News broke last week that former drug dealer Freeway Rick Ross lost his appeal against his namesake rapper Rick Ross in state court. A California judge ruled that the Miami-based entertainer, whose real name is William Roberts II, had a first amendment right to use the name “Rick Ross” for his stage persona.
Freeway Rick originally filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in 2010 accusing the Maybach Music Group leader of stealing his name, image, and likeness in order to market his music. Freeway argued that his real life accounts of being a 1980′s drug kingpin were used by Roberts to create a fictional life story in order to further his career as a rap artist.
The case was dismissed later that year when it was determined by the court that Freeway did not have a valid trademark for his name because it was based on illegal activity. Freeway Ross re-filed the lawsuit in 2012 and again lost the case. That time it was on the grounds that the statute of limitations to file the suit had run out. He appealed the decision.
Judge Roger Boren again sided with Roberts in the most recent appeals process. Boren stated that despite the fact that some of his persona was based on Freeway Ross, the rapper “created original artistic works” that fall under his right to free expression.
After the latest court decision, Freeway Rick Ross is still speaking out on the issue of authenticity in Hip Hop culture, the glamorizing of illegal drug activity in its music, and the social impact on the young people who follow its artists.
Freeway Rick Ross issued the following statement to AllHipHop.com:
I respect Hip Hop as an art form and consider many of its artists some of my close friends. But I believe the art form owes an obligation of authenticity. You cannot go out and say you sold cocaine at Kilo to Metric ton scale and be so detached from the experience. If you do, you have an obligation to the youth to tell them the truth and not lie about the facts of your circumstance to try to further validate the mistruth.
There is a teachable moment about the state of our community when a man who has a respectable job as a correctional officer, has to recreate himself in my former image as a large-scale kingpin to gain what he feels is social acceptance as a successful man. I along with many others would have given it all up for stability and opportunity, when Reagan came into office with Trickle down gutting assistance programs, and privatization of public sector jobs ripped through our cities it strip-mined those types of stable jobs in a very short period from Black America.