Crack & Redemption
Michael and Pele discuss the ways they’ve seen addiction, drugs and drug policy impact people and communities. They bring on Freeway Rick Ross, who shares how and why he stopped dealing drugs, his experience in prison, and how his name was stolen. The episode then turns to redemption, second chances, and what Freeway hopes his legacy will be.
[00:32] Michael Bennett: On this week, we have a guest, Rick Ross. Not the Rick Ross that I listen to; Rick Ross is one of my favorite artists. You remember when Blake first heard Rick Ross? That’s my style. My daughter Blake heard Rick Ross, she was a baby and her head started bopping.
[00:45] Pele Bennett: No, she would be sleeping, and we put Rick Ross — when his beats come on, she would wake up to a dance. We would cut it off and she would go back to sleep.
[00:57] Michael Bennett: We talk about drugs because of our guest. Drugs is very interesting because there’s some things that are illegal drugs and some that aren’t illegal. How could you really determine what drugs are good for you, what drugs are bad for you? Because some people think like marijuana — like the Rastafarians think marijuana is the gateway to everything and some people smoke marijuana to get away. So people are addicted to things that are served over the counter.
[01:20] Pele Bennett: I think it’s kind of — not confusing, it gets more difficult when you talk about using drugs, as you were saying, like with Rastafarians, like a way of living. Or someone uses it as a religion, you know, way of life. I think that does make it difficult to separate on how it should be used, why it should be used.
[01:38] Michael Bennett: And that’s the hardest part because, you know, you got like somebody like Rick Ross, who gets prosecuted for his role in the drug business, and his role in supplying people with a narcotic that they shouldn’t have that is deemed irresponsible and deemed to ruin families. But then you have the people that are from the pharmaceutical companies who supply people with drugs every single day. You go to CVS, you go to all these different places, people get all types of drugs, and people just get addicted to them. I feel that there should be some kind of fairness in the prosecution of that. Because some medicine is used for healing.
[02:15] Pele Bennett: Actual, medicinal purposes or homeopathic ways of healing. But I do think once it starts to have that trigger of, you know, you feeling the need and the want, then it does change it.
[02:24] Michael Bennett: But that’s the thing that kind of gets me, though, cause have are drug dealers who supply drugs and they do things, right? But there are those companies who have a drug that can potentially help somebody that’s dealing with something, and they hold you back because they want to create a bigger supply and demand.
[02:38] Pele Bennett: I mean, I guess if you look at — I thought what you were just about to say is that they both can cause addiction. You know, it’s just a different type of dealer.
[02:47] Michael Bennett: But, you know, OK, like pharmaceutical companies, they should be held accountable for not giving people the narcotics that they need for health reasons. How could somebody that’s selling drugs and being persecuted for doing something illegally, how is that not deemed illegal when a pharmaceutical company, and somebody needs a drug to stay alive, but they can’t get it because they ain’t got no money. It’s just like a dirty game.
[03:13] Pele Bennett: It is a dirty game because we don’t set the system up that way for us. It’s set for us, not by us. So in order to get what we need, we have to go around those loops and, you know, all those different ups and downs and ways to get to the end. But it’s not set up for us, that’s why it’s so much more difficult.
[03:30] Michael Bennett: I feel like it’s just like people take the Hippocratic Oath in a way instead of it used to be, I feel like before being a doctor was something that people would do to help save people. But now when people talk about being a doctor, the first thing they come to is I want to make money. So it’s like I just feel like somewhere along the line our morality is kind of shaken.
[03:49] Pele Bennett: It’s a lack of. As a child, you’re taught that, you know, when you’re going into your career path of life for the future, what is motivating you? And now it’s money. What will get you wealthy? No one talks about what comes with the wealth and sacrifice and all those different things that you have to go through because they’re looking again on the end.
[04:09] Michael Bennett: It’s like the lady — me and Pele couple of years ago, we met the president of Liberia, which is a woman. And I was giving an award to Paul Allen, he gave $100 billion. And she got up there and she said AIDS was given to her people. But my whole thing is that I feel like the pharmaceutical companies, drug dealers, everybody should be held to the same accountability when it comes to dealing drugs, whether it is illegally or what is deemed to be legal. Everybody should have some kind of some be reprimanded for their hand in the drug epidemic in America right now.
[04:48] Pele Bennett: I think addiction comes in various ways. So whether it’s drugs, whether it’s food. It does exist. And I do think that it is the larger companies that are kind of pushing us and guiding us, literally guiding us in those pathways to the addiction. And it’s systemic, like we’re not doing this within our lifestyles, our communities. It’s created for us that way. So that’s why when you are trying to help someone through addiction, and I’m going to say specifically food, you have to look further than what they’re wanting right there at that moment. You have to like take it back and you have to understand how do they get addicted to this? Why are they added to this? Go back to these larger institutes that are controlling your palate, your food, your source, all of that.
[05:33] Michael Bennett: So what about the fact that you told me about that soda company?
[05:36] Pele Bennett: Oh, yes. So SNAP program, their largest item sold is soda.
[05:43] Michael Bennett: How much money is it though? Seven billion.
[05:47] Pele Bennett: Millions of dollars are spent on soda. So we’re giving money to the government and it’s used to buy soda. So it’s a growing addiction in that form.
[05:57] Michael Bennett: It’s just one of those things, like it’s just a complete circle. Like nobody is being held accountable for their impact on different people’s communities. You get a little bit of soda, that root beer, that Diet Dr. Pepper, you open it. It goes “shhhhh” on a warm day.
[06:14] Pele Bennett: You could have said any soda and you said Diet Dr. Pepper? That’s the worst one.
[06:20] Michael Bennett: Because your mom always drink Diet Dr. Pepper. Diet Coke. It is less sugary.
[06:27] Pele Bennett: But again, you don’t know what you don’t know. So you think the word “diet” is going to be better for you when in actuality it’s worse.
[06:36] Michael Bennett: Man, we as human beings, we can be kind of silly.
[06:42] Pele Bennett: So today we want to talk about drugs in America. In the 1980s, crack was doing the same thing to black neighborhoods across the country as the opioid crisis is doing to predominantly white communities today. Marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states, where people still sit in prison for weed possession convictions. So, what is up with the drug policy in America? To understand this on an intimate level, we want to talk to the man who once had the largest crack cocaine empire in L.A., Freeway Rick Ross. Thank you for being on the show with us.
[07:11] Rick Ross: Thank you for having me.
[07:13] Michael Bennett: I want to talk about your experience being a drug trafficker in the early decades and your time in the prison system. How did that shape you? You know, you see rappers more glorifying that lifestyle, how does that make you feel about all this?
[07:27] Rick Ross: Well, you know, rappers were not the first ones to do that. They’ve been doing that in movies for years. When I look back at my life — and when I was writing my book — I was trying to think of where the first time I ever heard of cocaine. You know, a lot of times we do stuff and we never really reach back to try to find a source. And, you know, there was a movie that came out in the ‘70s that was called Superfly. One of my older cousins took me to that movie, and that movie touched me in a way that I’d never been touched before. You know, back then we didn’t have many Michael Bennetts in the NFL, and we didn’t have LeBron James in basketball. So, you know, most of our heroes came from black exploit movies. And Superfly was one of those movies that touched me in a way that I don’t think I’d ever been touched before. And what I identified as a given, the priest who was the star, his power was cocaine. And that just said inside of me, you know, I was about 14 years old when I first saw a movie, and the first time I ever saw cocaine, I was around 19, and I never forgot that. It’s just, you know, made this indelible mark on me that still, to this day, has an impact on my life.
[08:45] Michael Bennett: You should have had an impact on your life when you first touched that first brick or whatever.
[08:51] Rick Ross: I didn’t touch no brick first. There’s no bricks in the hood. We was broke, man, we couldn’t buy gas when gas was like 59 cents a gallon.
[09:06] Michael Bennett: That’s a legitimate question, though. That’s a question people want to know because it’s like people watch TV and they watch movies, the first time they see Scarface, they see him start off with tons drugs and they start off with this powerful clip. They don’t see the other parts of this.
[09:19] Rick Ross: And I’m glad you brought that up, man, because you made you made a very, very good point there that they don’t never tell the real stories. And I go to these schools and sometimes, you know, the teachers come up to me and they say, “I read your book and you told the truth.” And I’m like ain’t that what our kids need? Don’t they need the facts? You know, they put out these stories, and so many times our people are getting the information, you know, from like you said, from rappers and from TV. And they’re not the real story. That’s not really how it happens. It’s not really how it goes down. And people wind up making decisions off of false information. But Hollywood don’t want real stories. You know, like right now, you know, they got a TV series out. They stole my story. You know, John Singleton stole my story, Snowfall. It’s one of everybody’s famous stories. It stinks. It does thing because people like to listen to lies and half truths.
[10:17] Rick Ross: You know, John was doing a movie and how are you gonna do a movie about L.A.? You done stole my story already. You steal my story. But you even call me on as a consultant to tell you, hey, John, this is not how it worked. It didn’t happen like this here. But what happens in Hollywood is they don’t want the real stories. They don’t want the people to be informed. They would rather have the people running around thinking that some guy one day walks up and he meets this guy out of space and a guy gives them a brick of cocaine that’s worth $50,000 to some kid that he never met. It just don’t happen like that, you know? And to me, I think it’s sad that Hollywood would continue to treat our people — it’s almost like disrespectful. They keep these stories going. The Superfly, the Scarfaces, the rappers, you know, who say he sold drugs. He sold 300 kilos of cocaine a week. But you adopt somebody else’s name, you know. When you keep this kind of stuff going in and our kids are listening to this stuff, and they’re adopting this as a fact because they don’t really understand, why would Universal put something out that’s not true? You know, why would they have a guy going around saying that he’s Rick Ross and his name is really William Roberts, and he used to be a correctional officer and he never sold drugs. But they tell the kids that the guy got all of his limousines and his Rolls Royces and his jewelry and his big houses and everything he got from selling drugs. It encourages his kids who want to be drug dealers.
[11:52] Pele Bennett: So since you spent a lot of time in and out of the prison system, what do you think that people should know about the prison system and the criminal justice system?
[11:59] Rick Ross: Well, one thing, our prison system is broke. You know, there is no rehabilitation. It’s really just warehousing, where they take you in, they put you on a steel bunk, and it has a two-inch mattress. You have a steel toilet and a sink. And you sit there for 20 years, you know? And you get to watch TV and play cards. And then in 20 years, you wake up and they tell you that you got to go. You’re worse off than you were when you got there. You know, you haven’t learned anything new. And you’re really worse off in 20 years because so many things on the street has changed, and you haven’t prepared yourself. You haven’t grew with society.
[12:41] Michael Bennett: So Hollywood — like, you’ve had so many battles, would try to recover your story. At the end of the day, you paid the price for your story and the things that you been through. And it seems like a lot of people are trying to live off that glory of the things that you did, but they don’t want to pay the consequences that you had. But they seem to want to make a lot of money.
[12:57] Pele Bennett: But you think about people that listen to Rick Ross? They only know that Rick Ross.
[13:01] Michael Bennett: Yeah, but he literally just stole this man’s story.
[13:05] Rick Ross: They like listening to lies. If you like people lying to you, then listen to Rick Ross, because everything he’s saying is a lie.
[13:13] Pele Bennett: Wait. So you don’t listen to his music at all?
[13:15] Rick Ross: Oh, no. I mean, at one time you couldn’t not hear his music on the radio. He was the hottest thing on air.
[13:23] Michael Bennett: So, you know, Ronald Reagan and the Contras and all this stuff, is that really some validity to that, that the whole thing? that they was pushing the drugs? Because, you know, that’s what they say on Snowfall is that they did.
[13:37] Rick Ross: Well, see, they did. There’s some truth in there. Let me clarify that I’m not saying that the whole story is total lies. But what they did is because they had to adopt a story in a way that I wouldn’t be able to sue them. So what they did is they take bits and pieces. They say, “oh, see, this ain’t really your story.” You know, like John Singleton was talking about how it was one of his cousins that nobody ever heard of who did all this. And I’m like, come on, man, ain’t only one person had been accused of being connected to the CIA and Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the history of this country. And it’s well documented who that story belongs to, you know. But once you’re convicted of a felony, you know, you don’t have all your rights.
[14:32] Michael Bennett: So all this stuff is indirectly connected, or was it connected directly, with the Contras and stuff? It almost feels that like a black people just feel like it’s always been like that with them, with the government keeping them down in some type of way. Whether it’s slavery or the war on drugs, just seems like there’s a lot of that going on.
[14:50] Rick Ross: Well, you know, our leaders have said for the longest Malcolm X and so many others, have said that they believed that the government was the one bringing drugs into our communities all the time. It was only when Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News was able to make the link between Danilo Blandón and myself. Now, I was still a young dude. Plus, I was young and dumb, you know, not just young, but dumb. I knew how to flip a $50 rock into a kilo, and a kilo into 100, I could do that. That wasn’t ard to do. But when you talk about knowing about politics, I’d heard of Ronald Reagan, but I didn’t know anything about Ronald Reagan’s policies. I knew nothing about the Contras. I knew nothing about the Sandinistas. Only thing I knew is that my family was hungry and I was trying to get some money for them. It was only when Gary Webb came to my cell when I was in San Diego and started to do his investigation and explain to me — and Danilo Blandón was my drug connection and he was also my my informant.
[16:01] Michael Bennett: Gary Webb, he ended up dying, right?
[16:03] Rick Ross: He got killed or killed himself. He had two gunshot wounds to the head. And they had a doctor that said it was possible that a person could shoot themself in the head twice.
[16:17] Michael Bennett: What? That don’t even sound right.
[16:20] Rick Ross: With a gun, you would think that, you know, once you shoot yourself in the head that you would become unconscious or delirious or something. But they said he had to wherewithal, I guess, to pick the pistol up and pull the trigger again. But he’s the one that broke the story. He’s the one who made the ties. Because, you know, with Danilo Blandón, you know, in our community, we really don’t get into a whole lot of details about who we dealing with. Like we don’t care about your last name, we don’t really care where you live, all we know is keep bringing that stuff cheap and good. And that’s what I was on. So I never knew about his background. I never knew that he was a minister of agriculture from from Nicaragua. I didn’t know that he was the West Coast fundraiser for the Contras, who was an army that was being backed by Ronald Reagan and George Bush. I didn’t know anything about that, man. I was just, you know, a 19-year-old kid from L.A., dropped out of high school, told he wasn’t going to go to college and play tennis, which he had been putting all of his eggs in that basket. You know, tennis was going to be his way out of the ghetto, and all of a sudden that it was no longer there. And he just wanted a way out.
[17:29] Pele Bennett: What do you think that the government is doing right? Because we know so much of what they’re doing wrong.
[17:34] Rick Ross: I don’t know, government needs — I mean, we need to change our way of thinking. We’ve been thinking the same way for 70, 80, 100 years. And I think that it’s time for some new people with new visions and new directions to come in.
[17:50] Pele Bennett: What about the drug policies changing, because now the government is continuing to change them. they’re not getting passed, or the ones that have got passed on weed —
[17:58] Rick Ross: I love the one on weed. I just got my marijuana license here in California. I’m a legal drug dealer now. I’m allowed to sell marijuana in the state of California, over the whole state. So I’m definitely excited about that. And I mean, when it comes down to drugs, drugs is not a criminal problem. We should not treat anybody who is on drugs as a criminal. I mean, if something happens along the way that they got infected, basically. I mean, I’ve lived with drug users. I love them, they love me. We get along very well. And I think that they should have treated the crack epidemic the way they are now treating the opioid epidemic. And they’re treating with more care. They’ve loosen up the laws where, you know, like when we were going to prison, everybody that went to jail when we were going we’re looking at 20 and 50 and life sentences. But now they’re saying that it should be treated with more care and more love. And that’s the way I always thought it should be done.
[19:12] Pele Bennett: Do you think that harder drugs should be regulated to prevent overdoses?
[19:16] Rick Ross: Well, definitely. One thing I know for a fact, incarceration doesn’t work. We’ve been incarcerating people for over 50 years, the war on drugs has been going on over 50 years. I don’t know how many billions and billions of dollars we’ve spent incarcerating people. It costs about $50,000 a year to keep a person in prison. It’s cheaper to send them to college. Matter of fact — you know what I would do if I was the president of the United States? I would go to these guys and I say, look, y’all want to sell drugs? What if I gave you a job? Because most of you all I’m making 20, 30 thousand dollars a year. If I get you a job making $30,000 a year, will you help keep the streets clean? And paint over the graffiti? And clean highways? Just give them jobs instead of housing them in these warehouses for 20, 30 years. And you spend 50,60 thousand dollars, some are even more than that, because if they’ve got medical problems, you know, it costs even more to keep them in prison. And then the burden that it puts on the taxpayers. Most of these people would take a job if you gave them 20, 30 thousand dollars a year, but they won’t do it. But they have them in prison working in UNICOR doing a job that if they was on a street, they’d be making 30, 40 dollars an hour. But in prison, you only get 25 cents an hour. So kind of sound like slavery to me.
[20:38] Michael Bennett: So when you saw what cocaine was doing to these black communities, and these communities of color in just United States, because you’re not to blame for the whole issue and people would like to blame individuals. What did that make you feel like? Was it hard to, like, swallow, to take that? Like, this thing is wrapped up in our communities. If you look at the trajectory of the 1980s, up until the 2000s, it seemed like crack was a big issue for our communities, and some people say destroyed it.
[21:07] Rick Ross: Absolutely. Absolutely. I totally agree. It took me a while, you know, when I first started selling there was no crack addicts. When I first started, everybody that was smoking cocaine had very, very good jobs. They drove brand new cars — Porsches, Benzes, Cadillacs. So when I first got in, it was glamorous. It was Hollywood. You know, Rick James was using it. Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole. So what I’m saying is that, to me, when I first saw cocaine, that’s what it looked like. I wanted to be like Rick James and Richard Pryor, and the only way that I could get into that circle was through cocaine, that’s what I thought. But around ‘86, ‘87, you know, I’d been selling it then for about seven, eight years and I started to see addiction. You know, I started to see my family being addicted to drugs, and started to tell myself, well, I don’t want my auntie, my uncle, my brothers, and my sisters — I don’t want them using cocaine. And it took that for me to realize, well, if you selling to everybody else’s family, how can you say that you don’t want your family? So it made me feel like a hypocrite, and that’s when I was able to walk away from the business.
[22:29] Michael Bennett: Stay with us. I got to take a shit. We’ll be right back. More and more after this break.
[26:18] Michael Bennett: When you were selling drugs, did you have a lot of fears? Like you just never know who to trust? How did you conquer the type of fear like that? I feel like I I’d have been pretty nervous all the time.
[26:29] Rick Ross: Well, you know, you make your mind up that you’re going to go to prison. Accept it. You know, you put on your bulletproof vest, you put your pistol in your pocket and you say, you know what, some day I might have to kill somebody, or somebody might kill me, but they’re not gonna stop me from getting my money.
[26:49] Pele Bennett: That was the motivation.
[26:50] Rick Ross: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The fear of poverty and the hope of having money.
[26:56] Pele Bennett: The fear of poverty. I think that is something that relates to Michael, like within young people getting money, but also young athletes getting so much money. And you have the fear because you have so much of it that you start spending it and I feel like Michael’s had conversations with young, you know, guys talking about like, how do you keep that money? But I understand that part, when you say when you come from nothing, you come from poverty, like the fear of having nothing to go back there, like you don’t want that.
[27:24] Michael Bennett: I wasn’t making a million dollars a day, though.
[27:28] Rick Ross: But you make a lot, Mike. You make a lot.
[27:35] Pele Bennett: But just the fear of having nothing again.
[27:37] Rick Ross: Even with that, see, I wasn’t making a million dollars a day in the beginning. I learned how to take my money and let my money make me more money. I mean, some of the game that I learned from being in a drug business is just crazy. You know, it’s like right now I feel like, a man playing in a boys’ game, you know, out here in the business world, because these people, they just don’t get business the way it’s supposed to be practiced. You know, they say, well, how could you take $50 and turn it into three, four million dollars a day sometimes? And I’m like, anybody can do that, can’t they? If they study. See, I studied the wrong way. See, I never studied in school. I didn’t do well in school because I didn’t see any reason why I should be studying. Nobody’s sit me down and explained to me that school is supposed to be the thing that prepares you for the world, prepares you to buy a house.
[28:39] Michael Bennett: But that’s the interesting thing, though, because it’s almost a tally mark or a black mark on the school system, because, like you said, you didn’t learn to read until you were 28 years old. And the sad part about that, that’s very common, though.
[28:53] Rick Ross: Oh, absolutely; 65 percent of the men in prison can’t read. And then probably another 10 percent can’t comprehend what they read. You know, I went from being illiterate to reading law books, and you know, Mike, I won my case. My lawyer didn’t win my case. I mean, he argued it, but I found the issue that eventually set me free today. That’s why, you know, I have so much confidence in myself, because I can say that my lawyer — you didn’t win my case. I won my own case. You just argued the issue that I told you to argue.
[29:30] Pele Bennett: Was it difficult to acclimate back into society once you were released?
[29:34] Rick Ross: Oh, no, no. I knew I was going to come out here and kick butt. I knew that they wasn’t ready for me.
[29:40] Pele Bennett: So I don’t really want to know — I want to know your advice for other people, though, because right now, you said it so quickly that you’ll kick butt. We’ve worked with different organizations, different people that when they come out, you know, it’s so difficult for them to get back on their feet, especially depending on what charges they have. So what’s your advice?
