Ross the boss 

The past two months have been horrible publicity-wise for Miami rap star Rick Ross. He's caught up in the hip-hop scandal-of-the-minute regarding rumors that the large-and-in-charge emcee was a correctional officer in years past. He's denied the rumor vehemently since it first broke on the Web in June, but even smokinggun.com produced pages of physical evidence that showed Ross, despite his gangsta-posturing, did in fact work in the penal system at some point. Normally, such a job fib isn't a big deal, but in hip hop, street cred is vital, and to paraphrase Tony Montana, all a rapper has are his balls and his word.

But let's leave Ross' balls out of the equation and focus on his words. What bloggers can't deny is that Ross is still a red-hot emcee who pens rhymes about street life as well as anyone else in the genre. When the mammoth single "Hustlin," off his 2006 debut album Port of Miami, careened out of ghetto speakers around the world, listeners instantly knew Ross' music was something. The single sold nearly a million ringtones before the album even dropped and it's still a bona-fide street anthem to this day. His follow-up LP, Trilla, released this year, sold well — although sales weren't as strong as Port of Miami's — and, sonically, it's better than his debut. Like it or love it, his current single, "The Boss" is catchy as hell with its "I'm the biggest boss that you've seen thus far" refrain, and if that's too hood for you, the more R&B-friendly jam "Here I Am," which guests Nelly, is another quality tune.

One-time prison guard or not, the man can write hits, though there's lots of fiction in his music. (Bragging about actually knowing former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is comical at best.) But as any hip-hop head will attest, a good 50 percent of the lyrics in rap are for entertainment purposes only.

Last month, when a shooting broke out in the middle of an annual charity event that Ross sponsors, critics were all over him again, alleging the event was staged. When asked if the allegations and the shooting would make him back down, his answer was immediate: "No, I'm'a do it every year," he said. "You gotta be a leader. You gotta stand for something and represent for something and that's what the kids need to see to get motivated to do bigger and better things in their own lives."

Rick Ross performs with T-Pain on Saturday, Aug. 30 at Freedom Hill Amphitheater, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights; 586-268-5100. See freedomhill.net.

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