3:30 On an overcast November afternoon, Rick Ross is sitting at a conference table inside Def Jam’s Manhattan offices. His fiancee Lira Galore to his left, the Miami MC, 39, lifts a blunt to his lips and inhales before offering Billboard a drag. “It’s all love,” he says. “It’s the business.” Def Jam staffers file into the room to hear Black Market, Ross’ eighth album (due Dec. 4), for the first time. “The rollout of a classic has to have the heart of all the people working it,” he says. “There’s no way they can have their heart in it if they don’t believe in it. It’s like taking your kids to school on the first day.”
3:45 After Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels enters, Ross plays a series of operatic records with collaborators including Future, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, John Legend, CeeLo Green, Nas and DJ Premier. Ross mimes his lyrics and sips Luc Belaire Rose. “We got to remind n–as Def Jam is the greatest,” he says. “This album is going to be a death blow.”
4:45 In the elevator on the way out, Ross pulls Galore close for a kiss — then goes further, jokingly licking her face like a lion. Afterward, she spies her man staring attentively at his phone, seemingly at her Instagram page. “Look at you lurking!” she teases. Ross lets out a hearty laugh. The pair broke up a week earlier but already are back together. All is fair in love and selfies.
5:00 Ross, Galore, his business team and his security ride in a black SUV to the Hell’s Kitchen studio of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. The host is one of the few black faces in late-night TV, a fact that isn’t lost on Ross. “I’m not a late-night motherf–er; I’m watching The First 48, people putting bodies in bags and shit like that,” he says, while getting a preshow haircut in his dressing room. “But I think it’s important to keep black faces that can relate to African-Americans in these positions.”
7:00 During Wilmore’s “Keep It 100” segment, Ross is on the hot seat. Asked if he would squash his longtime beef with 50 Cent to end racism, he concedes: “If I got to take him to Wing Stop and have him eat some lemon pepper wings to stop racism, that’s what I’m going to do.” After the taping, he clarifies his comment to Billboard: “A hypothetical question — of course, I wouldn’t think twice about that,” he says, referring to Wilmore’s imaginary scenario. “But anything other than that…” Point made.
8:00 Ross and company head to the Meatpacking District Pan-Asian bistro Buddakan. Seated at a corner table, he fingers his chopsticks. Galore rubs his beard. He looks curiously at his mojito. “Do I drink the leaf?” he asks. “It’s mint,” she replies. Heaping plates of black bass, lamb chops and chili chicken arrive. Debilitating seizures in 2011 prompted Ross to drop more than 100 pounds, but he still indulges. “I still got to treat myself,” he says. “I eat the way I want to eat. If you set a regimen up, you can lose weight. I grinded my weight off.”
9:15 Over dinner, Ross is an open book when it comes to Maybach Music Group, his imprint with Atlantic. Black Market features the song “Color Money,” where he rhymes: “My little homie made a million on his girl’s tour,” a seeming reply to a line on Drake‘s “Back to Back” that disses MMG’s Meek Mill for opening for girlfriend Nicki Minaj. “I’m just stating facts,” says Ross. “My homie made a million on that tour — don’t get it twisted.” And the recent beef between Meek and fellow MMG act Wale? “If they want to go out back and do something, they can: I got a big-ass yard. But I know them — they’re brothers, they love each other.” On rumors MMG is leaving Atlantic for Epic: “I got to make a decision as early as next week. Whatever deal I do next, it’s all about publishing and owning masters.”
9:45 Ross is tired, but the listening party for Pusha T‘s upcoming album is at a loft space across town. “Is it going to be cool?” he asks his crew. “It’ll be like, backpackers,” slang for nerdy rap purists, comes the reply. Twenty minutes later, he’s inside the Chinatown venue. “Appreciate you coming,” Pusha tells him. “Most definitely,” says Ross, his signature reply. But the crowd is thinning. It has been a long day, so maybe that’s a good thing. Ross grabs his lady by the hand, and they walk out into the New York night.
See photos from Rick Ross’ day in the life in New York City here.
Listen to Rick Ross and other artists featured in this week’s issue of Billboard.
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 12 issue of Billboard.