When we think about legends in the Bay area of California hip hop, we think of legends like E-40, Too $hort, Mac Dre, and Hieroglyphics along with too many others to name. When we think about drug kingpins from the state of California, one person’s name always comes to mind, Ricky Donell Ross, better known as the infamous Freeway Ricky Ross. When Oliver North and the Reagan administration were at the center of the entire Iran-Contra Scandal in the 1980’s that allowed crack cocaine to flood various urban neighborhoods across the country, one person had already been moving tons of crack cocaine several years earlier, and that person was Ross.
Prior to being released from prison in 2009 Ricky was set up by the powers that be, from political administrations to law enforcement agencies and even drug dealing associates. He was originally incarcerated in 1996. Freeway Ricky Ross is now at a crossroads and on a quest to try to bring about some righteousness out the things that he did wrong. Although Ross, at one point in his life, moved hundreds of kilos of cocaine in a short period of time and made millions of dollars, some reports say that Rick actually made upwards of $600 Million. However, when he came home he had to start from scratch. With a new outlook on life, Ross wants to change the way that urban youth see America.
Most recently, Ross was at the center of a high-profile lawsuit against Maybach Music Group’s, CEO/Founder Rick Ross. Freeway Ricky Ross did not win the first round through the legal system in trying to sue Rick Ross for the use of his name. Initially, Freeway said that Rick Ross and his self actually had a sit down to try and come to some terms of agreement. Freeway says that Rick Ross reneged on his offer of making things right between them and that’s what sparked the bad blood.
Hip Hop Vibe had the opportunity to sit down with not only the man, but the legend in Freeway Rick and we found out that people truly can change some things for the better but certain things will always remain the same. When Freeway Ricky Ross came home, he came home with the intentions of making things in his neighborhood and in peoples lives a lot better than the way they were when he left for prison years earlier and what follows are the words of the original “BAWSE,” Freeway Ricky Ross.
Read the entire interview below:
What is your movement comprised of right now and what exactly are you doing? The overall movement is to make my city a better city to make my country a better country as my number one goal right now in order to accomplish that goal there’s a lot of other little small strategic things that must happen. And I’m also working on those things as well. I’m working on movies, record labels, social network websites, bio sites and I go around to a lot of schools and speak to a lot of kids. I also go to a lot of juvenile halls, I go to a lot of halfway houses I visit a lot of drug rehabilitation houses. So basically I’m just get it in wherever I can with as many people as I can do interviews like this here. It helps me get the word out that we can do better
What are some of the schools that you been to and what is the message that you getting out to the kids and that you will be at in the future where people can catch you speaking? I’ve been to a lot of Universities like UCLA, St. Francis in Chicago, Morehouse College, I’ve spoken at high schools like Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, Locke High School in Los Angeles, which is supposed to be one of the worst high schools in the city. I’ve also spoken a lot of high schools in Atlanta and all throughout Chicago too many for me to actually remember all of them.
Give us a roundabout synopsis of what the middle the beginning and the end is of your story that you tell the kids? I tell them a story. I let them know that I made a lot of money selling drugs. I let him know that most of rap is that they look up to right now that these rappers actually look up to me because I had real money you know, not the kind of money when you have to go to some Jewish guy and ask him if you can get an advance. I used to give advances. I also let them know that I was 28 years old when I first learned how to read. I let them know I used to believe that I was dumb and illiterate and that I couldn’t compete and that the school wasn’t for me. I just believed all of that, until the time that I was forced to put on my thinking cap I was also forced in: learn how to read to free myself while I was in prison and what I found out was that I allowed other people to dictate to me who I was and what I could do and when you really become your own person and your own man, then you won’t allow others to influence your thinking. I let them know that they almost become critical thinkers. I let them know that they have to learn how too adapt and learn how to decipher what they hear on the radio when he hit his rappers talk about how much drugs they sold and how high they get out much money they have and they say all of that just to make them look better than bigger than life and try to make you look like you nothing.
What is the current situation with you and Rick Ross? I know that there was a verdict in the court room and that you lost the initial first round how did the whole thing start and what was the motivation behind it and what are you trying to accomplish in that area by going at Rick Ross? Well, it started for me one day when I was in jail and I picked up a magazine and saw that this guy had taken my name. At first, I thought this was his real name, and then I read more of the article and he said that he had gotten the name from me. So, I wondered how could get the name from me without asking me? I reached out to him and I said that we need to sit down and talk. He ended up telling a bunch of lies and I said “okay if that’s how you do it, then it is what it is” and I had a lawyer contact me and say “you know what? This guy owes you a lot of money,” so I let the lawyers take the case and I let them do what they think is right I let them do what they think needs to be done.
