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  • Kamilah Stevens

Freeway Rick Talks About Who May Play Him in His Movie & His Business Ventures in Marijuana & Boxing

Ricky Donnell Ross, also known as “Freeway Rick” is an author and formerly convicted drug trafficker. He is known for establishing a drug empire in Los Angeles in the early to mid 1980s. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was later released after his case was overturned.

I’ve known Freeway Rick for nearly ten years, so whenever I visit L.A., I always reach out to see if he’d like to meet up. Interacting with Rick is always fun! He's highly optimistic and we always have interesting discussions, where he shares exciting updates about his life and business. He rises early and works late. So if I catch breakfast with Rick, I know it's going to be an early breakfast! He’s the kind of guy who is always doing multiple things at once. If you're riding somewhere with him, he'll probably make a stop and handle some business while on the way to his destination. When Rick and I speak on the phone, he’s typically on the highway driving to another city for business.

To outsiders, it may appear that Rick overworks himself. But I discovered a long time ago that he's just a high-energy person who doesn't like much idle time. I believe Rick's time in prison has had a lot to do with his refusal to waste time. And Rick discussed that experience in his tell-all documentary Freeway: Crack in the System and in his book Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography.

Rick’s documentary is considered an exceptional body of work by many, and it was nominated for an Emmy in 2016. The documentary covers Rick’s life and the suspicious death of his friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, who was adamant about exposing the corruption he felt was embedded in America's so-called "war on drugs." Gary felt that dirty cops and the CIA orchestrated the Contra Scandal and made Black American drug dealers the fall guys. One of those scapegoats was Freeway Rick, after he became intertwined with a Nicaraguan drug supplier.

The last time I saw Rick in L.A., we dined at the popular Earle's on Crenshaw, a restaurant known for its vegan offerings. Rick explained that he turned vegan after being released from jail. He found that he could no longer stomach one of his previous favorite foods, fried chicken, so he eventually decided not to eat any animal products. Earle's, which sits in the heart of Los Angeles on the forever-popular Crenshaw Boulevard, is always bustling. The night we met, there were many bikers and drivers in low-riders cruising the strip. It was clear that Rick was still the people's champ, as many around us greeted him. One gentleman asked him if he had any media work opportunities. Rick responded by giving the man his number and telling him to get in touch...

Here’s my interview with Rick:

Volume 82: You said you had some new things to update me on. Let's hear it!

Rick: Boxing is the main new thing I've been working on. And I have my marijuana license. Those are definitely two accomplishments that I've done since the last time we talked. And the movie [on my life story] has been financed now, so those are a few things.

Volume 82: Those are all really dope things, Rick! As far as the movie about your life, is there a deadline or release date yet?

Rick: We haven't started shooting. We're in what we call pre-production. We haven't cast yet, either. We'll be working on a casting schedule soon to pick the actors and actresses. Reginald Hudlin was going to direct the film, but he took on a larger project. He will probably still help out in some way.

Volume 82: Ok. I would love to see Antoine Fuqua direct the movie.

Rick: I'm looking to speak to him now!

Volume 82: Really?

Rick: Yes.

Volume 82: This project will probably be way more hands-on for you since it's about your life.

Rick: Yes. I'm definitely going to play a major part in it, but not to the point where I interfere with the professionals. One of my strong points is that I'm able to relax my ego and let the people who are the experts be experts.

Volume 82: That's dope because a lot of people don't have the ability to do that.

Rick: Yea. Most people want to be the show; they want to be the one out front, and they want to get all the credit. But I'm totally the opposite. And I'm just there to help out whenever I'm needed.

Volume 82: Now, the question of the day, and I hope you can answer it! Who is going to play you, Rick?

Rick: That's still the question of the day for us, too! We haven't decided yet who that's gonna be. I have my pick of who I think would make a great actor for me. I always wanted somebody who would be inconspicuous, someone who everybody would least suspect to play my role.

Volume 82: And why is that?

Rick: If somebody had told me that I was going to be a drug dealer a couple of weeks before I became a drug dealer, I wouldn't have believed it. Before I started selling drugs, I had never taken a drink of beer or smoked a cigarette or a joint. I was what people considered a square, a non-street guy. I was actually a tennis player!

Volume 82: So what made things change for you, to where you went from being regular Rick who lived by the freeway to "Freeway Rick Ross" who sold drugs?

Rick: It wasn't necessarily overnight. It was an accumulation of things. I credit the movie Superfly. That played a major role. And also because I was broke! You know, not having the things in life that I felt I deserved or that I wanted for myself and my family. And the person who actually introduced me to cocaine, I trusted him like he was a big brother. I didn't feel that he would lead me wrong. So all of those factors contributed to me becoming who I became. After I had a taste of “the game” and once I started to enjoy the power and success, I hungered for more. I quickly saw all that selling cocaine gave to me!

Volume 82: And back to your marijuana license. For those who don't understand what having a license entails. How and why did you obtain it?

