dull plod becomes a triumphal  march.

“I Love My Bitches” is a recent single reported to be on his forthcoming  album, “God Forgives, I Don’t.” The production, by Just Blaze, a vigorous blend  of live drum sounds and vocal samples, is a departure from the style of beats  that Ross prefers (dark synthesizers and slow drums), but it suits his kind of  exulting. The chorus is the title, repeated with a lazy joy, and the whole song  is yet another recapitulation of how good it feels to be the king. Other artists  would find a way to extend this story, but Ross is dedicated to uncomplicating  the pleasures of power in a warm, chesty voice that rarely rises or falls. He’s  also growing as a writer, adding more wit and phonetic play to his  self-affirmations. “Am I really just a narcissist, ’cause I wake up to a bowl of  lobster bisque?” he wonders. Money and women and alliteration please him, as do  luxury cars (his record label, Maybach Music, is named after a style of  Mercedes). Ross’s confidence can transfer easily to anyone’s inner life, with a  little suspended disbelief, and that makes him a kind of motivational speaker.  Feel as much like Ross as he does, and you become your own boss.

Ross’s new album has been delayed on account of a health scare. In October,  on two consecutive flights to Memphis, Ross suffered seizures. The official  report, several days later, was that he was fine and hadn’t been sleeping  enough. Admitting that he was vulnerable was probably the scariest thing Ross  has ever done. ♦

 

 

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