Rick Ross was having a moment.
The Falstaffian rapper and entrepreneur was a mere two songs into his inaugural performance at Drai’s, a raucous 30,000-foot nightclub inside Las Vegas’ Cromwell hotel, and “halfway drunk” when he ordered the DJ to stop the music. He found himself transfixed by the multimillion-dollar LED screen above, and needed a beat to take it all in.
“Everywhere around you are the best fans you could ever have. It’s 90 percent tourists, so they came from far and wide to see you and got the phones out, and you’ve got the best speakers,” explains Ross. “It’s that boss shit.”
That was in June of 2021, and Ross has been a regular fixture at Drai’s ever since — recently inking a two-year extension of his residency. And it’s been “a perfect fit” for Drai’s, according to Dustin Drai, president of Drai’s Group, given his “charismatic persona, extensive music catalog, larger than life persona, and his synergy with many other Drai’s residents.”
Drai’s has been at the forefront of championing hip-hop music in Vegas, platforming one rapper after another at a time when EDM DJs dominated the Strip.
“I’m in the position now where I can go and party wherever I want,” offers Ross. “And we love to party here.”
It’s 11 p.m. and I’m in Ross’ palatial hotel suite at the nearby Palms, replete with a movie theater, stocked kitchen, and pool table. In a few hours, the 47-year-old will rock the stage of Drai’s in front of a packed house that’ll include Ja Rule (donning a Jheri-curl wig for Halloween). But for now, the Miami MC is lounging around, shooting pool in a white T-shirt, colorful shorts, and black flip-flops, while puffing on blunt after blunt, as this reporter dances around him asking questions.
You’ve signed another two-year residency at Drai’s. Why is it your favorite place to perform in Vegas?
You know, I went to the mall today and came up with the perfect response to that. The reason why I turn up so much is because Drai’s is the Louis Vuitton of nightlife, and you gotta pull out your fuckin’ very finest. You gotta pull out your very finest.
Vegas used to be synonymous with Sinatra and aging performers, but now there are hot, young performers doing it out here.
Most definitely. It’s either that or we’re seeing it in a different way because we’ve grown into that older class. But being younger and going through Vegas, you were never actually seeing anyone you wanted to see. Other than a Michael Jackson look-alike or some shit, it was always older generations of entertainers. Now, this shit is really poppin’. Vegas is on fire. I remember 10 years ago, there wasn’t any hip-hop on this set. There weren’t any vibes like that. From 10 years ago to now, aw man, Drai’s is a big reason. When you fly in for Drai’s now, you fly in on your G550 and this may be the only place where you cross Kim Kardashian and go, “Kim, what’s up!” And that’s before you even get off the fuckin’ runway. When they had the NBA preseason here, I looked up and saw LeBron [James] and the names kept going. It was like Drai’s gave me a one-day NBA deal. When you go to Drai’s at night and then the pool party the next day, you had the best time but you’re exhausted, and you go home, get in flip-flops, and spend the next three days telling your friends what it was like.
What do you get up to in Vegas?
Well, shopping and partying is number one. And you know me — I gotta get some side bets with some homies that are really good gamblers. You gotta hit the casinos. Even if you’re not a gambler, just put a thousand to the side. Fuck it. It’s a thousand dollars. You’ll enjoy it. Go play some blackjack and talk shit by the time you’re on your third or fourth tequila shot. I bet Diddy a million-dollar bet, and I won. We were in the recording studio in the Palms, which is fucking legendary, playing dice.
Did he pay up?
Of course he did!
What was your craziest night in Vegas like? You ever have a Hangover-type experience?
Oh, man! [Laughs] How many of those have we had? We’ve partied … and partied … and partied. When I say it like that, I mean three days in a row — and you just have one of your closest friends changing your shirts for you. It’s like that, man. I got a lot of rich friends out here, and we’ve had a lot of good times, man. I don’t wanna scare anybody with Rozay stories!
These days, do you consider yourself to be a mogul first and an artist second?
If I had the input on that, I would always consider myself to be an artist first. That’s where it all began, and that’s where the essence and the passion is. It all starts and begins with the music. We here because of the music, and that’s why we fuckin’ love it. Before I was even old enough to get in the club in Miami, Prince had a club on Washington Avenue. It didn’t even have a name; it was just a sign. Me and the homies would buy one nickel bag of weed just to go out there and scream. That’s what Miami was built on, and that’s what drove me — nightlife. Now, we’re the biggest partiers. It’s Rossvegas.
You just bought a $37 million house on Star Island in Miami. When you walk around that place, do you just marvel at how far you’ve come?
Oh, my God. I just purchased it two months ago and started the demolition to redo it, but I go in my backyard and sit there and watch the tour boats come out. And the weird thing is, everyone else that lives on Star Island does the opposite. But for Rozay, it was big for you to take your girlfriend on that $40 boat ride just to look at those houses and yards, and you’d whisper in her ear as you’re looking at those houses, “One day, I’m gonna fuck you on top of that washing machine.” So, when I come out there, I wave because I know what it’s like to be on that boat.
Do you ever see DJ Khaled zipping by on a Jet Ski?
[Laughs] He hasn’t done that yet, but he doesn’t stay far at all from me. Anytime I get up and go over there early in the morning, he’s pulled up a dozen times already. “Open up the gate! I’m at the front gate!” And we just talk about those mixtape days and where we are now. I tell him, “You’ve still got so much value to add to the game, man. This is just one of the many chapters, my brother.”
If you know the strategic game I’m playing, you gotta know Rozay’s investing on a whole other level. Rick Ross is trying to get a piece of that goddamn football team. That’s the bigger goal. Let’s make some huge plays.
You said recently that you’ve spent $100 million in the past six months. And I could see it approaching that when you add up the house, the private jet …
Without a doubt. And that ain’t shit! It’s the shit I don’t tell you about! Fuck that! That’s just a house and a jet. If you know Rozay, and you’ve witnessed me flying commercial for the last 20 years when you know I could’ve been flying private, we were flying Delta till we could buy our shit, you understand? That’s my mindset. You gotta know the investments I’m making. I just bought a $10 million home in Houston. In December, I bought Meek Mill’s $4 million home. Another million-dollar home not far from that — $35 million home, $35 million private jet. If you know the strategic game I’m playing, you gotta know Rozay’s investing on a whole other level. Rick Ross is trying to get a piece of that goddamn football team [he points out the window to Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders]. That’s the bigger goal. Let’s make some huge plays. And in the meantime, we party at Drai’s. We takin’ 15 shots of tequila and I’m drinking three bottles minimum of Luc Belaire.
Is there an investment you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Betting on myself. Doing all the things that I never could’ve imagined. I was the kid in the back of the class who was cracking jokes and was a fuck-up because I didn’t know the answers to the questions. I thought they were speaking another language when they started saying “X = this.” Pre-algebra? I’m gone. I still haven’t had to do any pre-algebra. Have you? I decided to bet on myself. I was never around anyone who was into franchises, but I just decided, let’s do it. And we continue to do it. I put the money up, you deal with the day-to-day, and we make money.
How many Wingstop restaurants do you own at this point?
I don’t even know. I stopped counting when I hit 25. If you got a few restaurants, that’s good, but when you get to 15, 20, 25, it’s a different situation. If you know the strategic Rozay, now we’ve got to ask ourselves, “How are we gonna make some real money? This is someone else’s franchise, so it might be time for us to create our own chicken brand.” The profits of a franchise no longer entice Rozay like they did 10 years ago. The profits of having 50 franchises no longer entices Rozay. If we create our own chicken brand and launch our own chicken brand with the relationships we have at Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Publix, we could make that in two years.
With that being said, did Don Lemon ever get back to you when you offered him a job at one of your Wingstops after he was fired by CNN?
[Laughs] You know, you’re the first person that’s asked me that, and I might need to DM Don Lemon because he might want to revisit that conversation, and I’m a great businessman. I gotta DM Don: “Hey, man, I know you got a lot of free time. Let’s discuss it at Drai’s!”
At this point in the interview, Rozay whips out his phone to show me a picture of his flavor of Rap Snacks chips, sweet chili lemon pepper, and says his chicken brand will be “in a big bag you’ll be able to grab at Publix with my face on it and take the chicken to the house.”
Speaking of investments, I heard that you wanted to sign Kanye to Maybach Music Group.
You know, I put that out in the universe. I was up with Meek Mill working on the finals of our album and listening to Graduation, and I just wanted to hear a slower vibe.
Ross takes out his phone again and starts playing the Graduation track “I Wonder,” before placing his phone on the pool table and swaying his head from side to side.
That sound. Those sonics. And I’ve worked with him in the past.
You’re not worried about managing him given … everything he’s said?
I’m not a manager! [Laughs] I just wanna be in the studio with him! Let’s talk about dreams and accomplishing dreams.
I just saw you and Meek Mill on Inside the NBA. Let’s talk about the “Shaq & Kobe” remix. You’ve got Shaq and Dame Lillard on there. People say Dame’s the best rapper in the NBA.
There are a lot of people that are saying that, and I could agree with ‘em without a doubt, but we won’t make it to that before addressing what Shaq has done. That first album? Come on, man. That shit was dope. And we’re not just saying it because there’s Shaq Diesel in the Hall of Fame. The dope boys in Miami were riding around blasting that album. Those beats on Shaq’s first album? We didn’t care who Shaq was in the streets. If that shit was wack, that’s what we would’ve said. But his album was really dope.
Remember the video game Shaq Fu for Sega Genesis? I used to play that. You’d be karate-chopping people as Shaq.
Shaq Fu! Of course I remember that. Sega Genesis was the bomb. Those black joysticks were legendary.
I would also play Def Jam: Fight for NY, that fighting game where you could play as Def Jam rappers. Y’all should make a new one.
I might have to do it. But Def Jam is damn near outta business, so it’ll have to be Maybach Music. That was a cool-ass game, yo!
Let’s talk about Too Good To Be True, the new album with you and Meek. What makes you two such a formidable duo?
I just feel like because of the classic records we’ve released and collaborated on. We were in the studio late one night and Meek put on “the best dunks and the best duos,” and I was like, “That’s it. We Shaq and Kobe. It’s too easy.” How many people could go up against me and Meek Mill at one time? If Meek Mill does “Dreams and Nightmares” right now, I don’t give a fuck who’s in the arena, they gonna have a problem. If I drop “Every day I’m hustlin’,” I don’t give a fuck who in there, they got a problem. The album is fire. The beats are the best. And when it comes to the rhymes, everybody knows Meek Mill was always that nappy-braided, on-the-corner Philly young ’un who could rap for three hours, don’t write nothin’ down. Still don’t. You could cut him a beat right now, and he’ll start walking around this motherfuckin’ pool table for an hour rappin’.
When Meek and Drake were going at it, what was it like for you to be in the middle of that since Meek’s on your label?
For me, sitting in between Meek and Drake, it was a lot of exaggeration. But that’s what comes with the entertainment industry, you understand? Us being in entertainment right now, you could have a spat and that shit will be on TMZ tomorrow morning, and they’ll act like they needed the whole Las Vegas police force. That’s the way it goes. But this is a competitive sport, so was the competition real? Of course it was. But was it some deep shit? Nah.
I think Drake just still liked Nicki.
Well, Nicki was a lot to like. You can’t blame nobody for that. I think we’ve all liked Nicki at one time.
A video you posted over the summer of you partying with Kawhi Leonard went pretty viral. Nobody knows the real Kawhi. Everyone sees the quiet Kawhi. But what’s it like to party with Kawhi? Does he turn up?
Yeah! YEAH! I’ve partied with him multiple times. Does he party? Does he relax? Does he enjoy himself? Does he live his life? Of course! That’s a cool motherfucker! He done partied with me at Drai’s!
When he parties does he really go wild, like Kramer in Seinfeld with the whole “serenity now!” thing, because he’s been holding it in for so long?
[Laughs] Nah, nah. But I’ve brought him onstage, and he’s vibed with us. It’s that type of vibe, man.
You said you were thinking about running for mayor of Fayetteville. Is that a thing?
Nah. [Laughs] I was talkin’ shit. I had my car show on the way, and it felt like the county, the city wasn’t really embracing the vision. You’re complaining about this one day? I’ll do this shit every day for three years. Y’all want me to slow the fuckin’ traffic down around here? I’ll take my shirt off right now!
Rozay proceeds to take his T-shirt off and put it back on to demonstrate his point.
I’ve been enjoying your little feud with DJ Envy over your car show and his real estate dealings because I’m from New York and have cracked up whenever Desus roasts him.
Yo, that was classic. “Beige Rage.” That’s DJ Liquidation. DJ Scammer. Yo, you’re from New York? Did he scam anyone you know?
Not that I know of.
You sure? You gotta poll all the older ladies in your family because they said they specifically targeted older women who would stay up late at night and order silver jewelry off the TV. You gotta call all your grandmas and aunties. Those real-estate scams … He’s a thief. It’s unfortunate for the older ladies.
Earlier this year, you made the news because your pet buffaloes were roaming the neighborhood and causing chaos. How many buffaloes do you have, and how can you control them?
I think that’s the beauty of the Promised Land — you don’t control them, you let ‘em live! If you’ve got 300 acres? Live! That’s what I wanted to tell my neighbors about the buffaloes roaming: “They got away. If they’re in your front yard, be so kind as to give them a carrot.” That’s what I told them. For the people who had my buffaloes end up in their yards, I offered them to come over to the Promised Land and have a free dinner. One older lady came by. I have five buffaloes. I love buffaloes.
Do you name them? And know the names of all five?
I do — but I forget them all the time! All the time! [Laughs] I come up with dope-ass names, too. One of my horses is named Ferrari. Another is named Louis V. Another is named … I always go on tour and I forget, and then I just make up more dope names.
You put out the song “Entanglements” with Jada Pinkett Smith’s ex-lover August Alsina, so I’m curious what you’ve thought of Jada’s book tour?
I don’t think I agree with Jada Pinkett. To me, she’s psychologically lost and needs some counseling. Jesus! What you going to tell us next? When you tell us you haven’t been together in six years, you haven’t had sex in this many years, you don’t have a prenuptial agreement — OK, what’s next? I heard the book flopped because she already told us everything. No one cares. That’s what they don’t understand. Sometimes as celebrities you can get out of touch. Will Smith isn’t the same Will Smith as he was 20 years ago. Jada Pinkett … come on, Jada! Chill out, baby! You were in the movie Set It Off, and that’s all we know you from. You got $15K for that role and that’s it. Calm down. You fucked your son’s best friend. You said your son introduced you to psychedelics. What’s next?! And to be honest, we’re not interested! I don’t want to know if Tupac got alopecia! Jada, Rozay still got love for you, but go sit down.
I know you had a big health scare in 2018 with your heart attack. You were on life support. What changes did you make in your life to try to be healthier?
I had to make some big changes. I still don’t sleep. I’m a partier. I’m gonna be that way till I die. I’ve tried taking things to help, but it’s useless. The medicine that I take now is for seizures and shit like that. I partied hard.
You drank a lot of lean, right? Lil Wayne also got seizures from drinking too much of that.
Yeah. We spoke on that a couple of times. When you have a seizure, you wake up six hours later like, “Where am I?” I still don’t want to sleep. I lay down for two or three hours, but then I’ll get up. Six hours is good for me. An hour is a wonderful nap for me. If I lay down for an hour, I can get up and play a football game.
You’re not on the Ozempic like everyone in Hollywood, are you?
What the fuck is that?
It’s technically an appetite suppressant that’s supposed to be used to treat diabetics, but now every celebrity and their mother is on it.
That’s one thing that I’ve been blessed with: I’ve never had diabetes. But … it’s like a diet thing? They’re doing it to lose weight? Nah. I still like to do this.
Rozay begins posing like he’s Mr. Universe, flexing his biceps and pressing his chest muscles together with a big smile on his face.
The big thing for me, though, was I completely cut out sodas. And one of my worst habits was, I’d be up in the middle of the night eating T-bone steaks and ordering Waffle House. The chef would make some shit for us at 2 a.m., and we’d want spaghetti, lasagna, and some lamb chops, and some garlic rolls — for no reason. And that’s what we’re eating in the middle of the night! So, for me to get up to 350 pounds, once I stopped that, I’m fittin’ to chill.
What’s left for Rick Ross to accomplish — in addition to, like you said, owning a piece of the Las Vegas Raiders?
Oh no, I want to own a piece of the Miami Dolphins. I was just using that as an example. But there’s a lot left for me to do. I have two New York Times bestsellers, and I want to write a film. The reason why I don’t act as much is because it takes so long to do so little. You gotta rehearse for 30 days to do a two-minute scene. I want to write a story about street shit coming up.
I hope it’s better than 50 Cent’s biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’, because that really sucked.
Everything 50 does sucks.
It was directed by Jim Sheridan, who’s a talented director, and it practically ended his career.
R.I.P. Look what 50 Cent did to you. But at least he got a movie done about him. He took advantage of the system. But oh, my God, please! Who wants to see a movie about 50?!
When I think of Miami, I think of you and Drake, as well as Pitbull. But between you and Drake, who’s the bigger Miami fish?
Come on, look who you’re talkin’ to? I’m the megalodon. But the beautiful thing about Miami is there are a lot of big boys in Miami and we can coexist. Regardless of where you’re from, if you’re winning and doing some great things, we love it. There’s a lot of money there.
Just don’t get too involved in the crypto scene down there.
Oh, my God!? I told ‘em back then, “Don’t fall for it!” It’s DJ Envy’s Ponzi!