My latest guest has a few things in common with the great Cleo McDowell, creator of the Big Mick from the 1988 movie “Coming to America.” He also lords over a mini fast-food empire, owning a Checkers location and a handful of Wingstops across the country.
While he does not own a home in Jamaica Estates with a little train on the bar and some Soul Glo stains on the couch (respect to Mother Jenks), the royal family of Zamunda has spent time in his mansion. I’m talking about Rick Ross, a k a Ricky Rozay. His massive 109-room estate in Fayetteville, Georgia, was once owned by Evander Holyfield, and from what I understand, is so big, it should have its own ZIP code. It served as a major filming location for the year’s most anticipated movie.
“It was used this past summer as the main set for “Coming 2 America,” Eddie Murphy, the whole team. And of course, that was a big-budget film. And as you know, it was some big business,” he told me, sounding like Cleo, who doesn’t miss the opportunity to make a buck. In fact, Ross has turned his flashy homes and cars into moneymakers.
“Since then, a lot of producers, a lot of directors, a lot of scouts, they want to come see it for themselves … They will just want to use a certain room, and then decide this and that. And you know once again, those are fees. The scouts know the automobiles I have and they want to use them for different reasons … and that’s big money,” he said.
But before the big business, came the rap. Actually, let me rewind. First the Miami-reared Ross played college football at Albany State, a historically black college in Georgia, and briefly became a correctional officer before joining the Miami rap scene, during its post 2 Live Crew booty-shaking era.
I first heard him rap on a track with Trina and became a fan. But then again, I loved the entire Miami scene, including the University of Miami football team, which is so intertwined with the city’s rappers. In fact, Luther Campbell may have thrown a concert near my Detroit stomping grounds, and I may have gotten a lap dance onstage. Basically, I dig the Miami vibe, and Ross embodies it. We first met on the set of Queen Latifah’s 2004 flick, “The Cookout” and became good friends.
As a rapper, he has a great ear and sound, but he was never considered a purist. You weren’t going to run up to him on the street and see him kill someone in a rap battle. But he has harnessed the hustle and used the rap to become a businessman, a mentor and someone who I think would be awesome hosting his own financial advice show.
“For me personally, security is what wealth brings to the table. That is one of the things that means most to me,” he said. “When you are in a secure place, your decision making is on another level. You don’t have to roll the dice as much if you are in a secure place … the next goal should be putting your kids in that same position,” he told me.
Although he’s fiscally prudent, he isn’t immune to bad decisions now and again.
“I purchased an $80,000 horse. It was just for personal use … What may be the cherry on top, I forgot the type of horse it was,” he said.
As for his music, his song “B.M.F.” is my favorite, because it’s a nod to Big Meech, the now-incarcerated Detroit drug kingpin Demetrius Flenory. I don’t condone the criminal lifestyle, but I knew of his legend growing up and oddly enough, he and his crew always made sure that I stayed off the streets and kept my nose clean.
Speaking of clean, Rozay’s diet is a lot more healthy these days. About a decade ago, he had a health scare and dropped 100 pounds. “What made me get on my diet was, you know, when I started having seizures. I’m like, yo, I got to get on my A game. I can’t become a diabetic. I don’t need no more bad news.” He ditched soda, cut back on his sugar, carbs and upped his workout routine.
But the man is still the Biggest Boss. I sorta think of him as the black Thurston Howell III from “Gilligan’s Island” (and I bet he has had some Gingers and Mariannes running around that mansion) — and he does treat himself. “Instead of waking up with the T-bone and the five pancakes, you know, I just had to cut back on a lot of things now. So in the morning, I do drizzle, turkey sausage, omelet and glass of Champagne and keep it moving.”
Rick is an old-school video game fanatic, and he told me his favorite is “Tecmo Bowl,” the Bo Jackson, “Up down, up down, all the way through the tunnel all day” special.
That’s my game, too, so I’m gonna have to head to his estate, and challenge him to a “Tecmo Bowl” tournament. After we’re done, we’re gonna sip from his breakfast Champagne stash. That’s what it’s like to be Rick Ross.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.