Just ask Rick Ross and he’ll tell you, it’s hard for a boss to remain dormant. After releasing his ninth album, Rather You Than Me, last March, Ross has been meticulously plotting his next move. While he is busily chipping away in the studio on his next LP, Port of Miami 2: Born to Kill, he’s also working on ways to expand his empire Maybach Music Group, which includes a role on a new TV show.
Earlier this month, VH1 announced its new music competition show Signed featuring Ross, The-Dream and Roc Nation senior VP of A&R/artist management Lenny S. Over eight episodes, the show will feature aspiring hip-hop and R&B artists competing for the industry leaders’ hearts and minds. After undergoing a bevy of challenges, the lucky winner will then have the opportunity to ink a deal with either Ross’ MMG, The-Dream’s Radio Killa Records or Roc Nation.
Having watched Meek Mill and Wale blossom under his tutelage, Ross is adept at finding new talent. And with Signed slated to premiere July 26 9 p.m. ET, Rozay is hoping to prove to America why he’s the boss with a fine eye for talent.
What made you decide to be a part of VH1’s Signed?
Rick Ross: Because of the energy they invested in the gathering of the crop of artists. That’s what impressed me, first and foremost. These 30 to 40 artists that really went in and [VH1] did a lot of work gathering these males and females from all around the United States. You know, The Bawss, I’m a CEO. I’m always looking for artists. So once I realized the energy they put into this, I said, “Yo. This is something dope.” I wanted have the opportunity to look at the guys. It’s a good thing.
You were once a young artist yourself trying to get signed. Did you see glimpses of you in some of the contestants?
I did. Most definitely I did. You know, with me being an artist that took over a decade to get on, there’s so many different things that I have in common with artists that’s struggling to get on. You know, with me being in a position that I’m in now, I’m looking for talent. I’m looking for skill, but I’m also looking for that same hunger that I had. That willingness to never give up.
You’re working alongside The-Dream for Signed. What were some key attributes that he brought to the show that you liked?
You know, I felt like The-Dream, he was one of the biggest writers of this era. I mean, from Celine Dion to Beyonce, he’s wrote hit records. I feel like if you’re an R&B artist and you came to the table sitting down with The-Dream, this would most definitely be an overnight, an overnight situation for you. And there were some incredible voices that we got to judge and be in front of.
With you being the ceo of MMG, what would you say was that key trait that you saw in a Wale, Meek Mill, Omarion and Rockie Fresh that made you sign them to your label?
For one, what I’m looking for is something different, something I’ve never seen. That’s first and foremost. That uniqueness. From there, it’s all about that hunger. You’ll never give up. There’s no plan b. I wanna see that Rozay type of vibe. A lot of times, if that comes full-circle, I believe in it.
Has there ever been an artist that you’ve passed up on that you regret you didn’t sign?
You know, I asked Wiz [Khalifa]. I asked Wiz to sign, but he had just signed his deal that morning when I asked him on a TV show.
Was this around the time he ended up going to Atlantic?
Yeah. He did.
Anybody else, or just Wiz?
Wiz just really is the one that I think about when it comes to mind. Capital Cities — the rock group — I’m a huge fan of theirs. I brought them up over to Warner. They signed them, as well. Todd Moscowitz didn’t see the vision.
So you’re not afraid to expand and go outside of hip-hop, in terms of genres?
Yeah. Most definitely. I rolled to Capital Cities music in my Rolls Royce for four months in a row. And then one day, I just said, “F–k that. Let’s go.” I brought them over to L.A. to have a meeting.
Which three R&B artists would you be interested in signing to MMG, if you ever had the chance to?
Three R&B artists if I could sign them to MMG? Well, you know, I’m a huge fan of John Legend. I would most definitely [sign him.] He has an iconic voice. We’ve collaborated several times. We’ve done some big records. That most definitely always been cool. Another incredible voice that I’m a fan of is Alicia Keys. She’s another other. These are just artists that I’m a fan of and I feel that I can make magic with. I feel like Alicia Keys is one. My homie just came to the top of my head, my homie Jamie Foxx. We just spoke a couple days ago. So you never know.
You’ve been a supporter of Lil Wayne during his battle with Cash Money. Have you continued to reach out to him as far as seeing what’s going on with his situation?
Nah. I don’t feel like it’s nothing that I really gotta keep up on. I spoke on it. I felt like it was my job with me being a boss, me being one of the biggest in the game. I spoke on it just to let the game know, to let the culture know, that with other bosses when it comes to feeding your loved ones, your little homies and the ones that help you build an empire, [that comes first]. I made that clear.
What are some mistakes you’ve made as CEO in the past that you’ve learned not to repeat today?
I mean, you know, just as a ceo and a boss, a lot of times you don’t follow budgets. You’ll just spend money based on your passion and your heart. A lot of times if it doesn’t work, it could be extremely faulty versus pacing yourself. You gotta pace yourself. You gotta make sure that the music connects as an artist instead of just going off the rip.
You have a great relationship with JAY-Z and have done numerous collaborations together including “Maybach Music” and “The Devil Is a Lie.” Which studio session was your favorite one?
You know, I got so many different stories with the big homie. It could be “Maybach Music.” It just could be. Our first time, [we were] sitting in the studio together, building. It could be “Free Mason,” with me playing the record. I played the foundation of the record backstage while he was on tour. Right before he went on stage, I played it, and he rapped his verse right there and then. I was like, “Make sure that’s the one right there.” It’s just different things and different experiences.
What’s the biggest thing that you feel like you’ve learned from JAY?
One of the biggest things that I feel like I’ve learned from Hov, period, is when I came to play him my second album. I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “As an artist, always remember this: Never listen to a beat based on if you like it. You listen to a beat based on if you could make it work.”
Meek is dropping on Friday. What advice did you give him going into his third album Wins and Losses?
I said just give ’em that passion. Give ’em both sides of the game. You know, you’re the voice for the youngsters in the streets. When he came with that title Wins and Losses, I thought it was perfect because to me, with losses, he told me the story about losing his father and his father being gunned down in the middle of the street when I went to visit him when he was locked up. Him being locked up, he was losing a million a month. It’s so many different things when he said Wins and Losses that connected with me. I was like, “Yo. This makes sense.” This will vibe with the music and this is what the streets need.
You and Drake teamed up for “Lord Knows” in 2011 for Drizzy’s Take Care album. With rumors of a potential Take Care 2 floating around, would you consider working with him again if he placed that call out to you?
You never know. You never know. It always depends on the record. Send me the record you’re talking about and I’ll hit you back in another day or two.
So you guys would still be able to knock out some good music despite his past issues with Meek?
I mean, we haven’t made any music as of recently, but we spoke a little time back and we moved on. I wanna see both of my lil’ homies shine. That’s it.
Lastly, have you started working on your 10th album Port of Miami 2, or are you still plotting?
I did. I have started. I’m cooking up. I’m doing what I do. I’m gonna be ready when I present, you know?