Born on January 28, 1976, in Coahoma County, Mississippi, Rick Ross was influenced by rappers such as Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. He blasted onto the music scene when his debut single, "Hustlin'," became something of a street anthem. The popularity of the song powered his 2006 debut album Port of Miami, which opened at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Albums Chart. Ross went on to release three more albums at the top of the charts, during a career peppered with controversy and issues with the law.
Rapper Rick Ross was born William Leonard Roberts II in Coahoma County, Mississippi, on January 28, 1976. Raised in Carol City, Florida—an impoverished area of north of Miami—Ross always gravitated to the music of street-oriented rappers like Notorious B.I.G., Luther Campbell, Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur. Although he attended Georgia's Albany State University on a football scholarship for a year, Ross started writing rap lyrics romanticizing the money gained from dealing drugs, an act that he saw as a child.
He lifted his performing name, Rick Ross, from hearing stories of a drug trafficker named "Freeway" Rick Ross. Ironically, Ross worked as a corrections officer in Florida for almost two years, but the lure of hip-hop music and the lavish lifestyle of the drug dealers he saw throughout his youth led him in another direction. He was eventually signed to a southern independent rap label, Suave House Records, which also released music by popular underground rap duo 8Ball & MJG. Ross later signed a contract with Miami-based record label Slip-N-Slide, which released music by hip-hop favorites like Trick Daddy—whom Ross would later tour with—and female rapper Trina.
The first single from Ross, "Hustlin'," became a smash hit, due to the hypnotic line "Every day I'm hustling" repeated throughout the song. The single was eventually certified gold, an impressive feat for a brand new recording artist. The song sparked a bidding war between multiple rap labels looking for their next superstar. Def Jam Records, headed by executive Jay-Z, won the battle, signing Ross to a highly publicized record deal.
Ross debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Albums Chart with his premiere album, Port of Miami, in 2006. His sophomore album, Trilla (2008)—named as a tribute to his idol Michael Jackson’s popular album Thriller (1982)—also debuted at No. 1. With his success, Ross became more of a presence on the tour circuit and in the press. He began to write, perform and collaborate with a wide range of popular acts including Jay-Z, R. Kelly, Flo-Rida, Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and several others.
As Ross grew in popularity and notoriety from his music laced with lyrics promoting illegal activities, his past career in law enforcement began to gain the public's attention as well. The constant tales of drug dealing and hustling chronicled in his music were challenged in 2008 when a website known as The Smoking Gun exposed Ross for having previously worked as a corrections officer in South Florida. Although his street credibility was questioned, Ross continued to tour and release music. He created his own record label, Maybach Music Group (distributed by Def Jam) and was later signed as the first artist to Sean "P. Diddy" Combs Ciroc Entertainment management company.
Having grown up in Miami, Ross is said to be heavily influenced by the '80s television show Miami Vice (1984-89). Two of his trademarks are the large, dark sunglasses and his slow, raspy voice, which marked his distinctive rapping style. Known for being overweight, Ross had a health scare in 2011 when news surfaced that he suffered from a seizure during an airline flight to Memphis.
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