Rap Radar Interview: Rick Ross

RapRadar.com had a phone convo  last week with Rick Ross that focused on why he decided to pass on mogul pals like Baby and Puff and break bread with Lyor Cohen’s house. What does the future hold for Rozay the mogul and what’s the plan for his ever-growing arsenal of artists? Find out below.

Rap Radar: Why did you ultimately choose Warner Bros. as the distribution home for MMG?
Rozay: Overall it was the best situation for me. Not to go into too many details, it was certain things that were more important than others, and they came to the table. Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz, Joey IE, the whole team, we came to the table and we made it a great situation and I’m looking forward to this year. The decision I made was based on business and what was best for Maybach Music Group and my whole team.

So it was a true bidding war?
Everybody was interested, and some people I may have been closer with than others, but at the same time, they understand the time it took for me to get in this position. I couldn’t afford to leave nothing on the table.

Yeah I think the hip-hop community might not fully understand at this point that you’re more than just an artist, right?
Most definitely. Where I’m going, and where Maybach Music Group is going, it’s most definitely the time to let everybody know that this a brand that’s gon’ be here for a long time. So, you know, just get money.

So when did it click with you that you really wanted to focus on trying to lead as the head of a label?
Ever since I released my first album on Maybach Music which was Triple C’s Custom Cars and Cycles. I started taking more responsibility and really going step through step from the music to all of the business that goes around albums. From the marketing and the handling of the product, I learned a lot. I knew what I needed to really win. So that’s what the focus was just making all the things happen that’ll really put me in a position to win.

So what is your relationship right now with Def Jam? ‘Cause there’s reports that you owe them only one more album and that you’re lookin’ to leave to join your own imprint at Warner.
I’m still signed to Def Jam as a solo artist. I still have another album with Def Jam as a solo artist. When that’s over with, the deal I’mma do for Rick Ross that’s gon’ be like a Albert Pujols situation. On my next shit, I may not even want an advance, I may just want a percentage of the company, you know what I mean? On my Pujols shit.

Are you concerned that since there’s no guarantee that you’ll stay with Def Jam that they’re not gonna properly promote and market the God Forgives, I Don’t album.
Nah, not at all, the people that I work with at Def Jam, they’re winners as well. So you know, we gon’ take advantage of everything we put out, that’s what I believe. With this last album, Teflon Don, all of us developed a bond, and when I brought the last album together and presented it to their team, everybody understood the purpose for each record and for each single. We all handled business and that’s why we got the results we got. I’m not expecting no less.

So basically the decision you made didn’t really have anything to do with you having a fallout with Def Jam, or L.A. Reid in particular, right? You are just making moves as a mogul that you feel are best for your company.
Most definitely. I think that when I see artists who complain on a personal level, it makes them look bad. For one, this is an extremely difficult business and if you think this shit is rainbows—you got the game fucked up. Coming from where I come from and the kind of hustler and entrepreneur that I am, all I request is my lane and gimme that money I need. I’mma bring everything else to the light.

L.A. Reid, always been a good dude, he always cutting checks on time, anytime I made phone calls he was there for me as well as his staff. So it wasn’t about that at all. But most definitely, you know, it’s just about doing what’s best for my company.

You’re making a lot of noise with all these recent signings at MMG. When did you really decide you were gonna really sign artists to your imprint that were outside your personal circle?
Well, my love and passion for making music goes beyond myself so I’ve been in the position where I’ve been able to work with a lot of different artists over time, and I’ve developed a name for being able to put great records together with people. A lot of times I could sit back and look at certain artists situations and always kinda gauge what kind of record, that if I was working with them, I would want to hear.

Now those opportunities have presented itself. With artists such as Wale, I feel he’s one of the dopest lyricists that I’ve worked with. And I think it’s just time to channel all that in the same direction, and I don’t see no problem with that being done. With the music he’s recorded with me in the last three months, I’m excited about muthafuckas really hearing what he’s bringing to the table.

And Meek Mill?
I was on the road, I came into Philly and the streets…it was like the streets almost demanded that I meet this dude. Philly was embracing him from Twitter to the street homies that I knew from Philly.

I got him on the phone, and of course I had him come meet me. He played me his music, we met once or twice after that, and I just felt the energy. Then I heard his story, his struggle, growing up in Philly, the things that he witnessed, his father being slayed, him being incarcerated and coming out. He was really pouring his life into his music, and me hearing his flow and his aggression, I was mesmerized. I understand he’s a self-made dude.

