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MIAMI — Rick Ross' "Valley of Death" really says it all. The lyrics are so intense, and the Miami native means every line: "I'll shovel sh--/ I'll C.O./ So we could bow our heads and pray over the meatloaf."
Ross said he has no problem putting his life — let alone his pride — on the line for his two kids.
"When I look in their eyes, I feel I owe [my children] the world," he said, sitting on the bench at one of his favorite stores, the Shoe Gallery. "I feel nothing is too big or too small to do for them, whether it's picking up horse manure for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. If that's what I gotta do to get them the best education, that's what I'm gonna do. I have no remorse. Don't worry about me; I'mma be fine. It's all about those next ones. ... If it's something that's gonna go down, I'mma go. If you ain't willing to sacrifice that, I feel you ain't really a G."
When Ross first admitted to being a prison guard in the past, he gave this explanation: "I was doing my job by doing my job."
"It's different ways you could make things happen," he said of his statement. "That's what it is: doing your job as a G, a provider. Get your ends up, get your ones up.
"Either way it goes, I feel I was destined to get some real paper," he added. "I look at things from a different angle. It's just like, being an employee is like being an artist. You gotta find all avenues of revenue. That's what hustling is about. That's why I love that first single. It's like, if I'm working at the Shoe Gallery, I'mma be selling the shoes, folding the shirts, making sure they neat. I'mma be sweeping and mopping. I might be thinking of a clothing line at the same time. After hours, I might be thinking of selling something that's just mine. I ain't never been one to follow the rules; I never have. I always felt I gotta get extra. That's why in the sixth grade, I was weighing 230 pounds. I couldn't just eat one pizza at lunch. I needed two pizzas. I needed two chocolate milks. I had to learn to hustle then. That's what it is."
When first connecting with J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Ross had to learn to trust the producers, who helmed most of the tracks on his Deeper Than Rap.
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"The first time I got to run into them, we was in Tallahassee, Florida," Ross said about meeting the beat troupe years ago while he was recording Trilla. "We was following some dudes we don't know; they supposed to be taking us to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The farther we go, the darker it gets. So it gets to a point, [me and the people I'm travelling with are] looking at each other: 'Let's get ready, something may go down.' We come to the house and jump out. We think it's a dope deal going down. But it really was — I was copping them dope beats. I run into the house, and what surprised me, usually with producers, you could put them all in a batch, and the most they gonna give you is two or three hot records at once. That's from my experience. You be lucky to get one, two beats. I go in there, spark one up, crank the music up. I'm sitting there, jotting down numbers, and after 45 minutes, I realized I picked 20 beats."
Ross took the tracks into his car. The first record he wrote in the vehicle was the original "Maybach Music," which featured
If you ask some close to Ross, like his producer friends Cool & Dre, Ross was holding back all these years until now.
"On the new album, that's how Ross was getting down years ago before his first album," Dre told us. "He was always this great."
Ross smiled at the assessment.
"That's how Cool & Dre feel," Rick said. "They remember us recording on the side of their parents' house. When I met them, we just went in. I recorded maybe 30 records. They'll pick vinyl out, lay the beat. The sound [in the studio] was real sh--ty. We didn't know no better. But we just kept laying them and got better and better till they became great producers and I became a great songwriter. I think it all came around full circle."
All this week, MTV News will be celebrating Miami's legends, superstars and upstarts. Keep checking back with us for more from the evolving city.