Rapper Rick Ross On Real Estate, Hot Wings And The Benefits Of Mowing Your Lawn
Miami rapper Rick Ross knows a thing or two about music. In 2006, Ross’ “Port of Miami” debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 albums chart and made “Hustlin'” a breakout hit that had music lovers singing, “every day I’m hustling, hustling, hustling.”‘
No one-hit wonder, the Grammy-Nominated rapper stayed true to his words, founding Maybach Music Group in 2009 and making Forbes list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings in 2017.
Fifteen years after he first hit the charts, Ross stands atop a growing empire, a boss, a true entrepreneur with a vast reach and an unstoppable drive.
Friends call him “Rozay” (pronounced rosé). The name came to him when he was just a young dreamer, admiring VIPs and celebrities and their sparkling bottles while partying at Prince’s Glam Slam Club on Washington Avenue in Miami’s South Beach before Rick “The Boss” Ross could afford rosé champagne.
The moniker has served him well. Forget wishing. Today, Ross is a certified VIP. He has released 10 studio albums and long been an ambassador for Luc Belaire’s signature rosé premium sparkling wines and champagnes. Some special edition bottles feature an image of his face. Ross has authored two books: “Hurricanes: A Memoir” in 2020 and “The Perfect Day to Boss Up: A Hustler’s Guide to Building Your Empire” (available Sept. 7). Oh, and he owns more than 25 Wingstop franchises.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got to 10 Wingstop franchises. Then, we got to 25, but we are still expanding because Wingstop is doing so great,” Ross says.
2020 was lucrative for Ross. Covid-19 did little to slow his ceaseless hustle. He partnered with Cookies, an international cannabis brand, to launch three specially curated pot strains, and invested $1 million to sign on as an equity partner, advisor and spokesperson for Florida-based startup Jetdoc, a telehealth company. And he recently worked with luxury car designer Rich B. Caliente and producer duo Cool & Dre to turn a Porsche 911 into a unique piece of car art.
Whether a luxury lifestyle brand, a colorful car, a restaurant, or a home, Ross likes to invest in tangibles.
Born William Leonard Roberts II in Clarksdale, Miss., Ross, 45, grew up in Carol City, Florida, and says he learned much of his business acumen from his mother.
“When I became a young millionaire for the first time, I went to my mother because she had always been a registered nurse and worked two and three jobs. She always bought real estate. She came from Clarksdale, where the real estate was a lot cheaper. She would just keep buying houses. And I would say, ‘Mom, what do you think about the stock market?’ And she would say, ‘Son, I don’t really rock with the stock market. I don’t know much about it, but I know about real estate . . . So when you buy something, make sure you can touch it.'”
When he moved to Georgia in 2008, he bought a house two blocks from world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield’s famed 54,000-square-foot Fayetteville estate so that he could ride by the home each day. Rumor is that the fighter spent $20 million building the 235-acre estate and paid more than $1 million annually to keep the lights on and the grass cut.
Ross wasn’t thinking about upkeep. He admired the property.
“I looked at every curve and every up and downhill on the lawn. I was looking at the geese as I rolled by. I did that for years until one day, I saw the red for-sale sign on the gate and made a U-turn,” Ross says.
Real estate followers know what happened next. Ross bought the Fayetteville estate for $5.8 million in 2014. He’s since made some changes and purchased another 87 acres adjacent to the main estate in 2019 for $1 million. While the estate, which includes a 350,000-gallon pool and a dining room that seats 100, is home, Ross is not afraid to put the property to work. For example, the estate served as the Zamunda Palace in Eddie Murphy’s 2021 sequel, “Coming 2 America.” Ever the businessman, Ross says he secured more than $2.5 million to let producers use the estate as one of several locations (Tyler Perry Studios was another).
Owning one of Georgia’s most iconic homes is impressive, but Ross is always searching for his next acquisition. So in March, he paid $3.5 million in cash for a 2.3-acre resort-style estate in Southwest Ranches, Florida, a suburban community 22 miles northwest of Miami, formerly owned by the NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. The 8,600-square-foot home has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two home offices, a gym, an indoor theater and a stunning pool and outdoor space.
During a moment away from building his empire, the rapper turned mogul sat down with Forbes to talk about real estate, investing and the benefits of mowing your lawn.
Michelle Hofmann: You recently bought a Southwest Ranches, Florida, home that belonged to Amar’e Stoudemire? Did you know the house belonged to him?
Rick Ross: No, I have a friendship with Amar’e, but that’s not how I found out about the house. I had my mother and sister looking for property in the Miami Beach area. My mother saw the house on her phone and immediately called me. The home had been listed for less than a week. My mother knows the things I love, what I am attracted to. When she sent me the link, I looked at the acreage and the nine-car garage and said, ‘Let’s look at this now.’ They arranged for me to see the property. I think I was in the home 10 minutes before telling the agent, ‘This is my house.’
Hofmann: You made a quick decision? How did you know this house was right for you?
Ross: There is a feeling I get walking in places. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve been to so many beautiful homes in my life. I’ve been in Dr. Dre’s house and Diddy’s mansion and some of the most expensive homes, so I have a keen eye for detail. The garden area at the home in Southwest Ranches is immaculate and so spread out. This is the first one-story home I’ve owned. I thought it would be good for my mother and keep her close to me. There are so many pluses down to the detail on the wallpaper and the size of the closet in the master.
I love the area. The empire is continuing to grow. So we need spaces to conduct business and invite people in to discuss possibilities. I love marketing, and I love putting brands on the table. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re busy and doing what you love.
Hofmann: Do you have a favorite room in the new Florida estate?
Ross: As you walk through the main entrance, there’s this excellent view through the house. The view to the waterfall and the waterslide in the backyard is just stunning. I negotiated to keep the custom glass table that feels like it weighs 5,000 pounds with the custom chairs. I wanted that table. I added a beautiful extravagant piano that plays itself. I’m still moving things around and moving furniture in and just having fun being creative in decorating the house. Right now, I’m standing in a new office in Southwest Ranches, looking at the walls and waiting for my Luc Belaire signature rosé signs to come in.
Hofmann: The Fayetteville, Georgia, estate is immense. Does owning such an extravagant home ever feel overwhelming?
Ross: To a lot of people, it would feel overwhelming to buy a property like that. I get it. The Fayetteville house is like 55,000-square-feet and 100-plus rooms and over 300 acres [with the added land I purchased]. But being an artist, I understand that it takes time to do great things, so I didn’t approach the Fayetteville house as if it was something that I would complete in a year or two years. I wanted to look at this as an investment, take my time and do something great with it.
Hofmann: How would you describe your decorating style?
Ross: I’m not scared to change colors or change things. With the way I decorate and add statues, I want the space to feel ancient yet new. There is this balance in decorating. I have a lot of fun with it. When people walk into the Fayetteville house for the first time, the easiest way to describe it is that they are breathless and captivated. I understand that and just let them take 10 minutes in the foyer and the entrance and look at the double staircase. There is a basketball court downstairs and a bowling alley and an indoor swimming pool, and lots of one-of-one, custom art pieces. It’s a fun thing to me when people walk into the home. It’s exciting. I love decorating.
It is easy for me to make decisions because there is no grey area. It’s either amazing or it’s not. It either fits or it doesn’t. We’re not making exceptions. We know what we want to see. We know what we are looking for. And we know how it should feel. I want the space to bring you peace. I want you to feel comfortable because these homes represent decades of work that I’ve put into my life.
Hofmann: You love luxury but are pragmatic. Can you talk about this?
Ross: I don’t have a big jet. I try my best to fly Delta. I love swap meets and antique stores. I love finding beautiful things that cost $8 or $20. When I bought the Fayetteville estate, locals would see me walk out of a restaurant and scream, ‘You know Holyfield spent $1 million a year to cut the grass.’ So I decided that I was gonna cut my own grass. And that’s what I did.
I went down to John Deere and asked to see the biggest tractor, the most efficient tractor. I told them I had 200-plus acres that I wanted to keep cut, and they pointed out the right tractor. I bought it right then and there. I bought the extended attachment on the back that would cut even wider. Once I got it back home, I filled it up with gas. I may have sat in the same spot for two hours before I got everything working, but once I got it going, I didn’t stop. I cut grass for about five hours.
In doing that, I realized that this was something I wanted to do. It was subconscious. I bought a tractor that is enclosed and has air conditioning and a radio. I had the windows tinted so I wouldn’t cause too much confusion with the traffic right next to the estate. People still know it’s me, but when I get in the tractor, it’s a whole other level of peace, a whole other level of connecting with the estate and the animals and the birds and the wildlife.
I sit there and have my cannabis rolled up, and, man, I look at the property and can appreciate my struggles and my triumphs, those rough days. It’s the smallest thing, but it keeps a smile on my face. So, you know, for anybody who doesn’t cut their own grass, I would say take time out every two or three months to cut your grass because it is such a great and peaceful sensation.
Hofmann: So getting in touch with the land helps you stay balanced?
Ross: Yes, I’m not about throwing money away, but it’s important that people enjoy the fruits of your labor and stay ahead of the curve. With 17 partnerships, you might wonder how I do that. But I make sure that I am surrounded by love and inspiration and motivation. Through the window I am looking out of right now in the Southwest Ranches, I can see my red-on-red 458 Ferrari, and it is inspiring. The work is inspiring, but it can drain you. So while I want people to understand that everything is possible, you have to separate yourself and find balance.
Hofmann: You bought some additional land near the Fayetteville property. What is the plan?
Ross: It’s called the Promised Land, where dreams come true. I like to have nicknames for everything. I have so many creative ideas for the Promised Land. I woke up one day thinking of building a gated community of homes. I’ve entertained the idea of creating a golf course. I thought of putting in an amphitheater. To have space to be creative, you need land. And I feel like there is value in real estate because the county is continuing to grow. Two months after I purchased the additional acreage, I had an offer that was $500,000 more than I paid. So, of course, I turned that offer down. But real estate is holding at a great pace, so why not invest.
Hofmann: Do you have any advice for investors?
Ross: The best advice I can give you is to invest in yourself. Whether that is time or energy, invest in yourself. When I’m sitting with young artists, I always tell them to spend their energy wisely. Your energy is more valuable than your money. So spend your energy wisely and make sure that whatever it is that you’re doing, do whatever you’re best at and master that. Whenever you do that, the work becomes easy.
Hofmann: Did you always have an interest in owning a restaurant franchise like Wingstop?
Ross: Yes, but it was just a dream. [Wingstop CEO] Charlie Morrison did something that he didn’t necessarily have to do when he let a hip-hop artist come sit at the table and buy a franchise when he knew that I knew nothing about being a franchisee. But here we are. I’m not sure how many franchises we have now, but I love the whole Wingstop team. My sister and my mother help run the franchises. It’s never been stressful to me. It’s always been fun. I have 17 partnerships right now, and I feel that I could manage 50.
Hofmann: What about your partnership with Cookies?
Ross: My partnership with Cookies cannabis kicked off right at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been a plus and stress-free. It’s been easy on my side partnering with the No. 1 cannabis brand. Once again, we are doing what we love. I am letting the hippy side of myself enjoy life.
Hofmann: Would you consider yourself a hippy?
Ross: Sometimes I would. When I’m looking around with my friends, who I’m smoking with, and reflect on where I’ve come from, I think there’s a little hippy in Rozay.
Hofmann: When you are not decorating or creating new partnerships, what do you do?
Ross: When I’m at home, that’s when I get to talk to my horses. I get to tell them what my week was like. I get to rub them on their noses and their heads. They love me. They try to kiss my ears. When they see me walk up to the gate, they stop doing what they’re doing and they trot to me like they are saying, ‘There he is. We hope he has carrots and apples.’ And I do. Remember, a boss always comes bearing gifts. You’ve gotta bear gifts.