[29:59] Rick Ross: Most people don’t prepare, you know, I prepared when I was in prison. Like I said, I went in illiterate, before I left prison I read over 300 books. And what I had learned is I had learned how to channel my energy, you know. Had I been in school, right, and they’d have put me up on some of the books that I started reading when I was in prison. You know, stuff like Think and Grow Rich. The Richest Man in Babylon. As a Man. Think, So it Is. I didn’t know that you could literally write out your future, you know. I don’t know if you guys had a chance to read the article they did on me in L.A. magazine, but they did an article in 2013 where the guy said he was writing my obituary. He came to the prison where I was doing a life sentence. And he was interviewing me, and he felt like — why he was saying he was writing my obituary, he was saying this the last time we’re going to hear from you. And when he’s doing this interview, I’m telling him, like, look, man, I’m going to be doing boxing. I’m gonna have my own clothing line. I’m gonna have a book out. I’ve got two books out right now, by the way, two bestsellers. The guy thought I had lost my mind. He said and I had literally went insane. But all of the things that I told him I was going to be doing, I’m doing right now. So I know that we can literally write our own future, but it takes time and effort, dedication and sacrifice. We must sacrifice. And what I learned from the drug business that I apply right now to everything that I do is that it takes dedication. See, if I would’ve took my first $50 rock that I got, if I were to took that rock and I would have went and bought me a pair of tennis shoes and went to Burger King, I’d have been broke. I’d have been out the game. But that’s not what I did. What I did is I took it and I flipped it and then I flipped it again. And I flipped it again and I flipped it again. And I looked up, I had $600 I couldn’t believe it. I say, you’ve got $600. Until I took the $600 and I flipped it. Then I had $1,200. Next thing I know, I got $100,000. Here I am, 19 years old in south central L.A. with a $100,000. I could not believe it. And that’s how I fell in love with the game. So I went from there to having money to falling in love with the game. And then once you fall in love with the game, you know it’s over with, because now you’re not even doing it for the money. You’re just doing it for the love of the game. And anything that I do now, I do for a love, not for the money.
[32:31] Michael Bennett: What do you hope your legacy will be? Is there something that you really want to leave behind? What do you want people to think about when they think about you?
[32:36] Rick Ross: You know, one of the things that I’m going for right now is that I want to help the black community get out of their financial bind that we’re in right now. I travel the country speaking and talking to people. And it really hurts me to see so many of us homeless and unemployed without jobs. A lot of times I know it’s just the lack of opportunity. The lack of somebody coming in and saying, you know what, I’m going to give you the finance so that you can go out and and open up your food truck. You can go and get you a 7-Eleven. You know, most of us, we don’t have rich uncles and rich aunties. So we have to get it out the streets, as the rappers say. And you were saying something about the rappers, and some people, they might hear me saying, well, you know, when the rappers rap about selling drugs and encouraging kids, but I understand why the rappers do it, because most of them got their start from a drug dealer. You know, it was a local drug dealer who paid their first studio time and gave them the money to go buy their CDs. So they be so fascinated with these people that they wind up rapping about the lifestyle that they saw. But the only thing I like about the one who stole my name is that he won’t admit that he loves me. Tell the world that you love me. But when you lie and say that you are this person, that’s disrespectful.
[33:57] Michael Bennett: If you could go back in time, you still had that drug money that you were making, how would you change that investing style? Would you do something different with the money? So the things that you’re saying — build up the community — would you have done that back then to change the future?
[34:11] Rick Ross: I did it back then. You know, I bought a lot of businesses. I gave a lot of people jobs, a lot of handouts.
[34:19] Michael Bennett: How many businesses did you own?
[34:22] Rick Ross: I had junkyards, beauty salons, car wash — all ghetto businesses, though, you know, because we are what we see. You know, if you don’t see anything, then you can’t do — I didn’t know to invest in Nike. What if I had took $1,000 and bought Nike stock? Oh, my God. What would I be the day? Or Walmart or or Microsoft? I could have been the guy to give Bill Gates that first $100,000. You know, I used to blow $100,000 like it wasn’t nothing. So when I look at it that me being from where I was from, I didn’t have the exposure. You know, I was kind of like the fish bowl with the fish in this little pond. You know, and that’s all you can see. Before I even got into the drug business, I probably never would have had to get into drug business. You know, I could have just took my hands and my feet and did it like I’m doing it right now. But you can only do what you know. You know, you can only go as for is what you can see.