What was the outcome of the initial case? Well, they have a thing that they call the Statute of Limitations. They have statutes of limitations on everything. We never got into the essence of the case where we spoke about is it my name did he really still my name or was the rightful owner of the name. Statues of limitations protect people from almost anything. They have a statute of limitations on crime, on drugs, for stealing a car. Well the statue limitations for stealing somebody’s property, is two years. So basically, the judge said that I should have filed my case within two years after finding out that he was using my name, while I was in prison. Then I was told that that if he publishes the name or makes a new album with the name or uses the name again at a concert then the statute of limitations starts all over again. We argued that every time he does a new album or uses the name again in any way that the statute of limitations starts over. Every time he goes on the radio or every time he does a concert name but the judge didn’t see it our way. The judge said that it was not a reuse or republication of the name and once he said he was Rick Ross the big bad ass so-called drug dealer so the just case out on him and on Universal Records and the funny thing about it is that we found out that the judge who oversaw the case used to be a lawyer in the law firm that represented Universal Records. We argued that that should be a conflict of interests for her not to disclose to us that she was an attorney for Universal Records. So they go and hire a new lawyer and we come to find out that this new lawyer used to also work at the same law firm that used to represent Universal Records at the same time. So we don’t know exactly how it’s gonna work yet. All that information should have definitely disqualified the judge from overseeing the case. So the judge did allow us to go at Warner Bros. and we should be doing our depositions in the next couple weeks.
Did you reach out to Ross first? Yes I did. I felt disrespected after we spoke, he didn’t live up to his word and now he’s saying that he didn’t get the name from me. So he’s switching up his story. Let me tell you how silly this guy is. This guy paid his lawyers. $1.3 million to fight me in court now here you are an artist who only sold 200,000 records and probably think so that many, I think he probably sold about 50,000. Now he owes the record label $1.3 million for attorney fees. Don’t you think this guy should wake up and just give me a call and say, let me stop spending all this money on lawyer fees? And, now he’s gonna do the same thing with Warner Bros. because I’m not letting up. I hope they take all his royalties.
I come from Queens, New York and in the 80s when the crack epidemic swept through our neighborhoods it really destroyed a lot of lives so when you go to those juvenile halls or the halfway houses or the prisons and you speak with people and you tell them how you dealt with this epidemic mentally, spiritually and physically, emotionally, what is the most rewarding thing for you? Well, first of all, anybody that sells drugs there has to be something wrong with them. You don’t just come out here and keep doing what you’re doing, especially when you know that it’s affecting other people lives. And when I looked at myself in a prison cell and I look back at my life and I look back at all the kids that had to go hungry for me to ride around in a nice car and have a house with all the nice stuff, I had to look back at that and say that there had to be something wrong with me. I never saw myself as being a bully or taking from the poor and giving to the rich, even though a lot of the people that I sold to in the beginning were wealthy. I also know that they were welfare people who started to get high on the drugs. I had to look at it from every different angle not just from my point of view and I couldn’t just say well if I don’t do if somebody else’s gonna do it I’m going to do it because it’s too easy to just say that.
I’m going to take a quote from the episode of “American Gangster” that featured you where your tennis coach Pete Brown from Dorsey High said, “He had a good strategy in his play.” You may also made All City at Dorsey High, so do you think that if you continued playing Tennis you would’ve had a better shot or was it a case of once you saw how much money you could make and how quickly you can make it in the streets did that option of playing tennis just fade away? Well, first of all you have to have money to play Tennis, which is why there are not a lot more Black tennis pros than the ones that we have today. Like Serena and Venus Williams. I saw Venus and Serena Williams grown up, as kids we used to be at the tournaments together when they were growing up and I saw the sacrifice that their father was making and that’s why have so much respect for them. And no matter what they say you know I know he was working a regular job and I think that he was a postman. If I’m not mistaken but he had dedicated his entire life to his kids so that they could become tennis players and when I was a kid I didn’t have anybody to make that commitment to me.
Tell us what you’re doing as far as the entertainment industry is concerned and some of the projects that you’re working on and what’s coming from you in the future? I have a couple of artists like KO and Franco the God. I’m also working with Warren G and Sir Jinx, Slim the Mobster who is my nephew. I’m also trying to put together an independent artist alliance that will bring all of the artists together and we can start doing things that will set the stage for ourselves. I spoke to E- 40 and Too $hort a few weeks ago, along with Melly Mel as well. I think that what we have to do is come together and start our own system for ourselves. We’re still in the beginning stages. Basically it was just an idea that I had that we should all come together to do our own thing. I mean a lot of people don’t know that you can make an independent film for about three or $400,000 and I think that a lot of these guys should be in a position where they can do independent films and still make money. You know guys like Too $hort, E-40, and, Melly Mel, I think we can all come together and really affect the way that our people see themselves.
