Rick Ross is on his fourth album and still putting out boss tales, true or false. VIBE sat down with the Teflon Don to get the skinny on his lyrical process and how he works on getting better than you thought he would be. —Clover Hope
I really want to talk about your improvement as an MC since your first album and being underappreciated in the rap game. Your albums have definitely progressed and gotten better. Do you feel like people are recognizing that?
Yeah, I think as you learn more as an artist you get better. As you understand the music and you going to new places, you understand more. I go to Baltimore, I understand the culture, D.C., New York City, I understand. The more things you see and the more responsibility you gain, the bigger you get as an artist [and] the more responsibility you take on. The only way to grow is to feel like the music is better. The music is bigger, you touch more people, more people understand it and accept it and relate to it.
When people name the best MCs right now they say Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne… Do you feel like you’re in there or that you should be?
I mean, looking at the amount of features that I got on hold, I would have to be considered one of the best, you know. ’Cause at any given time at 50K a verse you could make 250, 350 [thousand] in a week. It’s a lot of projects being made. It’s a lot of things I’m a part of and that’s how much it costs. To look at the things that I have to turn down, I would have to be one of the [best]. And that’s just looking at realistic numbers.
There’s a lot of different ways to measure the best, though. What do you think makes you great?
I think it’s a combination of things. I think it’s first and foremost my talent. The words I’m feeling, the character I’ve shown as well as my consistency. I think those are some of the things that make someone a legend.
What’s your writing process like in the studio?
You know, [Jay-Z] was one of the first ones I ever seen [not write his rhymes down] and that’s something that I’m practicing now. I’ve been able to do it for the past months but it’s still a mixture for me. I still need somebody there to kind of capture everything I’m coming up with.
It’s a mix of writing and going off the top?
Right. If I put a beat on repeat, I can repeat lines and just keep repeating ’til I get to 16 bars and it’s something that I was just having fun with recently. But if somebody comes in my studio and want… When I collaborate with Jamie Foxx I’ma roll up good blunts and put a pen down on that paper.
So is it better when you write it?
I feel it’s the same effect versus me repeating the lines over and over to myself just jotting it the first time until the next line. That’s the difference. You gotta keep ’til you memorize that line. If I say, “We on the Lower East Side, eating pasta,” if that’s my first line I can either jot that and go to the next: “We on the Lower East Side eating pasta…mmmhmm like a fuckin’ mobster.” And repeat it to myself.
You write it and then you edit.
Yeah, that’s basically what you’re doing until you have it… If I feel like I’m trying too hard or I forced it, I just repeat that one word and I could keep moving on and come back to that one particular word but I’ve let one word be a nuisance to me for like two, four weeks. That’s what makes the recording process tedious. Now my process is to the point where some of my records I don’t even adlib because it’s so clear. All the words feel full so sometimes I just feel like it’s no need. And then other times it’s a verse that’s more about feeling and I want [people] to hear me scream in the back like, “Woooo!” and when I feel like that, that’s when I do an adlib track ’cause I want them to know I’m feeling myself right here and I’ma make some kind of effect, you know, say something that’s gon' get a listener that feel so they could be attached to it.
Do you have rhyme notebooks?