[35:18] Michael Bennett: When you were in L.A. and you see someone like Nipsey Hussle get murdered live on TV. What he was trying to do in his community is like that kind of scares some people because they feel like they can do so much in the community, but then people will be jealous of them and not want them succeed.
[35:34] Rick Ross: Yeah. It was sad. I mean, Nipsey’s situation was sad. We definitely lost a great brother in Nipsey, but that shows us the mindset of our people, you know, being trapped in that fishbowl, you know, with this guy. How desperate was this guy to take his lack of having out on Nipsey Hussle? A lot of it probably was jealousy that he didn’t have the success that Nipsey was having. That’s the state of our community. Our people want to be put on. They don’t want to be in the positions that they in. And, you know, they need somebody to come and lead them to the promised land.
[36:10] Michael Bennett: That’s really interesting, because this is one of those things that was really sad, but I still can’t get over this whole like how you had to go to your case and have to really fight for your name. Like Jay-Z and the record labels and all that sort of stuff. That’s interesting that you really still have to fight for your name and your story.
[36:31] Rick Ross: Still fighting! I’m overshadowing hum right now. He gonna curse that name. He gonna run away from that name. He’s going to say, man, I don’t want nothing to do with that name no more. Because what I’m gonna do — I’m gonna be so big and so powerful and so many people gonna be saying, man, you stole that man’s name. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. And you didn’t do nothing for him when he got out of jail, and you knew he was broke! But you know what, Mike, even worse than that man. I look at people and our people don’t recognize talent. We can’t see talent. Nobody has offered to give me a hand since I’ve been home. I had to do this on my own. I had to come out here and rake and scrape. I should make $3 million a day. I handle money real good. I don’t steal from myself, nor my friends. But nobody reached out and gave me a hand. Those dudes, when I sued them dudes, they didn’t offer me any money, they didn’t offer me $10,000. They didn’t come and say man, look, we’ll give you $10,000, let us keep the name. We know you just got out. You did your 20 years in prison. Here. Get on your feet. Nobody did that.
[37:37] Michael Bennett: I think you’re on your way to redemption. You know, I feel like that’s a fair thing. Especially when you say when people say that Christian is there, when people go through things and it’s like we have to give people the opportunity to be able to change, and be able to change the trajectory of their own life and other people around them. So I feel that there’s a lot of positivity that you trying to do right now.
[37:56] Rick Ross: No doubt. No doubt. I try to go to school. You know, I have spoken at a few schools in Dallas, about five or six in, and they really need to let me in every school in this country, every jail in this country, so I can show people how I was able to take a life that I had destroyed and rebuild it. And for our kids who haven’t went through that yet, we can show them how they never have to destroy their life, that they can start off on the right track. But it’s all gonna start with truth. And get rid of falsehood.
[38:27] Michael Bennett: So we have this little quick thing that Pele likes to do, it’s a little ten-question quick thing where we ask you, like, do you like Nike or Puma? Then you answer the question.
[38:36] Pele Bennett: It’s just one answer.
[38:38] Michael Bennett: Are you ready for this question? Mercedes or Bentley?
[38:42] Rick Ross: Neither.
[38:44] Ooh, why not?
[38:46] Pele Bennett: Wait, you got to answer that one. Tell us which one?
[38:50] Rick Ross: I don’t care about neither one of them. If they want me to drive they car, they gotta pay me. The car that I drive right now, they pay me to drive it. If I wear a T-shirt, they pay me to wear it. If you see me with a pair of tennis shoes on, they’re paying me to wear them.
[39:07] Michael Bennett: All right, next question: Jay-Z or Rick Ross?
[39:12] Rick Ross: Neither.
[39:18] Pele Bennett: Lakers or Clippers?
[39:22] Rick Ross: Both. I like both the Lakers and the Clippers. You know, I used to have Laker tickets and Clipper tickets. I took my main girl to the Lakers and I took my other girl to the Clippers.
[39:38] Michael Bennett: Lemonade or sweet tea?
[39:40] Rick Ross: Lemonade. Without the sugar, though. Don’t put no sugar in it. I don’t do sugar. Sugar’s like cocaine! It’s addictive and is bad for you. You know, more people are dying from sugar than anything else. I mean, if we start locking up the people who done put sugar in a food and drinks and all the people who then died, it’d be crazy.
[40:07] Pele Bennett: You’ll have to come back for another episode on sugar.
[40:12] Rick Ross: Yeah, you’re right. We will be here all day, talking about sugar and the people who
[40:17] Pele Bennett: Okay. So what do you like to drink? Whiskey or vodka?
