Over the past decade, Rick Ross has been one of the most consistent rappers on the planet, releasing seven straight top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, including five that went straight to No. 1. But on his upcoming eighth studio album Black Market, due out via Def Jam in December, he seems finally ready to address the biggest knock on his catalog, one that’s plagued him particularly since the Nov. 2014 release of his last LP, Hood Billionaire. For the first time in his career, the Maybach Music Group chief is embracing evolution, letting fans into the more personal side of his life in a way that he’s never truly done before.
Ross’ output to date has been full of bombastic street anthems, tales of being a drug dealing hustler and luxurious meditations on the flashier side of life. But if Black Market‘s lead single, the introspective “Sorry” featuring Chris Brown and produced by Scott Storch, is anything to go by, Ricky Rozay is stepping away from his gaudy high-roller persona to tackle some of his inner demons, a direction borne from some of the lows that have plagued his personal life in the past 12 months.
Those lows have been well-documented, with the toughest blow being his June arrest on charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault that landed him in a Georgia jail for a week, requiring him to put up his $5 million mansion as collateral and sticking him with an ankle monitor that allows the Fayette County courts to keep an eye on his whereabouts. The experience halted him in his tracks, forcing him to look inward and assess what led to one of the game’s biggest artists to sit alone in a cell at the mercy of the legal system. Two months after his release, Ross dropped Black Dollar, his first mixtape since 2012, which served as the first indication that he was on a different lyrical path than his past work. Even his choice of collaborators for “Sorry,” Brown and Storch, seem particularly poignant. Both have dealt with their own recurring set of issues over the past 12 months, with Brown’s frequent court appearances and Storch’s latest bankruptcy filing landing them in headlines more often than their music. If Black Market is Ross’ quest for redemption, he’s making his intentions as clear as possible.
But not everything has been a negative for the Bawse lately; he recently got engaged to 21-year-old model Lira Galore, who is set to star in the upcoming video for “Sorry,” and has been dropping a slew of moderately to well-received remixes for songs as diverse as Future’s “Stick Talk,” Post Malone’s “White Iverson” and Adele’s “Hello.” As Rick Ross unveils the cover art to his latest album (both the regular and deluxe edition art) to Billboard, he speaks about his new direction, his love for Adele and the possibility of life after Def Jam, the only label he’s known as a solo artist.
I wanted to talk to you about your new album.
Yeah, Black Market. This is gonna be a person to person Rick Ross LP, maybe the first one I recorded this way.
How did you approach it differently than your past work?
You know, a lot of times I love writing in the capacity of groups of people, clubs, visions; rarely is it intimate moments where you’re just totally confined to yourself. And I did a lot of writing and I had a lot of time to do that. The music kind of came out that way.
You said that your last album, Hood Billionaire, was an album for the streets. Is there a concept for this one?
You know, this album is, I feel like, most definitely gonna be a Rozay on a higher, intellectual level, just discussing a different array of things. When you listen to records like “Foreclosure,” that’s like me sitting in a room by myself just rapping about things that’s running across my mind and things that have been bothering me. And during my incarceration, that was the type of music I created. Just in that short moment of time, I really just sat there… I’m a muthafucka that flies six million miles a year and just to halt one day, out of the blue, for three weeks? It’s just, “Woah.” There’s a lot of shit that I wrote and a lot of shit that I thought about. I came back out and scrapped a lot of music and I recorded some dope songs, but my first day home I recorded six records. So that’s why I was able to put out the Black Dollar record and have been releasing a slew of freestyles, just feeding the fans and everybody that’s been asking for that Rozay music.
In getting more personal in your lyrics, were you ever hesitant about showing that side of yourself? You haven’t really done that too often in the past.
No, not at all. I just feel like everything has a time and a place, and I feel like the time for that is now. Being in the position I’m in, financially where I am, as an entrepreneur, as a young boss, as a black entrepreneur, there’s just a lot of different things and a lot of different ways I needed to come to the table that it was just time for.
A lot of your albums you’ve led with bigger, more bombastic singles. But your first single for this album, “Sorry” with Chris Brown, is a lot more low-key. Why did you decide to go with that one?
