Rick Ross is ready for a new era.
The 45-year-old rapper announced last month that he was releasing his 11th studio album, Richer than I’ve ever been, December 10. Associated with the ad was a striking photo of Ross (born William Leonard Roberts II) wearing a powder pink fedora and crisp white cape with a diamond encrusted brooch pinned to his chest. Her face is hidden behind white leather driving gloves, with a glittering ring the size of an AirPod case resting on her pinky finger.
It’s a stunning photograph, and one that marks a brighter, more artistic approach than what Ross usually takes with his promotional images. Many of his previous albums feature dark, moody covers, with Ross posing as a towering figure, his eyes still shielded by sunglasses.
But it didn’t take long for the trolls to call in, joking that the Ross ensemble on the new cover looked more like a grandmother going to church on Easter Sunday than a portrait. of a successful rapper. Some have compared him to Queen Elizabeth, and others have launched thinly veiled homophobic punches, calling him a “material girl” and claiming that they mistook Ross for Big Freedia, a sex rapper.
If Ross had any qualms about the lingering teasing in the image, he apparently ignored it with the release of his single âOUTLAWZâ last month. The runway was accompanied by another luxurious photo from the same photoshoot, but with a slightly different angle: Ross’s hands are spread apart in the photo, almost as if he was praying.
Photographer Jonathan Mannion took credit for the shoot, writing how excited he was to be working with Ross for the fifth time and dismissing the negative comments.
âWe’re already reviewing a lot of people with this image,â Mannion wrote in an Instagram comment. âLet’s stay in this rare fresh air and let them get up to meet us if they can. “
But on Monday, just days before the album’s scheduled release, Ross revealed the apparently official Richer than I’ve ever been cover – a complete change from the previous images he shared. This one is more similar to the art of his previous albums, with Ross standing sideways against a dark background, his head tilted down with blue-tinted aviator sunglasses hiding his eyes.
It’s unclear if Ross always intended the most recent image to be the actual cover, or if his team exchanged the new photo after the barrage of negative comments. (The Daily Beast has reached out to Ross and his label for comment.)
Nonetheless, a wave of fans congratulated themselves on intimidating Ross into changing his cover art, asking the question: Are rappers so fragile in their masculinity that it could be shattered by faceless trolls?
That wouldn’t be shocking, given hip-hop’s distorted perception of masculinity and the dark history of homophobia – something Lil Nas X cited when he became gay as a result of his song. Old Town Road “in 2019. Considering a” real man “, rappers have been told to dress, watch and perform the role. Any sign of gentleness or vulnerability risked you becoming an outcast. A $ AP Ferg, for example, once said that being seen as “tough” within the black community comes down to the clothes you wear, and recalled how, when members of the A $ team AP were coming to Harlem, people called them “weird” and “gay” for just wearing skinny jeans.
Some in the hip-hop community are slowly helping to shatter these perceptions, most notably Young Thug, who wore a powder blue ruffle dress on the cover of her 2016 mixtape. Jeffery, and Kid Cudi, who wore a dress during a performance on Saturday Night Live.
“That wouldn’t be shocking, given hip-hop’s distorted view of masculinity and the dark history of homophobia …“
âYou were so confident in your skin that you put on a fucking dress but maintained your real n — a status,â TI said while praising Young Thug during a recording of his podcast. in 2020.
All artists, rappers included, should have the same freedom as any other musician to play with their image as they grow and evolve. And “evolution” certainly seems to be the center of Ross’s attention. Richer than I have ever been. As the name of his new album makes clear, Ross no longer sees himself as a “new money” type rich man. Instead, his wealth and status are now whispering, and his priorities have shifted, as he explained to Questlove in a recent conversation for Interview.
âWe are definitely stronger than ever, both mentally and financially,â said Ross. “After spending time with myself during the pandemic, it convinced me to make sure that was the title.”
He continued, âThe time I really spend with myself is when I feel the richest. That’s when I’m like, âYo, you are the most precious. These moments are priceless. What makes you feel rich? What is wealth? Me on the couch with my kids on my lap. It is I who feel the richest I can feel. No doubt we get big bags, but it’s a higher place than that. It’s not even a question of money, it’s something else here.
Ross seemed to capture this new state of mind in the album’s teaser art, where he ditched his stacks of gold chains for something more understated and refined – a more Jay-Z approach to his image. The album’s tracklist also speaks of its new era, with triumphant song titles like “The Pulitzer”, “Made It Out Alive” and “Rapper Estates”.
âReally, I think it’s the best album I’ve ever made,â Ross said in September. “I feel like some of the things I say on this album are really going to separate it from the rest.”
The original cover certainly managed to separate Ross’s latest project from its previous ones, so it would be a shame if he took those mocking comments into account when deciding on the album cover.
And while Ross needed validation to stick with his creative vision going forward, some fans are already complaining that they liked the old cover better.