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.
Check out an excerpt from the article below.
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.
Ross’ 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’ ability to transmit the confidence that comes from blithely running up roaming fees while driving a Rolls-Royce through Samoa.
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?
To read all of Sasha Frere-Jones' article head over to the New Yorker.
Originally spotted at HipHopWired