Rick Ross vs. 2 Chainz is probably not an obvious pairing, but it actually makes sense. They are charismatic, larger-than-life personalities who have established themselves as go-to guys for guest verses but can also stand on their own. They are responsible for some of the most anthemic hits in hip-hop and have good ears for beats and hooks that resonate not just with fans but in pop culture, period.
Let’s dive into who’s who in the battle of the magnetic rap magnates.
Origin Story: Rick Ross
Rick Ross (William Leonard Roberts II) grew up in Carol City, Florida, a suburb of Miami, where he was influenced by the musical stylings of Uncle Luke and Notorious BIG. He formed a rap group in the mid-’90s called the Carol City Cartel, where he established himself as Rick Ross. He took his moniker from the notorious Los Angeles drug kingpin “Freeway” Rick Ross. Eventually, he landed a deal with Houston’s Suave House Records, then ended up on the Miami-based Slip-N-Slide, home of Trina and Trick Daddy. Rick Ross appeared as a guest on a slew of Slip-N-Slide releases before catching the attention of multiple music industry execs. Sean “Diddy” Combs, Irv Gotti, and Jay-Z, who was the president of Def Jam at the time, were all interested and fought for a stake in the Rick Ross brand. Jay-Z ended up working out the best deal for Ross at that time.
Rick Ross—or Ricky Rozay, as he is also known—made his mainstream debut on Def Jam with 2006’s “Hustlin’.” At that time, artists from Atlanta had a stronghold on hip-hop, but Ross put Miami back on the map. “Hustlin'” introduced Rick Ross as a life-in-the-fast-lane character with tales of drug trafficking. However, the real Rick Ross accused him of stealing his story and persona and sued him. He filed a copyright infringement suit in a California federal court. The court sided with rapper Rick Ross and allowed him to keep his name under First Amendment protection.
Ross’s debut album, Port of Miami, helped to solidify him as a fixture in hip-hop as Miami’s answer to Atlanta’s Young Jeezy and beyond. The Grammy-nominated rapper went on to release a slew of well-received albums, which spawned popular singles like “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” “Aston Martin Music,” and “The Boss.”
Origin Story: 2 Chainz
2 Chainz (Tauheed Epps), formerly known as Tity Boi, lived a lot of lives before enjoying his musical breakthrough. The Grammy-nominated rapper was born and raised in College Park, Georgia, and pursued basketball when he was in high school and on a scholarship in college. He first played at Alabama State University in the mid-’90s, but finished his college career at Virginia State with a degree in psychology. Both schools are HBCUs (historically black colleges/universities), which are a part of the NCAA, a league 2 Chainz is passionate about. 2 Chainz advocates for the NCAA to pay its players on one of his most recent albums, the LeBron James-produced Rap or Go to the League (2019).
2 Chainz’s music grind started in the late ’90s, when he formed the duo Playaz Circle with his childhood friend. He was known as Tity Boi then, which is a terrible rap name, but it was a family nickname he earned as a baby because he was close to his mother. Meanwhile, his partner in rhyme went by Dolla Boy.
The duo self-funded the release of their independent album United We Stand, United We Fall, which featured Lil Fate, I-20, and others from Ludacris’s Disturbing tha Peace. The Ludacris connection was obviously a good relationship to have as Playaz Circle ended up landing a deal with DTP. They had some success as a duo, having recorded the 2010 single and video for “Big Dawg,” which featured Lil Wayne, but ultimately they went their separate ways. Tity Boi launched his solo career that same year, and by 2011 he changed his name to 2 Chainz, which he felt was more family-friendly. His breakout year as a soloist came in 2012 when he was featured on Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” and Kanye West’s “Mercy.” At that time, he had become the go-to man for guest collaborations, which increased his visibility on the national stage.
His debut album, Based on a T.R.U. Story was released on Def Jam in 2012 and spawned three platinum hits, “No Lie” featuring Drake, “Birthday Song” featuring Kanye West, and “I’m Different.” The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum. These days, 2 Chainz is no stranger to platinum success. Throughout his career, he has landed impressive collaborations with artists such as Ariana Grande, Drake, Eminem, Steve Aoki, Major Lazer, and Migos, and is generally a beloved personality in the game.
“Officer Ricky” Controversy
Rick Ross had long denied rumors that he worked as a corrections officer, but in 2008 it was confirmed to be true. The Smoking Gun unearthed a photo of Rick Ross in uniform and claimed that the rapper had worked as a CO at the South Florida Reception Center in Dade County for 18 months. Ross, aware that this could damage his street cred, initially denied the allegations, claiming the picture was Photoshopped. However, he eventually revealed that it was true, and in a 2014 interview with Sway, said he’d do it again if it meant making money to feed his family.
Rick Ross doesn’t have to worry about money these days, but 50 Cent had a field day with Ross’s admission. The pair engaged in a war of words that started in 2008. At that time, 50 Cent was feuding with Fat Joe, who was friends with Rick Ross. 50 Cent told Rick Ross that a friend of his enemy is an enemy. Rick Ross was vocal about not liking 50’s tone and yup, it’s as petty as you’d expect. Anyway, the tension between them lasted for years. They dissed each other in interviews and in music, but one of the most infamous moments from that war was 50 Cent’s “Officer Ricky.” Despite all of that, cancel culture did not catch up to Rick Ross, and he continued to find success for his music and that of other rappers through his imprint, Maybach Music.
Both men also have interesting business ventures. Rick Ross’s Maybach Music is thriving, he’s a proprietor of several Wingstop and Checkers chains, as well as a line of beard oil and men’s grooming products sold at Sally Beauty.
Meanwhile, have you seen those Dabbin’ Santa sweaters that pop up around Christmastime? That would be 2 Chainz. He reinvests proceeds from his Dabbin’ Santa sweaters into his TRU Foundation, which enriches community causes. Some of his other ventures include merchandise, the Escobar Restaurant and Tapas Lounge in Atlanta, and the Atlanta Hawks G-league team, of which he’s a minority owner.
Tune in to the battle of the charismatic bosses tonight at 8 p.m. ET.