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
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor