In November 2016, Rick Ross walked the red carpet at the American Music Awards wearing a black sweater that read "RATHER YOU THAN ME." The rapper's fashion statement also served to announce the title of his ninth studio album, which is expected to see release this year through Epic and his own Maybach Music Group.
While Ross has kept the finer details of Rather You Than Me under wraps, a statement he penned about the effort reveals that it's "more than just another project for me. It's a product of strength, perseverance and determination."
Ross tells Exclaim! it's the most complete musical representation of both himself and his experiences he has created yet.
"To me, the phrase 'Rather You Than Me' speaks to a n***a's natural instinct to survive," Ross explains. "What also makes [the title] and the album genius is that there's a beautiful side to this as well, for instance, 'I would rather you than me enjoy this fine glass of Belaire.' There's so many different ways to say it that can make this unique, but the title is speaking to the survivalists; the ones that refuse to lose."
Ross made noticeable strides in recording more reflective work in 2015, with mixtape Black Dollar and followup full-length Black Market, ruminating on subjects such as his own incarceration and institutional racism. It was a positively received change in a catalogue where themes of wealth and power reign supreme. Ross says that like its predecessors, Rather You Than Me will also feature a more introspective tone from the Teflon Don throughout.
"I have a record on here titled 'The Apple of My Eye,'" Ross reveals as an example. "The storyline is about me in my youth, and seeing my mom go through everything that she did. That in particular inspired me to be the boss I am today. On this record, I open the door to a lot of different things that people will appreciate."
That isn't to say Ross has done away with the "big guns and big whips" lyricism many laud him for, as he reassures, "you know you most definitely going to get some gold toilet talk, some gold toilet seats, you dig?"
Rather You Than Me's Stylistics-sampling first single, "I Think She Like Me," features a smooth hook from Ty Dolla $ign. Apart the Los Angeles native's work, Ross remains tight-lipped when it comes to additional collaborators. His secrecy, at this present time, is to "shock both the streets and the world" upon the album's arrival.
"For me to put together what I consider to be my magnum opus, I had to work with certain names, and those certain names you know very well," he says slyly. "We all shine bright. It's not about me making records to satisfy a tracklist."
The impending release of Rather You Than Me comes months after the tenth anniversary of Ross' debut Port of Miami, which was certified Platinum by the RIAA in July last year. Even after a decade in rap, one of the genre's most recognizable characters isn't afraid to call himself a student of the game.
"Every day you learn something new," Ross says in reflection. "I'm always eager to learn, even ten years in. I'm still watching, studying independent routes. Looking back on how I came into this, I regret nothing. For me and my team, we all put in work and we all still here. I still do business with the ones I came in it with.
"I feel there are a lot more things on the table as well," he adds. "So let's go get it."