You’ve signed these guys and you’re right in the lab with them, really knocking out records fast. How did the chemistry develop so quickly?
I think it comes from everybody playing their position, and that’s something that we established quick. We gon’ all ride for each other, but we all gotta play our positions. As long as we keep that system, we gon’ win. My key to success is I work hard. That’s the first thing I let artists in on—that’s what Maybach Music is built on. I may sleep two hours a day.

When we get in Swisher Suite studio, we ain’t thinking ‘bout nothing else but hit records. We gon’ drink a little champagne, a little Ciroc, we gon’ smoke good, and we gon’ motivate each other, and we gon’ really create. Create that hot piece, and that’s what it is. It’s no relaxing. Ain’t no beds for niggas, ain’t no beds. It’s pads, it’s ink pens, and it’s beats. We got as many bottles of champagne as you need, and the smoke is unlimited, but other than that, we ain’t relaxing.

He came to the table rocking his gold Rollys and his black diamonds. As a young dude, he may have had five different sets of jewels before he even came into the fold with me. That hustle I automatically connect to and it made it that much more easier for us to make music and talk about the things we talk about.

Talk to me about your latest signing, Pill, who was already signed to Warner, how’d he get moved to MMG?
Yeah we’re the new powerhouse over at Warner and I got an opportunity to look at the roster and Pill was an artist I felt that we should acquire. I’ve been watching him grind for the last 2 years, he was somebody I was a fan of. I like his element of storytelling, the way he presents his rhymes. Especially coming from the A where so much dance music comes from. I most definitely wanted to embrace that.

Let’s go back to Wale, because you know obviously he’s a guy who made a lot of noise through the Internet and mixtapes, and when his debut album came out, it didn’t do so well and he caught a lot of criticism. How do you deal with that, the perception of him? What made you believe that numbers don’t define who he is and the talent that he has?
It’s because I understand his ability, I understand his ideas, I understand the market he’s coming from. You know he’s coming from DC, he’s coming from the DMV. So that wasn’t the strongest area for hip hop artists. And Miami was in that position for a long time. He showed a lot of potential with his album, but I think it wasn’t his time. Maybe the Lady Gaga was a little early, but whatever it was, it doesn’t take away from Wale being a fly young lyrical dude. And that’s what I wanted to capitalize on.?He has a record by the name of “The Andy Warhol Gallery,” and the way he paints pictures, I haven’t really heard anyone do that in a long time. It’s like damn, this shit is so concentrated and his hunger now is even more than before. It’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s gonna be one of the biggest artists this year.

A lot of folks are still concerned and are questioning how Wale’s sound can mesh with the public’s perception of your sound?
It’s not necessarily about our sounds meshing. What we both have in common, is we’re lyricists. We both are storytellers, we’re both great with the wordplay.  And that’s our foundation, that’s our common ground. Other than that he likes different types of music, which I can appreciate. I think that’s what makes it dope.

How much involvement do you feel like you’re gonna have with your artists’ projects? Like should we expect to see you as a featured guest on some singles?
I won’t necessarily say that’s the standard, because it’s not. The records that we bring to the forefront are the records that we feel are the best. And if I’m not on those records, that’s what it is. The records that I bring to the table they may serve a different purpose versus being a single which I’m totally cool with that. Wale got a record now, it’s Wale, Meek, and J. Cole and I did the chorus and it’s just like damn. It’s one of those records, I would love to be on but I’m not. I’m on the chorus but it’s just one of those records that you want to put a verse on. That’s the kind of music we want to make.

Any idea of doing a Maybach Music compilation album to introduce the new movement fully?
I think we will bypass the compilation aspect but we’re gonna be releasing mixtapes. I was on the phone with DJ Drama last night discussing the possibility of a Maybach music, Gangsta Grillz. Like what we could do to make it different, you know. We had a good conversation.

So what is the scheduled rollout for the MMG roster?
It basically boils down to the records determining the setup that we end up doing. Right now, we’re just accumulating music, we’re loading our arsenal up, we’re gettin’ records from everybody. Swizz just sent me a crazy record for Meek Mill. I’m getting in the studio with Mike Dean. But you can expect singles from all the acts in the next three months.

So we’re gonna get a new Rick Ross, Wale, Meek and Pill album this year. Are you on some No Limit shit? Are you concerned with over saturation or anything like that?
No, not at all, I just worry about hit records.

Last question, so are the other moguls still speaking to you even though you went to Warner. Ha! What’s up with Puff and Baby?
Birdman is one of the realest niggas in the game. That’s my blood right there, that’s family right there, that’s my nigga right there. He support me to whatever, you know what I mean. And even though I still got my label deal over at Warner, he still got other opportunities. He want me to fuck with him as well as Puff. So these are dudes that I look up to for any questions I have. I can always go to them and you know they’ve been supportive from day one. I salute them gangstas.

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