Rick: It was a long process. It took about 8 years. When I got out of prison and started seeing dispensaries everywhere, I quickly noticed there were no black-owned dispensaries. But I noticed that most of the people going into the stores were black. So I started doing my research. I went to the City Council and I met with the City Council president. We talked about what it takes to get a license and he clued me in to a new law coming where the city would be giving out more licenses for selling recreational marijuana, not just medical marijuana. He told me that, if anybody in the city had a license, it should be me. That stuck in my head, that I am just as entitled to a license as anyone. And I started working from there.

I started going to all the City Council meetings they had about marijuana. I started talking to anybody who had knowledge about getting a license. I also went to the state level to argue that convicted felons should be allowed to have a marijuana license. And through persistence, I was able to help the law pass.

Volume 82: That's awesome.

Rick: I felt that the people who had licenses currently had sold marijuana when it was illegal, but they had never gone to prison. So if they were allowed to get a license but never paid back their debt to society, then how could society deny somebody who at least paid a debt back? I thought it was hypocritical to have the law that way. I argued that point at both the city and state levels, and eventually, we were able to convince them that convicted felons should be allowed to apply for a license to sell marijuana. Of course, there are certain felonies that will make you ineligible to get a license.

Volume 82: Are those felonies for violent crimes?

Rick: Yes, violent crimes, child molestation. I'm not sure of everything that would make you ineligible, but I know those two for sure. And you must be out of jail at least five years without getting in trouble with the law, as well.

Volume 82: How did you help get the law passed?

Rick: A group of us marched to the city, and the city allowed us to sit down and help draft the laws.

Volume 82: Okay. That's awesome.

Rick: You gotta remember the people that are running these cities, they never smoked or sold marijuana, so how would they know how to deal with marijuana?

Volume 82: Yea, that’s true. And how expensive is it to get a license to sell marijuana?

Rick: Each state is different, and in California, each city is different. In California, each city is allowed to set their own fees for the cost of the license.

Volume 82: Do you care to tell the public how much your license was?

Rick: Mine cost $10,000.

Volume 82: Okay. For L.A. County?

Rick: L.A. City. Some cities are different. I've heard of some cities charging $100,000. For instance, if you want to get a license in Florida, you have to have $23 million in the bank!

Volume 82: Yea, that's a way to push people out.

Rick: Yea, it's a way to give the license to the rich and eliminate the poor, again!

Volume 82: Absolutely. You also mentioned there are some things you plan to do with your license and brand. You have two marijuana brands, right?

Rick: Yep, I got two brands right now: L.A. Kingpin and Freeway.

Volume 82: Those brands will be making it to a lot of distributors in the near future, right?

Rick: Yea. Right now, I'm in two states, maybe three. I'm also working on getting the brands into Arizona, Ohio, and Illinois.

Volume 82: I'm assuming that Cali is one of the states your brand is in?

Rick: Correct.

Volume 82: And what products are you selling under these brands?

Rick: Marijuana, pre-rolls, wax, shatter, and vape cartridges. And I'm also working on an edible line right now.

Volume 82: That's dope, Rick. You said you were going to do it again and make millions, legally! And I see you're on your way.

Rick: Yes!

Volume 82: What about your fighters? I know you're excited about the boxers you sponsor.

Rick: Yes. Right now, I have six fighters, soon to be seven. I got four who are undefeated. Right now, Kid Austin is the front-runner; he's the one who is probably getting the most attention. He's out of Austin, Texas. One of the things I want to do is help somebody in boxing make more money than Floyd Mayweather Jr. made.

Volume 82: Why is that your goal?

Rick: Well, me and Floyd were talking one day, and I mentioned to him about meeting Al Haymon, a legendary boxing manager. Floyd told me, "You don't take nobody to the plug," and I kind of felt insulted because I thought I was the plug! So I told myself, if he doesn't see me as the plug, then I'm gonna show him I'm the plug in boxing, as well! Anything I put my mind to, I'm the plug in. I can't wait until one of our fighters goes head to head, and my fighter beats his fighter. [Floyd and Rick have history, and have had some misunderstandings in the past.]

Volume 82: How many fighters does Floyd have right now?

Rick: I don't know, probably upwards of 50, maybe more. Floyd is considered one of the greatest fighters of all time, so it's easy to recruit when you're one of the greatest. I just started sponsoring fighters about five years ago. This is a new venture for me that I thought about when I was in jail, and now I want to dominate the sport.

Volume 82: Okay! You have your fighters, a marijuana venture, and your movie. I think fans are going to really be excited about your movie! What else is going on?

Rick: Yea. I think so too. I think people have been waiting for the movie, and I want to break Box Office numbers. I want to follow up the movie with a TV series. I'm working on another documentary right now, and I released another book, The 21 Keys to Success. I'm also learning about cryptocurrency, and I'm working on creating some NFTs (non-fungible tokens), too. And I still have my clothing line, as well.

Volume 82: Have you expanded it?

Rick: A little bit. We've been doing some sweatshirts and sweatpants. We have some new T-shirt styles, nothing heavy. I'm thinking about coming out with some men's briefs. Maybe the boxers could wear them for their weigh-ins.

Volume 82: That's what's up; your mind can take over the world! You've always got something good going. You're constantly thinking about how to evolve; I love that about you.

Rick: Yea. I also want to help other people, too. I think these boxers have been getting a raw deal with their managers and promoters. Most of these guys lose one fight, and they shelf them, and they can't get another fight and take care of their families. So, I feel like it's very important that they have a second option.

Volume 82: Tell me the name of your fight club.

Rick: Team Freeway.

Volume 82: So back to your movie, who are you leaning towards to play you?

Freeway Rick: I like Childish Gambino.

Volume 82: Really?

Rick: Yea, I like Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino). I think he's an interesting character, and I think he can pull off my role.

Volume 82: Has he auditioned, or do you just have him in mind?

Rick: That's just someone I had in mind. When Kim Harding was the casting director, she didn't want me to pick anybody; she wanted to make the choice.

Volume 82: Are you checking for Larenz Tate, Rick?

Rick: I think Larenz may be a little too old, based on Hollywood standards. I spoke to Larenz a few years back about him playing my character. We went out to lunch and talked about it a couple of times. But I think it needs to be a younger guy, because they have to look like they are in their early twenties for part of the story.

Volume 82: So it won't be a movie where they use two characters to show your young and old life?

Rick: I'm not sure because I have to look at the latest script. But like I said I'm going to do the TV series, as well. And with the TV series, I'll have more control and we can play with the situation a little more. For TV, I wouldn't mind if Kendrick Lamar did it. I think he'd be good. Me and Kendrick talked a few times, and I like Kendrick's vibe. He has a real down-to-earth vibe. I think he could pull it off. I definitely want an American to do it. I think it should be somebody that grew up in America, preferably South Central L.A., so the language will be natural.

Volume 82: I see.

Rick: I think I'm going to do a casting call in four different cities to give more people an opportunity to try out.

Volume 82: How close are you to having the TV series? Do you have anything solid with a network?

Rick: We still have a ways to go.

Volume 82: Back to your marijuana venture. What are you going to name the dispensary?

Rick: I'm not sure yet. It will be in Sun Valley (Los Angeles area). Boosie (the rapper) and quite a few people said they are coming out for the grand opening.

Volume 82: And you're working on setting up a grow house, too?

Rick: Yes. I'm working on getting one and taking over a couple existing ones.

Volume 82: You're going to buy the owners out?

Rick: Yes. I plan to buy out the whole weed game! I signed a deal with the biggest distribution company in hemp! They can put me in around 33,000 stores in the country, including 7-Elevens and Walgreens.

Freeway Rick: I'm getting ready to do some music, too, with Dom Kennedy. Freeway from Philly is going to participate, as well. And I'm hoping Boosie will come on board, too. Me and Boosie used to talk when he was in jail. He used to call me all the time and we talked about the things we were gonna do. I actually met with him earlier today and I reminded him about those dreams we had.

Volume 82: That's good, because it seems like Boosie has been having a hard time.

Rick: Yea. Boosie could have been one of the biggest artists on the planet. I told him that today!

Volume 82: I'm happy for you Rick, I'm very proud of you.

Rick: Thank you! I ain't done yet! I ain't done yet!

Volume 82: I know!

Rick: I did this [while I was] broke!

Volume 82: And now you got some money!

Rick: Yeah, I got some money now. I didn't start with no money, but I'm gonna make more money legally, than I did illegally. I wanna dominate several industries from scratch. When I got out of prison, I had 200 bucks. I want to do what Reginald Lewis did. He started with nothing, and by the time he died, he was a billionaire. My goal is to do the same thing!

Volume 82: I hope it happens for you!

Rick: It's already happening! You know when you go fishing, you can't really fish without a hook. And I've been out here fishing with no hook. I didn't have no bait. But now I have bait to fish with, and I'm gonna catch a lot more fish. I'm gonna catch bigger fish. So then I'll be able to teach more people how to fish and they'll believe that I know what I'm doing!

Volume 82: I see!

Rick: As of now, I'm getting calls from fighters daily. Just last summer, Delante "Tiger" Johnson, Joe Hicks, Keyshawn Davis … none of them took me seriously. I've since worked with no-name guys who gave me a chance, and now they’re better than the guys I mentioned, and some of them even went to the Olympics. I used that as motivation. I take different things to use as my motivation. Like my prosecutor who put me in jail. One of the ways I get back at people like that is with my own success. I'm sure he's burning up from seeing me doing so well now.

Volume 82: I'm sure! When I first met you, you hadn't been home from jail for long, your autobiography was newly out, and you had been grinding and pushing forward. Things are altogether different for you now.

Rick: Yea. Big things can happen in a short period of time! You were there when we first finished the documentary! It stayed on Netflix for a year and a half.

Volume 82: I remember!

Rick: Yea. There were a lot of people who helped to push it along. And I believe the movie will be the same way.

Volume 82: The best is yet to come for you. Anything else?

Freeway Rick: No, I think that's all for now!

Click the link below for audio clips of the interview.

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Photo Credits: Freeway Rick/Instagram



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