I’ve been looking to make a statement about this particular topic for a little while now. It’s something that really interests and intrigues me as a hip hop fan, and a music fan overall. For those that don’t know, it recently came to light that former drug kingpin and trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross is suing his “namesake”, Miami MC Rick Ross, for misuse of the name that has brought both men s much notoriety and publicity.
In many ways, “Freeway” Ricky Ross became synonymous with the crack and drug epidemic that plagued and crippled so many communities of people of color during the Regan Era of the 1980s. It’s been reported many times that Ross’ empire, mainly residing in L.A., employed thousands of people and stretched across state lines in to areas including St. Louis, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, the Carolina’s and a host of other places on the map.
But many new school hip hoppers were introduced to the name Rick Ross by the efforts of the man that is attached to the likes of DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne and Akon and has given us singles such as “Hustlin“, “Push It”, “The Boss” and “Here I Am”. And even when it came out that Ross (the rapper) was a corrections officer for a time, his street cred only took a minor his, and then recovered nicely. A great point that was made by Ross (the former dealer) in a recent WorldStarHipHop video is that it’s not necessarily about whether Ross (the rapper) had ever done any of the stuff he said he did. As long as he’s able to make another hit, and keep doing so, he’d be good. And this, so far, has proven to be true. Here’s the video of Ross (the former dealer; sorry, but I gotta emphasize!) in his interview with WorldStar:
So all of the former kind of begs a few questions of many of us as artists, fans, businesspeople, etc. Does authenticity REALLY matter in music and entertainment anymore? Let’s think about this for a sec, shall we? Say, for example, Rapper Ross would have done what he’s done in the era/heyday of Bigge, Pac, Nas, Mobb Deep, Goodie Mob, Outkast, Geto Boys, Scarface or any similar artists. Would he still be enjoying the fruits of his labor without any repercussions, as he seemingly is now? Is it no big deal for a rapper to emulate what Dealer Ross did back in the mid-1980s without exposing young people and fans to the dark side of the drug trade and a real hustler’s life? Is it right or wrong of the Dade County MC to be walking around with a life and identity that he seems to have lifted from another man? Is “Freeway” Ross just hating on the new Ross for all of the shine he’s getting now, or is it a matter of him trying to get what’s due to him after spending so many years behind the wall? Does any of this even matter?
There’s a lot to be said for this situation, and, as Rapper Ross put it in one of his latest album titles, it’s Deeper Than Rap. There are so many issues swirling around this situation that have a whole lot more to do than with just hip hop, entertainment, or the music industry. Now, there are many out there that would disagree, saying that “Hey, it’s only entertainment!” And truthfully, they may very well have a point. Honestly, there’s always been an element within hip hop that’s been purely about showmanship and not necessarily about being “real”, and that’s something that goes all the way back to the humble beginnings in the Boogie down Bronx.
But maybe we should all take a moment to think about all the lives that have been affected by hip hop music and culture since the beginning. And sadly, you can’t help but come to the realization that rap and crackk have an intertwined history, and it definitely hasn’t always been good. Many of our brothers and sisters have had their lives changed forever because of both, sometimes at the same time, and mostly not in the positive.
Look, I’m not gonna get on any soapbox and start preaching about what’s right and wrong in terms of hip hop, music, drugs, politics or anything else. That is NOT the purpose of this entry or this blog as a whole. But, if you’re a follower (and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU if that’s the case!) I want you to do me a favor. Go to whatever website it is you go to for downloading, sampling, burning, ripping or whatever. Search for “Cocaine” by UGK off their 2007 album Underground Kingz. Listen to the whole thing, but primarily, pay close attention to Bun B’s verse (ironically, Rick Ross has the last verse on this song.) Then, go out and start doing your own research on the history of hip hop, the crack epidemic of the Regan Era, how the two are connected and start formulating your own conclusions. And when you do, challenge others around you to do the same.
Besides, there’s nothing saying that you won’t learn a little something about even more subjects and broader topics in the process. And, honestly, when has that ever hurt anybody? Thanks again for following and please spread the word. I’ll definitely try to do better next time. Until then, take care!