Published Aug 22, 2019"I most definitely wanted the album to feel powerful, vintage," asserts Miami rapper Rick Ross. He's sitting for an interview at the Hazelton Hotel just days before the release of his new album, Port of Miami 2, and he's gushing about its sound in his trademark, prestige-first way: "I love that vintage feel. It's like me going antique shopping and looking for something that I just won't find on the showroom floor somewhere else."
The album he's talking about was 13 years in the making; it was one of the most anticipated albums in the rap world in 2019. Port of Miami 2 is a follow up to the cult-classic of the same name in 2006, but it's different.
"My perspective and point of view [has changed]. The desires may have balanced themselves out. The points I had to prove on my first album are different now," he says. The self-proclaimed "Bawse," whose business ventures are as dynamic as his discography, has experienced the highs and lows of life since he first broke onto the scene with "Hustlin'." Yet when his words leave his mouth, he sounds like someone who's never been hungrier.
"I didn't want to re-create Port of Miami, but I did want to make sure that that passion, like when you get your first Rolls Royce, is still there," his deep voice assures. "I can't put a time frame on the actual album, but the oldest record I have on the record is 'Vegas Residency,' which may be ten months old."
Over the past year, Ross has written five to six tracks a day to complete the album, while carefully crafting its sound at the time. Arguably, Ross has one of the best ears for production (as an artist) hip-hop culture has seen in decades. At the notion of being "top three," he laughs saying, "Who [are] the two in front of me?!"
"What was dope about this album to me is Young Trop, a producer that has never sold any beats, this is his first release. He's actually an engineer and I met him in Miami. Maybe after our fourth or fifth session, he told me 'Rozay, I produce.' [I said] 'Play your beats!' That's one thing I always have the patience for. I'm never too good to hear beats," he explains.
"That soulful element, I have to give that to my mom and dad — rest in peace to my father. My mom coming up in Mississippi, when I was a shordie, I probably knew Johnny Taylor word for word before I knew Michael Jackson," Ross continues.
Aside from its top-tier production, Port of Miami 2 boasts an upper echelon of guests, including Drake on "Gold Roses."
"We had actually just recorded 'Money in the Grave' and had done all this in the past month and a half, let's say. After we recorded 'Money in the Grave,' Nipsey came up in our conversation. We both were talking about different things, and my last conversation with him and so forth, and Drake made the point [of saying], 'I hope I get my flowers while I'm here.' I just looked at him and it was one of those quiet moments, damn," he notes solemnly.
Here, the conversation turns to the late Nipsey Hussle, whose own guest feature on the album was recorded less than a month before his passing.
"[His death] really hurt me in a lot of different ways. I was just at that same spot with Nipsey a couple of weeks before then. The love was so thick in the air. We had discussed everything from real estate, his barbershop, my hair products, his restaurant, my franchises… that's just something we've been doing for years. We just walked through the whole plaza talking about so many different things, and as night began to fall, I remember thinking to myself, 'Maybe I should leave because of the energy I bring,' you understand?" Ross shares.
"But I remember sitting there like, the love is so genuine for bro. The community is so involved and it's so peaceful here, [I thought] maybe I should go because of the attention I draw. When I got the call that Nipsey was murdered and that footage — that hurt me more than anything to see that footage. I watched it and it hurt me, but what caught me was looking at my little bro's last seconds. He had on basketball shorts… that's what you wear when you're at home. He really was at home. I know Cali got that picture, and we can only celebrate his memory because the city gave it back to him. That's where your recognition has to come from, it has to begin at home. We gotta celebrate our homie's memory, the marathon continues."
Before his passing, Hussle and Ross had agreed that Teyana Taylor, the second feature on "Rich N***a Lifestyle," would be the one to direct the video. As fate would have it, she would also be the one to tell Ross about his death.
"I was at home and just bought a nice red leather seat that massages you. I just plugged that shit up and was finna enjoy it, I was in some of my expensive underwear and I get a call from Teyana and she's screaming and crying. I said, 'What's going on?' because we had been speaking every other day for the last week or so going over the video for 'Rich Lifestyle.'"
Ross pauses and continues.
"I've never heard her cry, we've never been on this tight time before, I'm just trying to make up an excuse that this ain't real. But it was. I just had a few words with her and ultimately, I love the record. I left the record the way Nipsey heard it last — the only thing that was added was that Teyana added a bridge."
Beyond the luxurious raps and glamorous lifestyle, Ross's vulnerability, in real life and the studio, has allowed him to redefine the notion of being a strong and successful black man. It's something he doesn't take lightly.
"A lot of times, as young men… we've never been taught to express ourselves when it comes to relationships and on top of that, relationship failures. A lot of times you just leave it alone and move forward, but ain't nothing wrong with opening up and discussing some things. I know I've made a lot of mistakes and I feel like that's the only way I can get better, by acknowledging that and focusing on that," Ross says.
In life and death, Ross's music has been his therapy. Much like the ships that port in Miami, his music has travelled the world — during the good times and bad. Fortunately, it has so much more living to do.
Port of Miami 2 is out now courtesy of Epic/MMG.