When you were going through all the legal things that you had to deal with years ago and you were at an age where you were an adult but you weren’t able to read, even though you were probably able to comprehend things that were going on around you better than most people that were your age and within your circle, was there ever a time when you thought that this thing was going to be as big as it was going to be as far as the CIA, Oliver North, the Reagan Administration, Iran-Contra and the Nicaraguan Government was concerned ? Did you see it coming it at all? No I did not. I was completely clueless to the fact that Nicaragua was involved or anything like that.
Did you feel like you had to play the tape over and over in your mind once they finally grab you and incarcerated. You and did you feel by replaying that saving your mind that you started to feel like damn I should aspire that here quite spotted that there or I was slipping. I wasn’t on my toes. How did you feel about that? Yes, I definitely did. I mean, you can always look at things in hindsight and I can play it, over in my mind that I should’ve quit here are should have quit there but in the end I had to come to the realization that this is where I was and this is what I had to deal with and that’s what I did. I pulled myself together. I taught myself how to read and I went from reading the newspaper to reading law books.
What was the most resounding thing that you found out about yourself as you started to train your mind and begin to look at your life in a different light? Well, as far as me getting out of prison, there were a couple of words that popped out at me one day and those words were “You had to commit a crime go to jail and get out where out to be considered a career criminal.” Knowledge wise it would be the book as a man thinks by James Allen when he talked about a man being the gardener of his mindset. He said that you can cultivate your mind and put the right thoughts and you might or you can just let garbage comment TMI and what I found out is that most of us right now. Our minds are being polluted by weed. Most of the music and the things that the kids listen to are polluting their minds.
Do you feel like you want to be involved in a part of changing some of the laws as far as the Federal Mandatory Minimum sentences are concerned because the sentences for powder cocaine is so much more less harsh than a sentence for crack cocaine? Yes, I want to change all of them. I think that is very unfair that they are punishing us the way that they are that they punish crack 100 times worse than they do powder cocaine. I’m in a distinctive, 1801, but now they’ve made it retroactive and that really puts me off because I left a lot of guys in prison that I gave the first drugs to and I want to see about getting those guys out.
What’s the next biggest thing on the menu for Mr. Freeway Ricky Ross? Well, the next biggest thing for me is a documentary that I’ve been working on called Crack in the System and it has a double meaning. This documentary is really gonna break down how the whole system between Ronald Reagan and George Bush basically flooded our communities with cocaine and then once they flooded it with cocaine to raise the money that they needed to fight this secret war over Nicaragua, they turned around and gave us these harsh laws to incarcerate us in mass numbers. Black males from 24 to 32 are the most incarcerated people in the history of the world right now. It was 800 per 100,000, and now its black men who are between the ages of 24 to 32 and its 10,000 per 100,000. I hear people say the system must be broke and I say no the system is not broke. It’s working exactly the way that they want it to work.
They used to call you the predator and the pawn when it came down to the situation that you and so what is the next step, so that we don’t have another generation that fall into the same traps that you fell into? What I think we should do is educate our people. Once you become educated we can be taken advantage of. As long as we are uneducated things will happen to us.
Are there any major names partnering with you on the documentary crack in the system? It’s crazy that all these guys call themselves old. She’s this and old geez that and not one of them stepped up to help me put this documentary together and had scraped get the money to put it together. The things that have happened. This is our history. This documentary is black American history. This is going to show everyone how the system has systematically in trying to make us look a certain way to let America off the hook. They try to make us feel like the things that they do to us are justifiable.
You said that you spoke to people like E -40 and Too $hort and when you talk to those cats along with Melly Mel those are a lot of the older cats now are those the only cats from that era that has stepped up to help you or has there been anybody else that stepped up? Well, those of the main three that have stepped up but I have also talked to Dr. Dre and he hasn’t really said whether he’s in or out yet, and this is going to be tough to do, because we’re going against the system. And if you getting a check from the system then it’s hard to go against the system it’s hard to go against the people that are paying the bills but they don’t pay my bills. I’m not looking for a handout or fairy godmother or fairy godfather to come down and pay my bills. I’m taking care of my own bills.
If you had to look back on your life and you had to reflect and pick one thing from your life that you would leave here is a legacy if you had to leave Earth tomorrow, what would that one thing they? Man! What would have one thing the? I guess the one thing that I would leave to people is that they need to become critical thinkers because without becoming a critical thinker you’ll become whatever you can become a Red Cross and you can run around so cracked everybody you can pimp your sister or you can pimp your brother, you can be made to believe anything that the people want to believe you’ll call yourself a bitch and I’ll or trick. Once they control your mind, they’ll have to do anything else. I was reading the book once, and they would talk about how they handle the elephants would big chains and he put the big chains on the elephants for so many months and then after a while they take the chain. Often they put a little strain on but the elephant is been programs so well with the big chain that he doesn’t even fight and then wrote if the rope tightens up he stops and I believe that that’s the same condition that we been put in his black Americans, so we must protect our minds at all costs.