February 11, 2013 | 8:01am
At some point, a Carol City-bred corrections officers named William Leonard Roberts II stepped inside a phone booth and popped out as Rick Ross, a slow-jawing hip-hop He-Man. Although the Bawse preaches a drug-slinging, drive-by braggadocio, the gangster lifestyle -- as the media and haters have been quick to point out -- didn't initially gibe with Roberts' true background.
That's changed, though. As last month's shooting in downtown Fort Lauderdale shows, the street life now has a habit of violently reaching out for Ross and his inner circle. Another prime example of life copping moves from art: the still-unsolved 2010 murder of the Bawse's childhood friend, Raymond Adderly Jr.
Known as P-Nut because he was born a preemie, Adderly and his family grew up in Carol City. He met a bite-sized Bawse when the two were still floating through elementary school.
Later, both bonded tighter over music. P-Nut's older sister Ralanda Adderly remembers shooing Ross and her brother out of the living room at 3 in the morning after the two were working overtime on lyrics. Ross was smooth and well-mannered, she recalls, and always seemed to have a specific plan for success.
As they got older, the friends forked off onto different trajectories: Ross to superstardom, P-Nut to marriage and children. Despite the real-world responsibilities, P-Nut still worked on his music, waiting for his shot. Watching Ross shoot up the charts didn't spark any envy in P-Nut, Ralanda Adderly says. In big-sister mode, she once asked P-Nut if it was hard listening to his friend enjoy the success he also craved.
"You know what, sis? He's just doing his thing right now," P-Nut told her. "I don't have bad feelings about it. Who else would you listen to? He's part of us."
On the night of December 14, 2010, P-Nut and his family were pulling up to their home on 24th Street at SW 83rd Avenue in Miramar when two men approached them at gunpoint. Inside the house, they demanded money. P-Nut handed over what he had, but the gunmen shot anyway. P-Nut was killed in front of his wife and kids -- ages 3, 5, and 6.
In the days following the shooting, Ross tweeted his respects to the fallen friend. The rap mogul also paid for the funeral, Adderly says, and in the passing years has looked after P-Nut's three children, taking them to Dave & Buster's and wrestling matches. More public tributes followed: Ross' song "Ten Jesus Pieces" includes a shout-out to P-Nut, and another video features the rapper holding a cup imprinted with "TEAM P-NUT."
"Rick Ross, I love him," Adderly says. "He was like a little brother to me."
Two years into the investigation, police are still scratching their heads about a possible motive.
"We're working under the guise that they thought [P-Nut] was someone bigger than he was in terms of street status," says Miramar Det. Steven Toyota. "He dressed well, but he wasn't a person of means when it got down to it."
Despite snowballing success in music, violence has followed Ross. In February 2012, 39-year-old Gregory Paul Nesbit was killed outside a house Ross owned in Miami Gardens. (Police did not respond to calls for comment.) Late last year, a set of tour dates was scratched after the Chicago street gang Gangster Disciples issued video threats against Ross. The Fort Lauderdale shooting followed less than two months later. Police have not linked the threats and the shooting.
Adderly is left trying to understand what -- be it famous friends or a personal grudge -- could have put crosshairs on her brother. "My feeling is that it came from somewhere," she says. "We were so close. If he had the slightest disagreement, he would have mentioned it to me."