Rapper Rick Ross wins $10 million court battle against former drug kingpin to keep his name

In a real-life Cell Block 4 scenario, the hip-hop star was challenged by 'Freeway' Ricky Ross, a convicted gangster who ruled the Los Angeles drugs trade in the 1980s

Rapper Rick Ross has won a court battle against a former drug kingpin in order to keep his stage name.

In a real-life Cell Block 4 scenario, the hip-hop star (William Roberts II to his mother) was challenged by ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross, a convicted gangster who ruled the Los Angeles drugs trade in the 1980s with alleged cocaine sales of up to $3 million a day.

He also had ties with the Nicaraguan Contras, and served 13 years in jail before he was released in 2009.

Now a ‘reformed’ character, Ricky claimed the rapper had appropriated his name and his image, and filed a law suit against him asking for $10 million.

Other defendants in the lawsuit included Warner Bros. Records, Universal Music and Jay Z as those who Ricky claimed were instrumental in the hip-hop star’s rise to fame using his stolen identity.

The trouble apparently started after Ricky saw a magazine article about “up-and-coming” rappers, which included Roberts, using the name Rick Ross. Outraged, he filed the suit against Roberts a year after he left prison in 2010.

However, the time technicality was an issue when the suit went to trial the first time round – the judge noted that the plaintiff had known about the rapper since at least 2006 but had failed to make his claim until 2010.

While there was some evidence in court that Rick Ross had Ricky Ross in mind when creating his persona (Roberts admitted the drug lord's life story had "grabbed him" but countered that by saying his adopted stage name was based on his high school football nickname of “big boss”), it was originally dismissed on the grounds of the first amendment of the US Constitution which regards freedom of expression, among other things.

Last week, an appeal trial went to court in California, but was thrown out.

Judge Roger Boren, who oversaw the case, said in a statement: “We recognise that Roberts' work – his music and persona as a rap musician – relies to some extent on plaintiff's name and persona. Roberts chose to use the name 'Rick Ross'.

“He raps about trafficking in cocaine and brags about his wealth. These were 'raw materials' from which Roberts' music career was synthesised. But these are not the 'very sum and substance' of Roberts' work.

“Roberts created a celebrity identity, using the name Rick Ross, of a cocaine kingpin turned rapper. He was not simply an impostor seeking to profit solely off the name and reputation of Rick Ross.

“Rather, he made music out of fictional tales of dealing drugs and other exploits – some of which related to plaintiff. Using the name and certain details of an infamous criminal's life as basic elements, he created original artistic works."

How did Rick Ross celebrate? By free-style rapping over Kanye West’s “Bound 2”. Classic rapper behaviour. Listen to it here.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies