While Freeway Ricky Ross was spending 20 years in jail for dealing drugs, two rappers, Freeway (nee Leslie Edward Pridgen) and Rick Ross (nee William L. Roberts), jacked his name. The legendary L.A. coke dealer did 20 years in prison after being set up by a supplier reputed to have ties to the Contras at the height of the Iran-Contral scandal.
This Friday at the International Drug Policy Reform conference -- which took place at rhe Westin Bonaventure -- Ross appeared on a panel entitled, "Can Hip Hop Help End The Drug War?" We spoke to him afterwards, and he talked on the two MCs, his distribution past, and his mission going forward.
On rappers Rick Ross and Freeway:
"They're so focused on not living in reality, our people right now, they're in such a fantasy land, they don't want to deal with the fact that America's broke, they have no jobs. How can these people be walking around like this whole country's not in dire need? We're on life support right now. We're in such debt to China, India, all the countries that have been making all of the little gadgets that we have to have every year that it's crazy. We could be a third world country shortly."
On not regretting his rock-slinging past:
"I don't really regret my life as a drug dealer, because if I wan't a drug dealer, I couldn't do the things that I'm doing right now. I think my life has been an experiment to help this country get out of the position that it's in right now. So I think my drug dealing is really going to be a blessing for the whole country."
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On what he says at schools:
"What I try to tell kids is that they can be anything that they want to be. And they can just look at me. I went from being illiterate to being a my own lawyer. I could have done anything that I wanted to do, but I made a bad decision. I went to somebody and asked him to teach me how to make money without investigating to see where it was going to lead me in the long run. So the most important thing for our kids is to become critical thinkers. Where they can take information, decipher it, and make the choices that will benefit them."
On the main problem facing the black community:
"The main problem is lack of knowledge. The prison industrial complex came out of a man's mind. Some guy sat down and he though of that, as a way of making money for himself. So if one man thought of it, another man can get rid of it. I want to destablize the prison system, the drug war, and I'm going to do it one person at a time."