Rick Ross’s story is old news to any fan of hip-hop at this point, but I’ll reiterate: taking his name from the legendary Los Angeles coke dealer Freeway Ricky Ross, the rap superstar created a fictional life for himself as a Miami drug kingpin. By 2008, that narrative had helped Ross earn vast popularity, along with the money rap superstardom brings. Unfortunately for Ross, in 2008, the Smoking Gun blog published evidence that the rapper’s allegiances once belonged to the other side of the law: the self-styled Teflon Don turned out to be a former Florida corrections officer, policing the types of criminals he claimed to have been.
For hip-hop purists who pride the genre with a kind of sociological verisimilitude, this incident should have ended Ross’s career. But that wasn’t really how things turned out. Since the revelation, Ross has gone on to continued success — and even more outlandish fantasies. Earlier this year he released his sixth LP, Mastermind. The album includes a track titled “The Devil Is a Lie,” featuring rap’s uber-capitalist and prototypical dealer-cum-rap mogul, Jay-Z. It’s a chance for Ross to spin a yarn of incredible excess: he moves dope across borders in luxury cars dusty with coke residue; his mistress walks around in shoes that cost as much as one of those cars; his wealth approaches an Arab sheik’s opulence; he blows $500k on a weekend in Bordeaux. Rather than retreating, the former corrections officer has found success by embracing a garish cartoon version of wealth. His outing as a fake has only empowered him to be even more inauthentic, and he takes every advantage the position affords him. Put simply, Rick Ross no longer even purports to traffic in the business of reality; he deals only in bald-faced fantasy.