(100217)

When most young people hear the name Rick Ross, they think of the gangster rapper, a former prison guard who created his persona modeled after the real Rick Ross, an infamous Los Angeles drug dealer. “Freeway” Rick Ross, as he came to be known, has described his life’s story in a new book called “Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography.”

Even though he dealt in an unsavory business, and was largely responsible for introducing crack cocaine to Los Angeles, Ross is still a remarkable person. He was an illiterate high school dropout, who eventually became a self-made multi-millionaire. After being arrested in a federal sting, he went to prison, learned how to read and became a book lover. Now, Ross is an entrepreneur who also teaches high school economics. He speaks to young people advising them to make better choices and stay away from the drug game.

From the start, Ross had it a rough. He was raised by a single mother, who relocated from Texas to South Los Angeles for better opportunities. Ross details watching his mother shoot her brother dead in self defense. This is not his only brush with violence. He also recalls a gang member pointing a gun in his face when he was a teenager. But, this is the environment Ross grew up in—drugs, gangs, violence and crime.

Ross says that he always struggled with reading, but somehow kept getting passed along. He eventually developed a passion for tennis and attempted to get a scholarship to college. However, when his coach discovered that he couldn’t read, the scholarship went out of the window.

Ross saw this as a turning point in his life. If he had gone to college, he might have stayed on the “straight and narrow.” Instead, he dropped out of high school, and turned to crime to put money in his pocket. It began with stealing cars for ‘chop shops’ and graduated to drug dealing.

In the book, Ross states that he always saw drug dealing as a means to an end. He did it to make money so he could fix up his car and then eventually invest in legitimate businesses. Ross implied that poor people sell drugs so they can afford the things that many middle-class Americans take for granted, such as nice cars and homes.

Crack cocaine takes off and becomes widely popular, with users forming long lines at crack houses. Ross says that he was making hundreds of thousands of dollars daily and was at one point earning more than basketball star Magic Johnson.

Another thing you will learn from the book is the drug trade is a business, just like any other. It has consumers, retailers, wholesalers, producers and even a supply chain. Ross had hundreds of people working for him. He was an atypical drug dealer, staying away from violence, and saw himself as a Robin Hood figure, who would help out people in the neighborhood when they were late on their house and car payments or had a sick relative.

Eventually, the law caught up with Ross and was arrested in a sting set up by Danilo Blandon, one of his major suppliers who worked for the CIA.

Ross’ book describes a world that most readers will have only seen in movies. It doesn’t glamorize the drug business; it just lays it out there in stark reality. However, Ross’ story is an engrossing tale of rags-to-riches that is worth reading.