"Do something that's never been done before" is one of Rick Ross' favorite mantras. It serves as both a motivator and scorekeeper. It also feels boundless with potential, yet at the same time empty, like a poorly made open-world role-playing game.
That's why it helps to imagine success in a way that's easier to grasp.
"For a true entrepreneur, the mountain is everything," Ross tells New Times. "As you continue to climb, you begin to set new goals."
Ross' breakout 2006 single, "Hustlin'," is perhaps how most listeners first came into contact with the Boss. The first 15 seconds of the accompanying music video feels like the opening credits of Burn Notice: South Beach is booming with beautiful women, expensive cars, palm trees cosplaying as the ladders to Heaven, and background music signaling the party's life. Then record scratch snaps the viewer out of the glamor — only to show Ross rocking a red, Cuban-style dress shirt. He begins to flay the city's façade, inviting everyone to accompany him across the bridge to the real Miami.
Those first 30 seconds have come to encapsulate the rapper's entire career. His aura enamored listeners. Ross sounded well-traveled, self-assured, and, most of all, he made them feel welcomed. The swagger and cadence had the calmness of a politician crossed with the sternness of a parent. He made the listener feel like they were right there with him when moves are being made.
In short, Ross provided a masterclass on entrepreneurship before MasterClass ever existed.
And with the release of his 11th studio album, Richer Than I Have Ever Been, Ross continues to build on that introductory lecture. Ultimately, the record's message is about building and maintaining the relationships that bring you success. While Ross could have done the cliché and lyrically flaunted his wealth, he chose instead to share knowledge in a way that seems to separate him from it. Sure, he raps about "gettin' money," but the vivid picture he paints guarantees the listener can only come away believing it's attainable.
Now, after a two-year hiatus, Ross will be treated to a hero's welcome when he returns to his hometown of Miami Gardens to perform at Jazz in the Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, March 13. For the Boss, playing at the city-sponsored music festival, now in its 15th year, means everything to him.
"You know, Jazz in the Gardens festival is all about the city," he says. "It's about the fans who make this city what it is. The same ones who made Ricky Rozay."
Looking back at it, "Hustlin'" didn't just set the bar but influenced generations of hip-hop musicians. Ross' punchy delivery never runs out of breath. The boldness to explain his entire supply chain while driving through Carol City was unlike anything anyone heard before.
From the cover art for Richer Than I Have Ever Been's lead single, "Outlawz," to the guest appearance by erstwhile cocaine cowboy Willy Falcón on the track "Little Havana," it's clear the wealth Ross has amassed is substantial. And he encapsulates it in his branding.
As Ross sums up: "The entrepreneurship is extremely sophisticated, but I keep it simple."
Smartly, Ross puts his face on every album cover and has partnerships visible in almost every photo shoot. But ultimately, he's a master at making his audience feel like the hero in their own story.
"For everyone in Miami: Close your eyes right now," he says. "Now imagine the sun coming, with the flamingos. Now imagine Ricky Rozay coming out to the stage."
Rick Ross at Jazz in the Gardens. 4 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; jazzinthegardens.com. Tickets cost $129 to $285 via ticketmaster.com.