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It’s been 14 years since “Hustlin’,” but that’s also the number of millions of listeners Rick Ross still sees every month on Spotify alone — 14.1 to be exact. Now less than a year removed from his biggest album in a while and stuck at home instead of supporting it on tour, he spoke with L.A. Weekly on his jump into the cannabis industry and this undeniable moment in time that history will remember.

As with all artists, social distancing guidelines axed any plans Ross had for the road in recent months, but the dynamic entrepreneur who stopped counting at 30 Wingstops, stayed busy. Especially with a new project close to his heart: His Pink Rozay line with one of the cannabis industry’s most beloved, hated and imitated brands, Cookies.

As the chat started, Ross was already burning down his first blunt of the interview. He noted that due to “the Rona” — a far better term than “pandemic” that would frequently dot our conversation — he was back to rolling his own blunts again so as not to catch the virus. This writer, an enthusiast in Dominican tobacco and cannabis, immediately asked what he was rolling.

Ross noted it was the aforementioned Pink Rozay — which has been sending rumblings through the grapevine — and within a minute of our chat starting, we were already diving into the subject of cannabis.

“Pink Rozay is the gas, it’s real strong,” Ross quickly proclaimed. “As soon as you put it to your nose it’s going to get your approval. Once it touches your lungs, it’s going down. I’m just going to get straight to the point. I started smoking when I was 13, growing up in Miami. We had the worst weed you could ever find. Coming from all different parts of the islands.”

The gas is a way to affectionately describe some good pot once the strains start to get mushy. With all the random OG phenos out there these days, as long as it has a strong fuel aroma you know you’re getting something reasonably dope. Pink Rozay pairs Lemonchello #10 and London Poundcake #75, so it’s a safe bet to have faith in it. 

Ross said eventually he started to see the first wave of Miami indoor, commonly called Krypt. He said it changed the game without a doubt, but he didn’t feel like cannabis in the South reached the heights it was supposed too.

“First time I went to L.A., I want to say ’04, ’05, and I decided my favorite strain in ’06. I went to this spot called the Green Gourmet Room. They had a strain called Private Reserve- ever since I smoked it I’ve been chasing that taste,” Ross recounted.

In those 14 years since, Ross found the strain that feels the closest to that experience with Private Reserve, is the Gary Payton-bred Kenny Powers from Cookies.

According to Cookies, Ross and Bay Area rapper Berner, an executive who’s become the public face of Cookies, have been friends for years. As smokers, they wanted to build a brand that would reflect the world-class cannabis genetics’ lineage and how much Ross loves awesome pot.

Ross told the Cookies team that Lemon Pepper hot wings are his favorite flavor and the flavor terpene profile he was hoping for in what he would eventually bring to market had to have notes of both — what Ross considered a perfect marriage of aroma.

Rick Ross (Gianni Cohen)

“This is the first run of a collaborative brand Cookies has embarked on, spending a lot of time and effort to curate Ross’ favorite strains, developing the artwork and expanding the line that’s currently in multiple states,” Tori Cole of Cookies told the Weekly. “For Berner, it’s not just about associating an artist with amazing genetics. It’s about building a brand that Cookies and Ross believe in and expand on, bringing fans the best cannabis experience they expect from Ross and Cookies.”

The excitement is mutual.

“I been to a lot of countries, I smoked with the biggest smokers. But there are just certain things that stuck in my mind. Shoutouts to Cookies, I’m excited to be doing this. I feel like these are some of my favorite strains, my favorite shit over the last damn near 30 years,” Ross said.

While some of his celebrity peers have now entered the cannabis space, with the exception of Whoopi Goldberg, none did it with a real thought-leader by their side as an equal. With Cookies and the efforts put in by Jigga and the other growers under the flag, you’re talking about generational talent. Not to mention all the effort Berner has put in over the years too, helping spread the word in a way that created some of the most hyped cuts of the decade.

The warehouse scene exploded in the 2000s, but once Obama took the Oval Office people really blew their spot up with even more lights. In those moments, elite Cookies genetics that got out at the end of the decade were how exotic pot was defined compared to the cuts that were getting pumped out by the mass producers that made sure Billy in Cincinnati had his OG Kush that smells like bad Sour Diesel. Not bad weed per se, but cuts like those flooded the market at varying quality and just made the flame the Cookie family was producing seem hotter.

Cookies’ original cuts would carry clout to this day. But eventually, Jigga and Sherbinski’s Gelato collab would capture hearts and minds until the era of Zkittelz began in the middle of the decade.

By then Cookies wasn’t a strain anymore, it was a cultural phenomenon around great cannabis. We asked Ross, the successful entrepreneur more so than rapper, if he was excited to start a new business endeavor around something he loves with that kind of exceptionally rare energy already built into the project.

(Courtesy of Cookies)

“Oh most definitely,” he quickly replied, “we took a lot of time to curate these strains and make sure they satisfy the motherfuckers with the most hollow chest, you know what I’m saying?”

Ross was also excited that this was the first time Cookies had done this kind of collaboration, before getting into how specific varying cannabis tastes could be. He knows that just because he thinks something is the gas, others might not find it as exotic. So he hoped to capture something for everyone in the initial lineup of three strains.

“It’s got to be heavy, man. It’s got to sit there with me. I got to really roll it. I got to want to roll it. I just want to break it down myself and enjoy these moments before I smoke this dope,” Ross said. “I smoke gas. I smoke stank. And after I smoke it I’m going to give you my opinion, that’s what I’m going to go by.”

When this writer told Ross the best case scenario is the jar smells like a gas station, he replied, “Texaco, man. I’m one of those dudes… what’s a good way to describe…aggressive ambition. I’m just being creative.”

Ross said the Pink Rozay line will launch in all Cookies flagship markets.

Staying Motivated

Ross generally goes hard in the various aspects of his life and career. He feels like he’s really at his best when he’s smoking hard. “I’m rolling good THC, you know, so I can get up at 6 a.m. and only sleep four hours, as long as I’m smoking good I don’t get sleepy.”

When asked how he continues to stay motivated through all these various enterprises he is now a part of, Ross cites only associating with the things that really meant something to him as the key to all of it.

“If I name the 20 brands I’m a part of, it’s really things that only go with my lifestyle,” he told the Weekly. “Cannabis, Champagne, Wingstop, my music and artists, beards, the list goes on. But it all revolves around Rozay, it’s nothing I got to go out of the box to do. You know what I’m saying?”

“Rozay is the ethos that makes all those things happen?” this writer asked.

“Right,” Ross snapped back. “Straight up, you know what I’m saying? And that’s what keeps me moving.”

Ross said he doesn’t wake up from a long night and get bummed about doing some interview. “I say, homie, get me a drink. I’m finna roll up, because during the Rona nobody else can roll me up nothing. The Rona changed the game. The days of having my shit rolled up? I need that no more. I’m rolling my own, you may have the Rona. So that’s how we doing it.”

As for staying motivated during a pandemic, Ross said that’s when you pull out your best weed and fishing pole. He has also used the time to expand his social media efforts repping his brands and the artists he’s working with.

“It’s like a family. A lot of time, even though I’m doing business with my homies, it may mean more to them than it does to me,” he explained. “But that doesn’t make an excuse for me to not go as hard, or even harder than them. You understand? So that’s what I did. I had more time, so I’ve been on social media tagging not only my shit but my homies’ shit. So we’ve been keeping it live like that.”

The rapper said the last time he was on stage was in late January or February; he hasn’t moved since March. “The Rona shut it all down, the fungus is among us,” he said.

Ross bought a pound of weed a week before our interview. By the time we jumped on the call, he said he was about halfway through it.  He believes the reason he’s able to smoke pounds to the face these days is because of the defining characteristic his mother passed on to him: Don’t ask for anything. From pushing carriages for old ladies to the stuff he’d eventually rap about, it was all about the hustle well before 2006.

“Thirteen, I was washing cars,” he said, “I loved to crank up an old Chevy. I loved to listen to the music. And I’d just be looking around. Like I said, aggressive ambition. I’m just going to always do a bunch of shit.”

That ambition would end up being the subject of the now New York Times bestseller Hurricanes: A Memoir. Ross teamed up with Neil Martinez-Belkin on the effort that dropped last fall. Ross also recently told The Breakfast Club a movie was in the works.

“There is most definitely a lot of discussions going on but I’m just sitting back,” Ross said, when asked if there were any updates. “I’ve never had a problem with being a student. This was my first time writing a memoir. It was successful and I’m thankful everybody supported it and now they are discussing it becoming a film. So I’m sitting back watching the big boys talk.”

Regardless of what happened with the film, Ross just closed the deal for his second book. “It was a huge sum I couldn’t believe. We just closed it, this is the first time I’m speaking on it, maybe 48 hours ago.”

When asked if the public should expect a wave of crazy albums and pandemic mixtapes dropping in the not too distant future, Ross was optimistic.

“I believe you will because I’ve almost completed an album that I wouldn’t have had the time too,” Ross said, noting he originally had a three-month tour planned instead of more studio time. “I just had the time to really sit down and collaborate. Get on the phone with a few artists, big boys, and talk some heavyweight shit. Because there is a lot more purpose right now.”

Rick Ross Gets Political

The rapper believes now is the moment for artists to make more noise than they ever did. The killing of George Floyd tore his heart apart; “I’m sure I shed a tear,” Ross said. He believes the messages we are now discussing in the wake of Floyd’s killing are subjects he’s spoken on in past music.

He’s had a long history with America’s current racist-and-chief. Five years ago, then just a shady-landlord and Moscow condominium salesman, Trump got Walmart to pull Ross’ Black Market album over the line “assassinate Trump like I’m Zimmerman.” He would later tell Rolling Stone about the controversial line, “I would never advocate violence on Trump or anyone. It’s lyrical assassination. That’s me being a poet, putting words together in my art form, with no violence in my heart at all,” he said. “Clarify that. Matter of fact, my cameraman was Trump’s caddie at his golf course for five years, and he says Trump is cool as fuck.”

He’s thinking about including his own encounters with law enforcement in his new memoir. “These are things, unfortunately, as a black man we’ve been dealing with for years and years,” Ross said. “It’s just come full circle and is being addressed.”

“I’m waiting for the smart dudes to step up and discuss what’s the first five things we need to happen,” Ross added. “That’s what we need to happen. We need to have the smart dudes step up and clarify. Motherfuckers that know the Constitution, and the language, and all that. Because I know what the fuck I feel and I know what I want, but I want to let the motherfuckers who know what’s going on step up in there — and if I agree with it, I’m going to push it with them.”