Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
The notorious former drug kingpin “Freeway” Rick Ross pays N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN a visit on the newest episode of “Drink Champs” to speak about his dominant run as one of the biggest drug traffickers of the ’80s and the government scandal that would forever alter America’s view on the “War on Drugs.” A native of Texas, Ricky Ross would relocate to South Central, Los Angeles, where he would flip a small investment into the cocaine trade and then, a massive empire that generated millions of dollars a week. Ultimately convicted of drug trafficking charges, an investigation would reveal that Ross’ cocaine supplier, Oscar Danilo Blandon, was working as a government operative, and was the link between the CIA and the Contras in the Iran-Contra affair. This would expose the CIA’s role in allowing an influx of drugs to be imported into the country and distributed in predominantly black communities.
Initially sentenced to life in prison in 1996 under the three-strikes law, Ross’ sentence was reduced after a federal court of appeals determined that the law had been erroneously applied to his case. This resulted in his release from prison in 2009. Since then, Ross has stayed in the public eye as an author and public speaker, but made major waves with his 2010 lawsuit against rapper Rick Ross for copyright infringement due to the latter using Ross’ name. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, but helped introduce the street legend’s story to a new generation of hip hop fans, which facilitated his return to the music business.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Freeway Rick Ross episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. He Was The First Crack Millionaire
One of the first topics to surface during Ross’ visit with the “Drink Champs” was the actual creation of crack-cocaine. “I didn’t invent crack. What I’m credited for is being the first crack millionaire,” Ross says. “Now, when I started, there were guys in the street already cooking it up, very few, though. I got it from them. They were freebasing. It was real complicated, this whole table would be full of chemicals. Remember when Richard Pryor got burnt up, he was ether-basing. It was flammable. A lot of hazardous equipment and then one day, one of the homies came and he said, ‘Man, it’s better when you use baking soda.’ And that’s really how we got the recipe.”
2. The Freeway Rick Task Force
Ross recalls the first time he realized he was on the radar of law enforcement, which he learned after receiving a tip from an unlikely source. “What they did with the Task Force is City Hall had a meeting and they say that people in the neighborhood kept bragging about this young guy Freeway Rick who’s having all this money,” he explains. “So, what City Council did, they had a meeting and they took five of the police stations in L.A., and put them together, and they called them ‘The Freeway Task Force’ and these cops’ job was to bring me down. Along the way, they started stealing money, robbing people, forging search warrants. They were some of the biggest crooks that you ever wanna see. My gardener was the first one to tip me off to The Freeway Task Force, I didn’t know nothing about them. He brought me a newspaper article. I didn’t read the newspaper, so I never would’ve caught it. But, he brought it to my attention.”
3. The Time He Met Arthur Ashe
Prior to his criminal career, Ross was an accomplished tennis player and got the chance to meet with tennis legend Arthur Ashe as a teenager. “When I [turned] 12, I started playing tennis,” he says. “Arthur Ashe came down to our high school. I was good enough to go to one of the best black high school tennis teams in L.A. And Arthur Ashe came out and gave everybody on the team awards and played with like four of the top guys.”
4. How He Got Out of Prison
N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN got a crash course in legalities when they asked Ross to explain what a “Continuous Criminal Spree” is, which are the words the former drug kingpin says helped him get out of prison on appeal. “Somebody who commits a crime, goes to jail, gets out and then do it again [is a career criminal],” he says. “A ‘Continuous Criminal Spree’ [means] that you’re committing crime over and over, but you haven’t been arrested. So, it’s a ‘Continuous Criminal Spree’ one time. They said that my case was a three-striker, even though I’d only been to jail one time. So, I figured out what I was doing was a ‘Continuous Criminal Spree’ even though it was in different states. See, they thought that even though I was selling dope in Texas, in Cincinnati, in Louisiana, in St. Louis; that all of those were different arrests. But, what I had to get them to understand was that it was a ‘Continuous Criminal Spree’ that was uninterrupted.”
5. His Relationship With The Rapper Rick Ross
One subject that was broached during Ross’ “Drink Champs” interview was his dealing with rapper Rick Ross, whom the original Ross filed a lawsuit against to seek compensation for the Maybach Music Group general’susage of his name. Ross gives N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN a timeline, and the extent of his and Rozay’s communications.
“I spoke to him when I was in jail,” Ross reveals. “I had a phone call with him and he had a meltdown before the record came out. At this time, when I first found out about him, he was just doing the magazines. His album was getting ready to come out. But, you know before the album or the record comes out, they do the magazines first. You doing the Ozones, the XXLs, the Word-Ups. So, I see him in the magazines and I’m like, ‘What the fuck? I know somebody gotta know this dude,’ I know too many people. So, I’m hitting all my boys. One of my boys, he write for Smooth Magazine. ‘He’ll be here Monday at 9 o’clock, I’ll put you on the phone with him. So, I called him, my boy put him on the phone, he don’t know it’s me. My boy just handed him the phone like, ‘Hey, man, somebody wanna holler at you.’ So, he get on the phone, I holler at him, he think he done been set up. He ain’t got his bodyguards, he by himself. [He says] ‘Oh, big homie, I love you.’ You know just, like, jacking me off hard. So, I said, ‘Look, man, I got some ideas for us. We can do this thing together, you ain’t gotta be me, you can just be my supporter.’ ‘Okay, I’ma come to see you and I’ma do this, I’m gonna do that.’ So, I called him, like, one more time after that and he put his guy Pucci on the phone and they said, ‘Send us a visiting form.’ So, I sent them the visiting form, they never filled the form out. Next thing I know, the number was changed and that was the end of our conversations.”
6. How N.O.R.E. Got His Rap Name
Taking on the name of popular gangsters, criminals and other notorious figures is commonplace in hip hop. However, N.O.R.E. gives insight into how he got the name Noreaga and his desire to receive the blessings of a notorious Panamanian dictator’s family. “I had never chose the name Noreaga,” N.O.R.E. reveals. “I was actually in jail reading a book about [Manuel] Noriega and the shit was so thick, niggas in the chow line was like, ‘Nigga you ain’t reading that shit’ and playfully grabbed the book from me or knocked it down or something. They started reading and whatever they asked me on that page, I had knew it, so people just nicknamed me Noreaga. I still didn’t go by the name of Noreaga. So, when I came home from jail, Capone had came to see me and he kept calling me Noreaga. So, people in my hood thought it was funny. They [were] like, ‘We calling this nigga Noreaga, too.’ But in retrospect, I reached out to Noriega’s family ’cause I knew it could be taken the wrong way. When I reached out and I couldn’t get the actual contact that I wanted or someone valuable to talk about it, what I did was change my name to N.O.R.E.”
7. Ross Helped Discover Tha Alkaholiks
In addition to his history as a drug trafficker, Ross was also involved in the careers of R&B legends like Anita Baker and others. One group he helped put on the map was Tha Alkaholiks, who released five critically acclaimed studio albums throughout the ’90s and aughts. “I found Tha Alkaholics while I was in prison. I’m the reason the Alkaholics got signed,” Ross says. “King Tee put them down with me, King Tee was my man. If I had listened to King Tee, I’d be the king of hip hop right now. I slipped on hip hop. DJ Pooh and King Tee tried to get me to do hip hop right before I was doing Anita Baker. But, what I did is I went with the dude with the iron. See, at the time, Otis Smith had Bobby Taylor, Bobby Womack and then to convince me to go with him; he took me to Dick Griffey, Berry Gordon and they all say, ‘Hip hop is a fad.’ I was tampering with hip hop, but I didn’t get all the way in it because them dudes had convinced me that it wasn’t gonna last. I had them like this here. But, I didn’t know that I should be telling them what to do instead of letting them [tell me].”
8. He Almost Invested In DJ Pooh’s Career
During the height of Ross’s run as a drug trafficker, he used some of the profits from his business to invest in the careers of local artists from the Los Angeles area. One artist he remembers fondly from those days is DJ Pooh; an acclaimed producer with credits alongside Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, LL Cool J and other rap legends. “Listen to this here, I go to this house,” Ross tells the “Drink Champs.” “[DJ] Pooh stays at one of my girls’ house sometimes. So, my one girl, her little cousin is [in] a group called Mad Kap, [that] was the first group on Loud Records. Her other cousin was another little dude name Teo, so they would be at my house all the time. They’d be over there making beats, beating on the table and all that shit and they’d be like, ‘You ought to do Pooh’s record, he finna work with LL Cool J, and he doing this and he doing that.’ So, I said, ‘You know, maybe.’ I got the bread, I got more bread than I can spend. So, Pooh takes me over to this apartment, I go in this apartment and it’s like 40 motherfuckers in there. They laying all over the floor, it look worse than my crackhouses. So, I’m like, ‘What the fuck going on here?’ They got wires everywhere, turntables, I’m like, ‘Fuck.’ So, when I leave, now I’m debating the motherfuckers with the high-rises in Beverly Hills. Otis Smith? Dick Griffey? Or should I mess with these young motherfuckers? Seventeen years old who’s telling me he need $200,000. Otis is telling me he need $600,000. See, if Pooh told me he needed $40,000 to do a rap record — which is what a rap album was costing at the time — I would’ve gave it to him. He was trying to go big and I had just gave Otis $600,000. So, I was like, ‘I’m not ready to put this kind of money into the music industry right now.’”
9. His Connection To Dr. Dre and Death Row Records
Ross’ relationship with notorious gangsters in L.A. runs deep. But, one of his closest pals and rivals was none other than Michael “Harry-O” Harris, a respected drug trafficker who is credited as an early investor in what would become known as Death Row Records. Ross recalls a missed opportunity to sign Dr. Dre, as well as his dealings with Harry-O, Suge Knight, and attorney David Kenner. “So I go to meet [Dr.] Dre when I get out of prison,” Ross remembers. “I talked to Dre in jail, but I had never met him. So, I go to his house about five or six years ago right before we was doing Cracks in The System because Dre had told me when I was in jail that he was gonna do a soundtrack. He said, ‘Whatever you do, I’ma do the soundtrack for you. So, I go over. He was like, ‘Rick, you don’t remember that house?’ I say, ‘Yeah, I remember that house.’ He said, ‘I was in that house the day you came by.’ When it hit me, it was like ‘Aww, fuck, you had an opportunity to have Dr. Dre at that time and really, I had the whole [team] ’cause Otis Smith and Dick Griffey were the first independent distributors of black music. Dick Griffey negotiated Suge’s deal with Interscope, I don’t know if you know that. Me and Harry-O was cellies when they started Death Row. When they first started Death Row, I met Suge the same day Harry met Suge. The day before Suge got in, me, Harry-O and David Kenner was sitting in the attorney booth and Harry-O told Kenner, ‘I’ma make you more money in the music business than you’ve ever made as an attorney.’ I was sitting in that room when he told him that.”
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