Rick Ross has amassed a sizable fortune through hip-hop. His voice, persona, and confidence (rooted in Black South Florida culture) create a vibe so potent that his signature grunt— “unngh”—can stop worlds, start parties, and even reset minds. Rick Ross is a visionary.

“I think the core of hip-hop was about having a voice for where you was from,” Ross recalls. “When you saw Puerto Ricans breakdancing—you know, I’m somewhere halfway across the world, and I know where they from.”

EBONY hip-hop 50 Rick Ross. Shot by Shamaal Bloodman

Christian Dior Shirt, Air Jordan 1 Mid SE ‘Tartan Swoosh’ Shoes. Custom Johnny Dang & Co. MMG Chain. Custom Cartier Round Frame Sunglasses. Presidential Rolex Bust Down Watch. Photo by Shamaal Bloodman for EBONY Media.

Raised in Carol City, Florida, William Leonard Roberts II remembers his early experiences as a rap consumer as an opportunity to learn about other places. “Yeah, this is Brooklyn. Wow, this is Queens. When I began loving music and writing music, I wanted to do that.” After Def Jam Recordings proved victorious in the bidding war to sign Ross, his 2006 album Port of Miami debuted with 187,000 units sold in its first week. From its first bar, his single “Hustlin” established him as a hip-hop force. His second single, “Push It,” borrowed its hook from Paul Engemann’s “Scarface (Push It to the Limit)” and had a music video to match.

“I think the core of hip-hop was about having a voice for where you was from.”

-Rick Ross

“I wanted to represent where I was from, so regardless of where you at, you got to know—‘Okay, bam, this Miami.’ And then let’s get even more specific—Carol City in this m*th&rf@ck%r. I felt just as an MC that was your first responsibility, putting those words together and letting you know where we was from, representing the crib in the purest form, in the rawest way.”

In the following years, Ross has dropped another ten studio albums, each bearing a name that pays homage to his South Florida roots, financial prowess, or the respect he commands.

EBONY hip-hop 50 Rick Ross. Shot by Shamaal Bloodman

Ebbets Fielf Flannel Tokyo Kyojin (Giants) 1953 Home Jersey. Cartier Skeleton Timepiece. Photo by Shamaal Bloodman for EBONY Media.

“He could go in any chamber and give you the best of the best,” says DJ Khaled. “That’s a ‘God Did’ record lyrically, rapping with H.O.V. and Lil Wayne, that’s what you call a rare moment. Then you got records like ‘B.M.F.’ that will tear the streets apart like no other and then he’ll make some something musical like ‘Maybach Music’ and records for the ladies like ‘Aston Martin Music’ and then a record like ‘Hustlin’ that broke him to the world. It’s a hell of a catalog.” With help from frequent collaborators like Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Drake, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Cool & Dre, Ross has become one of the chief purveyors of luxury rap. 

This signature sound was suitable for both the street kings he modeled himself after and the tuxedoed execs who gathered by the scores at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall last November to hear Ross deliver his classics accompanied by an all-Black fifty-piece orchestra for his Red Bull Symphonic performance.

To read the rest of this cover story, pick up the Fall 2023 Hip-Hop 50 commemorative print edition of EBONY Magazine in partnership with Mass Appeal at magazines.com, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Publix, Safeway, Kroger, Books A Million, and more, plus select retailers in London and South Africa on September 19th.

Editor-in-Chief & SVP, Programming: Marielle Bobo
Creative Director: Rashida Morgan-Brown
Executive Producer: Princess Mbanuzue 
Production Coordinator: Jeana Edney 
Video Editing: Mega Media
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Stylist: Ana Aranda
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Groomer: Pero Antunes
Photo Assistants: Marvin Billett, Renand Jean 
Digital Tech: John Bailey Nolf