Invincibility, Rick Ross’ “Hood Billionaire,” and America’s Need For the Kingpin Narrative

What if I told you invincibility is not a feeling, but a purchase? That feeling of being on top, of being bad and getting away with it, of life without limits, of power, it’s a $13.99 iTunes click away. Too rich for your blood? Spotify has this instant invincibility, just set up an account. It’s free.

Rick Ross’ “Hood Billionaire,” an album dedicated to living a life none of us will ever live, is 16 tracks of pure, grade-A drug dealer narrative. Over a booming production, Ross regales us with tales of “Coke Like the 80’s,” “rich bitches,” and tapped phones.

We get a verbal tour of Evander Holyfield’s former Florida residence, learn what it’s like to deal cocaine in the Florida Keys, and feel the power of being the “Neighborhood Drug Dealer.”

When you listen to Ross, it’s easy to nod your head along to the monk-chant choruses and heavy bass, grunt your caveman approval, and move on.

But to do that is to miss the true genius of Rick Ross, and the reason why a rapper with little legitimacy or truth to his tales can continue to produce content we all eat up to the tune of millions.

Photo via @ComplexMusic

Photo via @ComplexMusic, All Rights Reserved To Complex Music

Though they won’t be greenlit by Disney anytime soon, Ross ‘s rhymes are just fairy tales, no different in some ways than Snow White and her seven dwarfs or Alice in Wonderland.

The music is not the product, but merely the form of expression and communication upon which Ross pushes his narcotic narrative. The product here is image.

Rick Ross has painted his own identity, through high snares, through a chain of his face wearing a chain of his face, and through an ability to never stray from his made-up mentality, into a narrative of true freedom.

Society pushes us to be fit, clean, and conscious of each other. Ross is comically overweight, rarely wears a shirt in a music video, and has a Wingstop sponsorship. He shows off baguette sized blunts to Rolling Stone Magazine, has tattoos of presidents Lincoln and Washington placed juuuuust above his areolas, and named one of his cars “Katy Perry.”

He doesn’t care, and he doesn’t have to. It’s all a part of the Rick Ross brand of freedom. A level of life unreachable in reality, but attainable in some form through the purchase of Ross’s music. We cannot live that life, but hear what it sounds like.

His freedom shines through in its clearest form in Ross’s self-made persona, an infallible and desired character: The drug dealer that never gets caught.

He’s a modern day superhero, fighting back against the modern day crimes of urban poverty and corporate super villains, only in Ross’ world he has the secret weapon: He never loses.

In American pop culture, we love this. The life of a drug dealer, of a life intertwined in organized crime, interests even the straight-laced viewer, as evidenced by the large scale successes of “Goodfellas,” “The Godfather,” and of course, “Scarface.”

But this is where the medium of film limits the “above the law” narrative. Film is essentially a reflection or imitation of life, and therefore is held in check by reality.

Henry Hill and “Jimmy the Gent” have to get caught by the FBI, because that’s what happened in real life. Vito and Sonny Corleone have to die at the opposite ends of the spectrum (Vito, in a yard with his family around, and Sunny in a blaze of gunfire) because that, or something in between, really happened to crime families in this country. Tony Montana can’t make it, because even Pablo Escobar was gunned down eventually.

But Ross? He makes music, which is not limited by precedent, reality, or the karmic laws of life that always seem to be present in all of our daily experiences.

Plenty of us have seen a bad crime movie and thought, “that would never happen.” But none of us hear The Boss crow lovingly about “nickel rock” and think the same thing.

Even though the real Rick Ross, somebody whose real life story borders on the ledge of legendary, who actually moved several million dollars of cocaine through the west coast & went to jail for 20 years, is somewhat we should be paying attention to; we continue to be enamored with the fake life of the fake Rick Ross, specifically because it’s so unrealistic.

The news has been flush with stories of those living below the law, and the bursting tension that comes as a result, both in the flaming windows of riots and in the peaceful protests of frustrated Americans.

In times like these, it’s rough to look around and feel like you’re on top of the world. This is why we listen to Ross. Instant gratification is the norm these days, and with music it’s no different.

Press play, listen to the powerful score rising under the heavy tones of Rick Ross, and for a moment, just pause.

That moment of relaxation and excitement, that screeching halt in the negativity of life, negativity constantly reinforced every time a television is turned on or Twitter is refreshed, and the realization that it’s now absent, that’s invincibility.

That right there, is Rick Ross.