Identity is everything in music, and that goes double for urban artists. The way fans envision your day-to-day life directly correlates with whether or not they will believe the lines you deliver in songs, and some times that need to look “real” leads artists to lie through their teeth. Those needing proof of this need look no further than the story of Rick Ross, or should I say William Leonard Roberts II, and his current legal entanglement with one of the biggest drug traffickers in United States history.
Rick Ross burst onto the music scene in 2006 with his debut single, “Hustlin’.” The song was a bass-heavy look into the life of a Florida drug dealer with little-to-no respect for authority, which aided Ross in quickly developing an image as a criminal who had done so well for himself that he was now taking his talents to the mainstream, but the truth of the matter is that the song was only the latest in a long line of deception that continues to this day. The real story of Rick Ross (born William Leonard Roberts II) is one that includes an eighteen month stint as a correctional officer at the South Florida Reception Center and has absolutely zero connection to the drug game he prides himself on running in his songs outside the fact he once made sure convicted felons stayed behind bars. There were no boats of cocaine, nor officers paid to look the other way (at least in the early days), just a large man with an ego to match and the determination to make a better life for himself at any cost. Normally this would be okay, as every artist borrows from the realm of fiction to create their art, but when someone tries to take the life and public persona of another living individual to increase the attention they’re receiving then something needs to be said.
Some of our readers may be too young to remember this, but in the early 1980′s a man by the name of Freeway Ricky Ross ran the drug game in the city of Los Angeles. In the course of his rise, prosecutors estimate that Ross exported several tons of cocaine to New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and made more than $600 million in the process. His life before incarceration in 2006 plays like the best gangster movie (or gangster rap) and has without a doubt inspired a plethora of entertainment properties, but one thing the criminal icon never expected was to emerge from prison in 2009 to find another person peddling his identity as their own. Upon learning of and hearing the music of Rick Ross, Freeway Ricky decided to sue the rapper in 2010 for stealing his name and image. Jay-Z was called to testify in the lawsuit, as he was CEO of Def Jam when Ross was signed to the label, but the case was thrown out due to technicality before gaining much momentum in the press.
Fast forward to 2013. Rapper Rick Ross has continued to push his criminal image and in turn has found a lot of success, including his first gold album with 2012′s God Forgives, I Don’t. At the same time, Freeway Ricky Ross has continued to fight for justice, and this morning news broke that a second court date is fast approaching. A Superior Court judge in California has agreed to set an August trial date in Freeway’s new suit against Warner Brothers, Ross the Rapper’s label. Freeway told AllHipHop.com that he would be deposing some of the industry’s biggest executives in the case, all of whom are associated with the rapper Rick Ross.
“The use of my name and image helps him in internet search globally. Its career launching high value to be believed to be the only hip hop artist on this list,” Freeway Rick Ross told AllHipHop.com. “Initially it grounded his career in the confusion, now it helps clean up the inauthenticity that came out about being an officer. I don’t need my name and image diluted and confused that way without license.”
At the time of this post no comment had been made by Warner Bros, Maybach Music Group, or rapper Rick Ross regarding the new court date.