Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rick Ross and the Streets

By Dometi Pongo

Rick Ross
Devin Friedman’s article on Rick Ross in GQ prompts the question, why are people drawn to Rick Ross despite the inconsistencies in his image? More specifically, how was he able to gain so much “street” cred despite many liabilities? The article defines “street” rapper as one whose “bread-and-butter demographic is black, and mostly males.” Rick Ross apparently appeals to the streets for three main reasons: his voice, his boss-like persona, and his visible work ethic.

It’s hard to deny that the streets feel Ross’ music. When B.M.F (Produced by Lex Luger), for example, was in heavy rotation, it was remixed by almost every relevant emcee in the game. Even Lupe recorded his own version, Building Minds Faster. Like most of his tracks, Ross’ voice and delivery made that track come together.

My guy, Smitty, an undergrad at SIUE pointed out that Ross’ beat selection is on point. He chooses tracks that complement his voice and most of the beats have a way of getting your adrenaline pumping. Once Ross’s voice comes in, the signature grunt and the adlibs, listeners are excited to hear him. Rick Ross’ sound engineers are behind the perfect mix between his voice and the beat. On more of the smooth mellow tracks, He often features an R&B singer to carry a melody or perform to chorus to achieve that signature Maybach Music sound.

Ross, with his image as a boss, exudes a confidence paralleled by few. It’s notable because, as Friedman points out, he isn’t exactly what society would conventionally define as attractive. His persona is reminiscent of Notorious B.I.G. Though well over 300 lbs, Rozay doesn’t mind performing with his shirt off. Self-confidence is contagious. Many believe that his image is fabricated, but he plays the part well. On “I’m a Boss” he says, “An OG is one who’s standin’ on his own feet / A boss is one who guarantees we gon’ eat.” The streets can identify with his lyrics.

My boy Cas, tweeted, “I mess with him because I respect his grind.” When 50 Cent tried to destroy Ross’ career by exposing his past, Ross didn’t retaliate with a diss track. Instead, he dropped hit after hit, album after album, and won the public over. He then assembled a team of emcees under his MMG imprint, and the rest is history. The fortitude is admirable.

All else constant, Ross’ signature sound, branding and marketing strategy, and work ethic has helped him rise to the top of his genre.

D. A. Pongo, a business major here at SIUE and Chicago native, has been a leading contributor to black studies projects. Among other projects, he co-produced our Malcolm X Mixtape—a mixed media production featuring rap music and videos paying tribute to the radicalism of Malcolm.

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