Just because I felt like this record was just that powerful. All the elements that was involved, just from the story, the legend of Scott Storch, a close friend of mine who produced it. This record will mean so much more to him a year from now than he could ever imagine. As well as Chris Brown going through his personal things and capturing that emotion and actually putting it on the record for me, that spoke volumes. And you know, where I’m at in my personal life, I understand what it is to apologize for some of your wrongs and to move forward. So I just think that at the time it just fit, it felt so good. And the response we got when we world premiered it — I never had a record respond that fast.
You’re engaged now. Are we going to see a softer side of Rick Ross now?
I think that is the softer side, would be records like “Sorry.” [Laughs] I always made a few records in the past — “Aston Martin Music,” “Diced Pineapples” — that the ladies would always be able to appreciate. And I think that just went to another level as far as it being that much more personal.
Why did you decide to go with the title Black Market for the album?
I believe I’ve always been so successful on the black market, for a lot of different reasons. And I just felt like that’s the space we’re in, that’s the space the music is at right now. And who else better to engulf that other than The Bawse?
The album artwork has a similar theme to Black Dollar. What stuck out to you about that design?
It just felt holographic, like a hologram. Just a lot of different things. First and foremost, it was different than any other artwork, so I was bringing another energy in art to the table. But at the same time, there’s just so many different things to say and to discuss. And as you look into the art and the words that are in there, it’s a lot of powerful topics.
How much input did you have on that design? Or the words and themes that are on there?
The first designs began to come before I even completed Black Dollar, me having the idea and understanding the concept of wanting to do the Black Dollar. Where does that go and where does that end up? Of course, the black market. And I look around, I’m in a room full of corporate people, supposed to be, but we all ascribe well on the black market. And I just wanted to do it this way. So I wanted it to represent a lot of different things, so when the first concepts started coming in, I gave my input and which way to lean and the homie who did the artwork, he captured that in a perfect way.
It’s just whatever I like, or what I’m a fan of. I might ask on Twitter every blue moon, I might ask my fans what they want me to retouch. I asked them that a day or two ago and they told me [Future and Drake‘s] “Jumpman” and I gave it to them a few hours later.
So you’re a big fan of the new Adele single?
I love the Adele single. I’m a huge fan of Adele, her last album, the 21 project, I loved that album. I’m just a fan.
Have you reached out to collaborate with her?
Nah, I’m reaching out through you guys right now. Adele, I love you, baby. Get at me — I got a wonderful idea for us. [Laughs] Congratulations on your new music.
This is your last album for Def Jam. I know you’re in conversation with a lot of different labels, but what’s the most important thing you’re looking for in your next situation?
You know, it’s one word, which is ownership. At the end of the day it’s all about ownership. How much more can I own. As well as understand my vision, execute the plans that I need, because they’re gonna be bigger than they ever were and the demands are most definitely gonna rise.
What’s the status of the MMG deal? I know that’s with Atlantic right now, but are you trying to take that with you wherever you go?
It’s with Atlantic right now, but I have a lot of people interested in possibly bringing MMG over to new situations and I’m entertaining those conversations, most definitely.
Ideally, would you like to go somewhere where you and MMG are in the same situation?
You know, that’s a discussion I’ve had over and over. It may be 50/50, the conversation I’ve had with others. But for me, it’s about what’s gonna work best for the team, not just myself, but for the artists that’s signed to Maybach Music. Whatever that is, that’s the decision and that’s the way I’m gonna go.
T.I. just went independent for the first time after 15 years in the major label system. Are you entertaining the idea of going independent?
You know, we’ve had a lot of different offers. Independent would most definitely be one of those last ones, but I’ve had trillionaires, muthafuckas that are coming to the table saying, “Fuck a major deal, I want to finance this or that.” Of course the major labels are involved, but there’s just so many different other possibilities that’s coming to the table. And for any artist that is independent, whatever works best for that artist for the situation they’re in and the music that they make, I salute them. Because there’s most definitely a lot of artists that are profiting more being independent. But depending on who you are and what you demand and your pace of moving and things of that nature, I think all that plays a part in your results.