Rick Ross officially canceled the rest of the dates of his current Maybach Music Group tour with label-mates Wale and Meek Mill last Friday afternoon. The official reason given by his reps was organization and communication problems on the part of the tour promoter.
However, many have speculated that the real reason is an ongoing and escalating series of threats against the rapper from the street gang the Gangster Disciples. Ross did an interview with Miami hip-hop station 99 Jamz on Monday afternoon in which he spoke at length about the situation, maintaining that threats had nothing to do with shutting down the tour.
As this Amos Barshad column on Grantland points out the whole episode is a fascinating look at the relationship between “gangster rappers” and actual gangsters. Ross’s career has long been a particularly extreme version of this tension, which exists to some degree with any hip-hop artist who claims any degree of affiliation with gangsters or crime in their work. His stage name is taken from real life drug dealer “Freeway” Rick Ross who tried (and failed) to sue the rapper for trademark infringement in 2010. In his work he continually represents himself as a “boss,” a brutal and successful crime kingpin, a persona which all mainstream rappers use to some extent nowadays, but few place themselves quite as high on the food chain of the criminal underworld as Ross or reference real-life criminals as much. That’s why it was considered particularly ironic when it came to light that he’d worked as a Parole Officer for a period.
The beef the Gangster Disciples have with him ostensibly stems from from his mega-hit 2010 single “B.M.F.” which opens with the lines “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover.” Hoover was the Chicago-based founder and leader of the Gangster Disciples and is currently serving multiple concurrent life sentences in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Meanwhile, Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory is an Atlanta-based drug dealer who helped fund the early career of rapper Young Jeezy, who has promised that “it’s over for you clowns” as soon as Meech’s scheduled release from prison (in 2032.) As Barshad points out this is all remarkably close to a real-life version of the plot from the ahead-of-its-time hip-hop satire “CB4.”
More recently, Gangster Disciples in several southern states have taken exception to Ross’s appropriation of a star of david, the gang’s official symbol, as the cover art on his most recent mixtape, “Black Bar Mitzvah.” This has led Gangster Disciples groups in Alabama and several other southern states to upload some perhaps surprisingly beautifully shot and also terrifying videos to YouTube in which they threaten the rapper for his transgressions.
After the appearance of the videos, Ross began canceling tour dates, first in North Carolina, after receiving specific death threats from Gangster Disciples based there, and later canceling the remainder of the tour, including dates in Nashville, Memphis, Houston, Detroit and New York. For his part, Ross continues to maintain that the cancellations are the result of a tour promoter who “wasn’t really handling his business” and had nothing to do with the videos or other threats.
Yesterday’s radio interview is a fascinating look into Rick Ross’s mindset and how he deals with the contradictions inherent in his life and profession. At one point, he says “gangsters move in silence,” which is pretty hilarious considering his entire career is pretty much based on publicly bragging about being a gangster. Later he chides the Gangster Disciples in the videos for acting like “rappers” instead of real gangsters by speaking out. This perhaps does provide a framework that makes sense. Maybe he thinks his job description as “rapper” is to brag about the exploits of the real gangsters like some sort of troubadour or a creator of narcocorridos? It still seems different to me though, in that Ross presents himself as the protagonist. But, as Barshad points out there is a nuance to his most quoted line. He merely asserts that he thinks he’s Larry Hoover.