For the first time ever, Rick Ross and his protegé Wale are covering this week’s issue of Billboard magazine. This issue features an in-depth look at the partnership of Ross and Wale. Below are some excerpts:
The idea of being “clutch” — of having a sixth sense for the defining moment — is one that Rick Ross relates to. After all, the 35-year-old Miami rapper has quietly been clutch his entire career.
When he needed a hit first single five years ago, “Hustlin'” became an anthem, selling 733,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
When he needed to win over critics, he released a front-to-back classic, “Teflon Don,” in 2010. It sold 682,000 copies and topped out at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
“I understand why New York’s a huge fan of Derek Jeter — because in the playoffs he always delivered, he always came through,” Ross says. “And that’s what it is when it comes to big records, big collaborations. I was fortunate last year to have a run with the biggest names in the game.”
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NEXT PAGE: MORE EXCERPTS OF ROSS AND WALE IN-DEPTH PARTNERSHIP
“I said to [Ross], ‘I think we could build something great together. You could build the next Cash Money,'” says Joie Manda ( @joeyie), executive VP/head of urban music at Warner Bros. Records. “And he said, ‘That’s what I want to do. That’s my dream.'”
MMG sports an assortment of lyrical styles, but just when Ross needed to prove the power of his brand, Wale released his sophomore album, “Ambition,” to stunning results on Nov. 1. The Washington, D.C. rapper’s 2009 debut, “Attention Deficit,” sold 28,000 copies in its first week, and Interscope Records eventually dropped him. However, with Ross executive-producing (with Wale), and relentlessly promoting “Ambition” (he even set the avatar of his @rickyrozay Twitter account, which sports 1.5 million followers, with Wale’s album artwork), the album sold 164,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It’s an improbable comeback that Wale acknowledges in the liner notes of the new LP. “Rick Ross,” it says simply, “thank you for giving me my shot.”
In the meantime, Ross is still firing on all cylinders, spending marathon studio sessions tweaking “God Forgives” and other projects. He’s a tireless worker, literally — longtime manager Alex “Gucci Pucci” Bethune says that he and Ross usually get about three hours of sleep per night. Ross is constantly thinking, talking and tweeting about MMG, and wants “God Forgives” to pack the epic scope of a Brian De Palma film — hence the title.
“This album is almost like a movie,” Ross says. “I wanted [the title] to be something that was extremely emotional, to set up a real roller coaster ride as far as the music and thought process. It sounds like a term of retaliation, and with the picture that I’m painting, it felt perfect.”
Wale’s manager, Rich Kleiman, who is also Roc Nation VP of management, says that Ross had been talking to Wale backstage at club shows for months last year – the D.C. rapper’s verse on Waka Flocka Flame’s hit single “No Hands” had been earning him new recognition. Ross says that he could see the passion in Wale’s rhymes, and the poor sales of “Attention Deficit” didn’t deter him from offering Wale a deal. “It wasn’t about hype, and it wasn’t about past success,” Ross says. “It was about who Wale was as an MC – an incredible MC – that made me a fan. I felt we could make history together.”
With Mill and Wale in place on the roster, Ross decided to inject some “new energy” in the Maybach imprint after the label’s deal with Def Jam Recordings expired. Rumors of a bidding war for MMG spread until the label solidified a partnership with Warner Bros. Records on Feb. 22, the same day Ross announced the signing of Atlanta rapper Pill ( @Pill4180), an online favorite, to MMG.
“You the Boss” has moved 80,000 copies while “I Love My Bitches” has sold 17,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and Atlas says that “Boss” will be crossed over to rhythmic and pop after initially finding a home at R&B/hip-hop radio. A video for the song is coming, as are TV opportunities, live concert events and Twitter campaigns, depending on the new release date. On the MMG side, Warner Bros.’ Manda says that a “Self Made, Vol. 2” could arrive as early as late January and that Mill’s proper debut is expected to be released in March. As for the further expansion of MMG’s roster, including a rumored partnership with veteran MC Trina, Manda will only say that Ross “is constantly looking for new talent.”