What Is Rapper Rick Ross’ Real Name?

Rick Ross is a talented rap artist who lives a life of luxury and a good dose of drama. His career has been chock full of success as well as scandal, and along the way, he’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business.

Where did this popular star come from, and what is his real name? Here’s what you need to know about Ross and his remarkable life.

A first hit started him strong

Rapper rick ross
Rick Ross | Johnny Nunez/WireImage

In 2006, Ross had his first big hit, “Hustlin.” It went gold, and for a while it seemed as though everyone was singing its repeating line, “Every day I’m hustling.”

All the public interest sparked a bidding war among leading record labels to sign him, and Def Jam Records won that battle. That year his first album, Port of Miami, debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, and a career was officially launched. 

Through the years Ross has continued to produce music that is both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. In 2009 he created his own record label, Maybach Music Group.

Rick Ross’ early years

Although he was born in Mississippi, Ross grew up mostly in Carol City, Florida. This poor area north of Miami gave Ross plenty of material for his future music. It wasn’t unusual for him to see drug deals as a child, and he was drawn to the lavish lifestyles of drug dealers. Ross spent a year playing football on a scholarship to Georgia’s Albany State University, but he soon left to pursue music. 

Ross’ music centered around the street life he grew up with, and so he took his name from a drug trafficker called “Freeway” Rick Ross. 

How Rick Ross became famous

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The most important reason for Ross’ success is his remarkable talent. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that he also has a knack for stirring up controversy, a skill that has certainly helped him stay in the public eye.

In 2008 he became embroiled in a feud with the rapper 50 Cent. The two artists exchanged several diss tracks, and 50 Cent eventually released a sex tape that starred Lastonia Leviston. Since Leviston happened to be the mother of one of Ross’ children, that only made matters worse. 

The same year it was revealed that Ross had once been a corrections officer. Because he was someone who had built so much of his professional persona around lawbreaking, some people felt that this erased his credibility. But Ross brushed it off, saying that he took the job so he could afford to take care of his kids, and he doesn’t regret it. “And right now, to feed my family — I’d do it again,” he said. “To feed my kids, I’d go get it.”

Ross has had other issues, including legal problems for drugs, weapons, kidnapping, and assault. Because of these charges he spent most of 2015 on house arrest. He was also targeted in a drive-by shooting in 2013, which 50 Cent accused him of faking.

He’s also had a few health scares over the years, suffering from multiple seizures in 2011 and a mysterious hospitalization in 2018.  

Rick Ross’ real name wouldn’t have fit his persona

Picking the name of a drug trafficker was probably a good career move for Ross. He may have recovered just fine from the revelation that he was once a corrections officer, but it’s hard to imagine that people would have seen him the way he wanted them to if he’d use his original name. Ross was born William Leonard Roberts II. 

The name Ross picked was probably a better choice to help this accomplished rapper to project the image he was after.