[Editorial] Rappers Should Know When to Break Kayfabe
Rick Ross staying in character, cost him his Reebok shoe deal and potentially fans
In professional wrestling, kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this "reality" within the realm of the general public (from wikipedia). Hulk Hogan is character Terry Bollea portrays. Hulk Hogan tells kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers, Terry tells lies to get himself out of trouble, and prays that his wife or anyone else for that matter doesn't sue him for more money.
William Roberts is a former correctional officer. Rick Ross is a street rapper who loves to boast about fast cars, fast women, and living a fast life. William Roberts is family man who, according to "Valley of Death" off of Rick Ross' 'Deeper Than Rap,' prayed over food with said family. Rick Ross states "God forgives, but I don't."
On February 15th, rapper and father of r&b singer Monica’s two sons, Rocko released Gift of Gab 2 mixtape. The mixtape featured artists such as Gucci Mane, Future, and Rick Ross as well as others. Ross along with Future was featured on a track entitled "U.O.E.N.O (you don't even know it). According to Rocko the song became an underground hit over the NBA All-Star Weekend. Fast forward a little over a month and a Change.org petition began to get picked up by media outlets. Said petition asked Rick Ross to publicly apologize for his lyrics.
After the mainstream media picked up the story Rick Ross, not William Roberts had to answer questions for the lyrics:
Not breaking character, Rick Ross instead of apologizing, gave us a script more fitting for a Martin Scorses’ film. Ross sounded as if he was a mafia don being questioned about killing women in children.
Distract Attorney: “Mr. Ross, did you murder those women and children in cold blood?”
Rick Ross: *takes a puff of his cigar* “Streets don't condone that. Nobody condones that, you understand me?”
On April 4th a group gathered outside Manhattan's Reebok Fitness Hub on Fifth Avenue. The goal was to deliver a petition signed by 72,000 people who think Reebok should drop Rick Ross as spokesman of its Classics line of sneakers. That same day Rick Ross took to twitter to issue an apology
Using the word “interpreted” Rick Ross passed the responsibility of the lyric off of him and placed the onus solely on the listener and his fans. Rick Ross should had broken character even for a split second, and allowed William Roberts to state that his intentions were not to imply rape and how he can easily see how someone could take the line in such a way. Even as going as far as rerecording the verse omitting the lyrics in question.
Two hours after those tweets Rick Ross attempted to save William Roberts money when he posted:
On April 9 in a Hot 97 interview Rocko explained that the record with Ross, will always be the original, but because of the controversy he will change the record for radio air play.
Thursday April 11, Reebok decided that neither Rick Ross nor William Roberts was someone they wanted to be in business with so they drop the rapper from their promotional campaign. In a statement released to the public Reebok stated “While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse.” Reebok goes on to say “At this time, it is in everyone’s best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross.”
This prompted William Roberts to issue a sincere apology in the form of a statement released to the associated press:
We live in a country that loves to forgive and give second chances. If Rick Ross would had broken kayfabe from the start of this fiasco, he still would had had his Reebok deal worth at least 3.5 million. He still would had had the street he claims to represent and he would had gain respect from people who had prejudged and stereotyped him from the beginning of his career. The character Rick Ross, cost William Roberts more than 3.5 million and free shoes, it cost him a dent in his character. Legions of Ross' rap fans either didn't pay attention to this story or will forget it before the summer hits. But for those who did, they will remember how nonchalantly Ross acted, how he brushed off responsibility, and how it took being officially dropped from Reebok for him to be sincere. Earlier in the song "UOENO" Rick Ross stated that he'll die over these Reeboks, I guess that was another line that listeners misinterpreted.