An essay by Barry Michael Cooper
“When the streets changed, it seemed like the lyrics changed. Most people are going to listen to what’s going on in the streets first, before they listen to rap, to consider what’s real and what’s fake. So if it’s drugs in the streets, that sh*t is going to wind up in rap. And that made me say, ‘Fk that, let me start rapping.’ And being that people knew what I had went through, you already know it’s real. I ain’t got to yell at you to tell the truth. So when a cat grabbed a Mobb Style tape, they separated that from the other sh*t. ‘Yo, this is fact. This other could be fiction.’ It’s like the streets versus Sesame Street.”
Azie Faison, former Harlem cocaine kingpin, at the 12 September 2011 Paley Center roundtable for the VH1 documentary Planet Rock, and how his 1987 emcee crew Mobb Style, influenced Biggie, Tupac, Nas, Jay-Z, and Rick Ro$$.If Kendrick Lamar is Hip Hop’s Dylan (as Rap Mu$ick, LLC struggles not to go blowin’ gently into the wind of that good night), then William L. Roberts is its F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Gatsby is named Rick “Rozay” Ro$$. Unlike Fitzgerald, Roberts has stepped from behind the pen to actually and inhabit and breathe life into his fictional creation. Roberts’s Ro$$ is undoubtably one of the most fascinating, enigmatic, and controversial rap personas, in a grotesquerie populated with ghettofabulous mythologists.
Like Prohibition in the 1920s, the American Crack Epoch of the 1980s birthed a generation of desperate young African American men swirling in the twisted dervish of a politicized and shadowy narco-economy. Emboldened by the cri de guerre of Never Get High On Ya Own Supply, this battalion of the disenfranchised, this army of tabulae rasae rewrote themselves into a dollar green team with triple beam schemes. Street-tested and scarfaced soldiers charging headlong into the battle for the American Dream.