[40:21] Rick Ross: Neither.
[40:22] Pele Bennett: Well, what do you drink?
[40:23] Rick Ross: I’m sober. Water. Orange juice, grapefruit juice. I’m trying to live forever. I don’t want to die. I love it here on Earth. I’m vegan. I’m vegan.
[40:36] Michael Bennett: You vegan?
[40:38] Rick Ross: I haven’t eaten meat in 30 years. No eggs, no sugar, no butter, no salt.
[40:42] Cash or credit?
[40:49] Rick Ross: I like credit. I like credit. I like cash, too, though. You know, cash is king, but that credit ain’t bad. I’m trying to borrow some money right now. You know anybody that’s loaning, let me know.
[41:04] Pele Bennett: What about Superfly or Belly?
[41:07] Rick Ross: Superfly, come on. Not this new Superfly, I didn’t really like that.
[41:11] Michael Bennett: That new super fly was kind of like it didn’t make no sense. I didn’t like his hair. It was just doing too much.
[41:18] Rick Ross: It was whack. They killing all these people. Where the police at? All that shooting going on. But that’s the stuff I’m talking about, these fantasies. And you know why they redid Superfly? They’ve been hearing me talk about Superfly for 30 years. Because, you know, I became Superfly. Kind of like the rapper became me, well, I really became Superfly.
[41:49] Michael Bennett: My brother got a new comic book called Supernigger. It’s actually kind of funny.
[41:55] Pele Bennett: We’ll send you a copy.
[42:00] Michael Bennett: Costa Rica or Dominican Republic?
[42:04] Rick Ross: I dunno, they both got some pretty women. I’ll go with both of them.
[42:13] Michael Bennett: Oh, man. I just wanna thank you for coming out today, but it was a very informative interview.
[42:17] Rick Ross: I appreciate your having me on the air, man.
[42:25] Michael Bennett: I gotta throw all my Rick Ross CDs away, man.
[42:25] Rick Ross: No, don’t do that, man. They might be classics one day.
[42:36] Michael Bennett: But you know what’s funny, though? He really did turn his rapping to businesses like you did. Maybe he was inspired be you.
[42:43] Rick Ross: No, the dude is sharp. Now, listen to me. The dude is sharp. He did his homework. This is what he did. He went and did his homework. We talked on the phone when I was in jail. I called him. He told me, man, first time I put your name in a rap, everybody’s ears perked up. So what he did is he did his homework. He saw that I had a lot of love in the streets. And nobody really knew what I looked like because this was before the Internet.
[43:12] Michael Bennett: And so he made his hair like yours, too, bald head with a beard, too?
[43:14] Rick Ross: He did it all. He’s was like, I’m going all the way with this thing, man. I’m getting paid.
[43:29] Michael Bennett: Thank you though, man.
[43:27] Rick Ross: I appreciate you, man. And thanks for having me on the show. Also, anybody want to get my book, you can go to my website, FreewayRickyRoss.com. You can order both my books. The new book, 21 Keys to Success, is about by my first six months out of prison. How I use these certain principles to reestablish myself back into society. And you know, my autobiography, I wrote that while I was in prison.
[43:56] Michael Bennett: All right, everybody, it’s that time in a week where we have our little pro tip and Pele does her thing. Sometimes we respectfully disagree on certain things. But at the same time, we still love each other.
[44:13] Michael Bennett: My pro tip: allow people to redeem themselves. I think sometimes in life people commit crimes, or they do things, or they wrong us or hurt us in a certain way and we won’t let them redeem themselves.
[44:25] Pele Bennett: Life is so short, I feel like you still have so much life. But then his situation that he was able to redeem himself and also create other opportunity.
[44:33] Michael Bennett: Redemption is a part of growth. We have to allow people to become uncomfortable so they can be comfortable with the growth. I think there’s ability to be able to let people redeem themselves and give them opportunity to grow because a lot of us make mistakes. At the same time, we just gotta be able to allow people to redeem themselves.
[44:56] Michael Bennett: Hey, that’s a wrap. That’s it. I mean, I know you want more, but that is it.
[45:02] Pele Bennett: On next week’s episode, we discuss faith, religion and the role of the church in today’s society and culture with the great Eddie Glaude, the chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Princeton University. And also, don’t be surprised if you hear someone talking about suckin’ head and eating tails.
[45:17] Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.
[45:47] And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible.