Rick Ross was a drug kingpin in the 1980s and early ’90s running a multi-million-dollar operation that spanned across the U.S. His world came crashing down when he landed in prison during a federal sting operation after he’d left the business and gone legit. But he was lured back in by his main source, who was working for the feds.
Now, Ross has teamed with bestselling crime writer Cathy Scott and released a book that is a unique behind-the-scenes look at how a kid born into poverty in rural Texas ended up a high-profile player in the drug game. It’s titled
Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography, and it is a powerful read. It’s a thought-provoking memoir that holds nothing back while making no excuses for Ross’s past actions. Here is an excerpt of the just-released memoir.
The San Diego skyline was the vista from my cell on the maximum-security floor of the federal high-rise where I was housed. The Million Dollar View, inmates called it. Looking out at the skyscrapers across San Diego Bay offered me time to reminisce. And reflect.
I ran from poverty, turning to drug dealing to get a head start as an entrepreneur. That was always the goal: Get into the drug business and go legit.
As a young kid in grade school, I wanted to be a Crip, but my mom wouldn’t have it. I never became a gangbanger, though I got close.
At Dorsey High School, playing tennis on the varsity team was the ticket out of the ‘hood. The dream of a tennis career after I made All City took a major shot, however, when
Coach discovered I’d never learned I couldn’t read or write. I wasn’t going to college after all, and I wasn’t gonna be the next Arthur Ashe, so there was no point in staying in school. I put down the tennis racquet and picked up a gun.
I kept a low profile with my street cred. I never joined a gang, never flashed colors. But I always had key relationships with people who did.
One day, I sat on my porch, dead broke and working out ways in my head to earn cash when Mike McLoren, one of the neighborhood homies, dropped by.
“I have a deal for you,” Mike said.
He pulled out a bag with some kind of white powder in it.
“It’s the new thang, man.” He waved the clear Baggie in front of me. “I can sell this for fifty dollars.”
The powder was cocaine. The real shit. Coke was right in front of me, just like in the movie Super Fly. Mike, who’d left South Central Los Angeles to attend college, explained how he’d been selling powder cocaine to students at San Jose State to make extra money. I barely heard the words “students or “San Jose,” or even “cocaine.” I was totally focused on “extra money.” I wanted in on the game.
It was 1979 and I was 19 when Mike introduced me to the drug that would forever change my life. Powder cocaine appeared as a bright, shining star of opportunity. I bought my first Baggie and doubled my money. Powder cocaine appeared as bright shining star of opportunity. I had no doubt it would take me to being rich in a way that up to that point I’d only imagined.
My instinct on breaking into the drug trade was on point: I was a millionaire by my twenty-third birthday. “Rick Ross” became a household name throughout the black ghettos of South Central L.A. and reached halfway across the country. A bunch of homies worked for me, and they had even more people selling for them. We cooked like a hundred kilos every night. We didn’t call it crack. We called it Ready Rock. We maintained houses where buyers drove up to a window to be served, just like at McDonald’s. We had money-counting houses, cook houses, rock houses, apartment buildings, a Laundromat, and a body shop.
I had everything I needed: money, cars, women, and a thriving business. As time progressed, I was making millions every day. By 1985, record executives were chasing me through South Central trying to invest in their artists. I was the man.
I approached the drug dealing as a businessman, even though the government associated me with gangs, like the Hoover Crips. It’s even in my federal file, because the feds said nobody could have sold drugs and made that kind of cash without being a gangster, so I must have been one. They had it backwards and thought the game was tied to gang violence. It was always about business, never about gangs.
Crack was not in the ‘hood before the ‘80s, so none of us knew the side effects that could and would occur amid the crack epidemic that would sweep over black neighborhoods across the land. Even the cops in the area didn’t know what crack was; they didn’t associate the small white rocks they saw on homies as illegal drugs. All we knew was people wanted it; back then, it was a party drug, recreational. Crack was the upper. And it was all about supply and demand. I was a young entrepreneur making a good living and building a business. I wasn’t thinking about the repercussions or even that any existed.
Something else I didn’t know: My supplier was a paid federal informant for the CIA.
Most people are still unaware of what really went down in South Central with crack. My raw materials came from Oscar Danilo Blandón, a Nicaraguan national who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had ties to the CIA and sent his proceeds to fund Iran-Contra rebels. I was the first black drug dealer in South Central Los Angeles to forge a tie with a Colombian. I knew him only as Danilo. He supplied me with cocaine at bargain-basement prices that I converted to crack, and I passed on the savings to my clientele.
The U.S. government didn’t sell the drugs, of course, but they did supply the dealer, turning a blind eye to the operation and allowing massive shipments of coke into the U.S. until it became public and they needed a scapegoat—namely, me. The government wanted to put a face on the War on Drugs, and Rick Ross became the image of the kingpin behind it all.
Danilo was hired by the DEA as an undercover informant with the goal of taking me down. He set me up in a sting operation orchestrated by the feds, who arrested me. By my 37th birthday, I was in the pen serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. While inside, I kept thinking, “What can I do to better myself?” The one nagging thing that always came back to me was to learn to read. It was a second chance. I wanted to get out and help my community, to try and prevent kids from making the same mistakes I made. I couldn’t do that if I couldn’t read and write.
My self-education began by visiting the prison law library every day. I read more than 300 books. Each day I read the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, or Forbes. Most nights I fell asleep with a book on my chest or next to my pillow. It paid off: While behind bars, I went from being illiterate to over literate.
My name is Ricky Donnell Ross. People know me as Freeway Rick. This is my story.