Ross marked the ascendance of "Mastermind" on Saturday night during South By Southwest, drawing one of the week's larger crowds in Austin during the annual music conference and festival.
"You know what, when this is what you center everything around, you just want the best, not only for yourself, but for your team, everybody you build with," Ross said. "I not only want a No. 1 for me but for all the new-time dudes who've never been on a No. 1 album."
It's been quite the run for Ross. Five of his six major-label albums started out atop the Billboard 200, moving him into rare company. The magazine says among rappers only Jay Z (13), Eminem (seven), Nas and Kanye West (six apiece) have had more and he's now tied with Tupac Shakur and DMX.
Ross attributes the run to remembering where he got his start.
"Regardless of the success I see, I still go back to my foundation ... that made me," he said as he stood shirtless in his dressing room tent following a performance at Fader Fort. "Yesterday, after being out on promo for two months, I took a day out of my schedule to go to the smaller markets in South Carolina, the Columbias, you know the (places) that don't get attention. But those are the places where I remember making my first $5,000 shows from, so I still go to those places.
The 38-year-old Miami rapper played new material for fans and showed his mind's been on mortality since he survived a January 2013 drive-by shooting in Fort Lauderdale. He told the crowd it was important to remember the rappers who have died too early like Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. and Pimp C before launching into "Nobody," a song with the chilling French Montana vocal hook "you're nobody till somebody kills you."
The song is paired back to back on "Mastermind" with "Shots Fired," a series of news clips recounting the attack.
"You know it's unfortunate, it's nothing to glorify," Ross said. "Where I come from in my city—I come from Carol City in Miami—they've renamed it the Miami Gardens, you know, and they done dubbed it the Murder Gardens, and it's unfortunate. But those are conditions we were unfortunately seeing coming up. So me being in the position I am, that's what come with that. So Rule No. 1 in the handbook I studied is never let the game kill you."
Ross says the experience has caused him to look at life through a new filter. Not long after the near miss he put on Biggie Smalls' "Ready to Die."
"I just listen to it in a different light," Ross said. "It's jacked up, but that's what come with this. ... You're never indestructible, but what you do is if you have certain feelings you want to express, you express your feelings. I'll continue to do that till the day I die."
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