Ricky Donnell “Freeway Rick” Ross is an American author and convicted drug trafficker best known for the drug empire he established in Los Angeles, California, in the early to mid 1980s. He was sentenced to life in prison, though the sentence was shortened on appeal and Ross was released in 2009.
On this episode Berner sits down to talk game with the legendary Freeway Rick Ross. Ross was making $3 MIllion a day with the cocaine empire he created in LA during the 1980s.
Berner: I’m here today on The Roundtable with a very very special guest and this guest is special to me too because he’s my Mexican brother. Paul Rodriguez on the roundtable. Gotta say salute to you before we even get started. I appreciate it thank you. I work all day and every day. I like inspiring stories. Just being briefed and learning about you about you, while watching your rise this is pretty pretty impressive man.
Paul: Appreciate it. And likewise man I’m happy to be here. I’m hoping to still give some game myself.
Berner: You know there’s not a lot of Latins out there putting on and representing our culture and holding it down as a positive role model. They don’t allow a lot of us in the game. If you look at T.V, if you look at any media, anytime one of us pops up it’s a big deal man.
Paul: I’m blessed and honored to be a part of it man. I kind of just came as a kind of as a surprise you know I’m just a kid skate my ass off and all this just happened to fall in place with that. So I’m happy to represent the culture man.
P-Rod Gets His Bearings
Berner: Growing up with (your) Pops that’s pretty legendary. Did it help like mold your business sense? Did it help give you creative energy and good vibes, and energy, you know, to follow your dreams?
Paul: Yeah definitely. When I was born, it was like right when his dreams were coming together. Right when he was getting well known and his comedy was taking off. So my whole life all I saw when I was around him was this a guy living his dream. So I think subconsciously from birth it was just natural to me, like oh yeah, you chase your dream. If you love doing something, go for it. I’m very thankful in that sense because from the get go, because I only looked at life as whatever I was doing at the time I was gonna do. As soon as I had a hobby it immediately became my calling. This is what I’m going to do and I’m gonna be the best I can be. (I’ll) find whoever’s at the top, try to emulate them, learn from them and just try and become that. I just got into all these different hobbies. Every few months the hobby would switch and switch until eventually I found skateboarding. My attention never got drawn away from it and it just I knew that was the one.
Berner: How old were you when you started skateboarding?
Paul: Just shy of twelve years old, I was in seventh grade, and I seen some kids skateboarding. I was at a new school, and every morning I’d see them, and I would stop and just watch and be fascinated. (I thought to myself) How do they do that? How do they keep the board on their feet? How do they flip it? How do they land back on it? And I thought, I have to learn how to do this. I need to learn how it’s done. That’s where my love (for skateboarding) began.
Berner: Were you scared of breaking bones?
Paul: Uh yeah! It’s crazy I became a skater because I’m actually a little bit of a “scaredy cat.” Nah we’re scared, at least speaking for myself, which I think was a big blessing because it made me before I would take another step further….it made me really perfect the step that I was at because of my paranoia. Like “OK I’m not ready for that” because my skill level isn’t there yet. Boom boom Bam Bam Okay now I’m ready for that.
It would just make me take the steps at the right time so that it became a calculated risk. Sure there is a chance of me getting fucked up here but I know that I’ve prepared this enough to try it on this specific obstacle. The chances are highly in my favor that I’m gonna succeed at this so I can live with those with those results, you know? But you know still take those take those L’s. You gotta set goals and everything.
Berner: Yeah you gotta take Ls with everything. What was your approach to trying to get noticed?
Paul: I was really lucky growing up because where I lived there was a skate shop called “Valley Skate Service” that’s still there to this day, and it was just behind my house. So, I would hop over my back yard wall, cross the street, and just hang out at this skate shop. I was probably, looking back on it now, annoying because the guys who used to work behind the counter they would always play video videos all day long. I’d be sitting and watching videos all day long asking a million questions. “Who’s the best skater? How much is this?” And I would never buy nothing. I would just be there hanging out and then skating out front. So I ended up just hanging out with these dudes at the skate shop who were older than me and just soaking up everything I could learn. Then they would school me to the next level guy and so on and so forth.
So I kind of just let my passion for it kind of build a small little name in my neighborhood. Then, my uncle who lived with me had a VHS camera and he let my friend and I take the camera out on the weekends and film ourselves. We made our little videos and we would edit them from one VHS to another. And we’d put our little sponsor tape together. We took it to the next skate shop that was known to have the better skaters and gave them our video. They were like “Yeah you guys can roll with us.” Then I met an even better editor with a better camera, and handed to the next guy and just climb up that ladder. This is before internet, so that’s kind of how it was done.
Berner: It’s important for them to buy into you as a person right?
Paul: And it’s even easier when you’re that person and you’re just being yourself because when it’s just you being naturally you people buy into that. You don’t have to cover your tracks or anything.
Berner: “Oh you know I have to put on a front.” There’s so many artists I’ve ran into, just being a rapper, that just keep us keep this image, this persona going at 24/7. They couldn’t actually beat himself up or fuck around and crack a joke. These guys be misfits. It’s sad bro.
Paul: Yeah I mean we’re all humans. We all have the same emotions. We all, you know, sometimes are nervous. Sometimes our confidence, sometimes are happy. We all have these emotions. We’re not all just these fucking superheroes nonstop.
Berner: Where did your business savviness come from?
Paul: I always thought big early on. So when I got into skateboarding, I fell into it just because of the love and passion. But it’s a culture where it’s like you’re not supposed to want to make money, you’re not supposed to want to get big sponsors. It’s all about the love. You know? “Don’t sell out!” So it was weird for me because I was naturally a big dreamer. I just saw all my idols and heros, like Andrew Reynolds, and he left Tony Hawk’s brand and started his own. And seeing that early on made me say “Man one day I want to start my own brand, build my own team, and leave a legacy in the culture.” It was just more like I don’t want to say accidental but just evolve because I wouldn’t say I really have business savvy. I think I just have the desire to want to be, am willing to learn and willing to take risks and kind of figure it out.
Berner: You got vision. Vision is not something that any dollar is gonna buy. It’s not something any school could teach you. You just gotta have it. It’s definitely tough especially like in a culture where people can consider you selling out or just doing too much or how do you provide a business for the family and for yourself while doing something you love.
Paul: I always made moves that I felt good about whether they felt it was a sell out move or not. I always had the plan in my mind. As long as the skills always came through, say whatever you want about me. Use this scenario to then launch my own situations and start my own platforms and build a sustainable business for myself beyond skateboarding because I can only do this for so long anyway and I don’t want to change my lifestyle.
Nike: The Big Break
Berner: So I wanna get some game from you now. How did you get in contact with Nike? How did you get in business with Nike
Paul: So luckily for me early on I was willing to try things that were out of the norm. I was one of the early guys to have a manager. People didn’t have managers in skateboarding and it was just a bro deal. No contract. Luckily I had a manager, and that helped a lot. I had a signature shoe in the works and I was it was getting ready to launch. My best friend that lived with me at the time, he worked at the local skate shop. The Nike rep came in there knowing that we’re good friends and said “Hey Sandy over at Nike wants to talk to Paul about being on Nike.” So he called me. I’m at the house. I get in my, car drive down there and meet up with the rep. He’s like “Yeah. Would you be interested in me with the Sandy boater. Absolutely of course. Next thing I know a few days later I’m on a plane. I’m in Portland. I’m up at the Nike campus in Beaverton. He’s like “And we want to build it with you.” They had already started the program and I was just like I’m trippin. I’m like “I’m 19 years old. I don’t know what to say.” I’m nervous as hell, I’m in this intimidating situation. And they said, “We want you to be our main dude and all” and I said “Cool.”
I left her to do the dirty work of the negotiating and all that. I flew home. She came up a few days later and she was like here’s the deal is what they want to do. My dream as a kid was like have a signature board, a signature shoe. The dream will be complete. And I was like “Whoa, did they mention about a shoe?” She’s like Yeah. They don’t want to do signature shoes with anybody. I was so young and naive enough at the time to not care. And I was like “I can’t do it then.” My dream is to have a shoe and I already have a sample with this other brand. It’s getting ready to launch and I have to do it.” She’s like, “Are you sure?” “I can’t. If my dream is not complete. I can’t.”
She was just like “OK.” And next thing you know she calls him. The she calls me back, you know, a few days later whatever, like “Okay. They’ll do it.” And I was like “Are you kidding me? Let’s do it right now!” So it was just a blessing from God man. Like I was on their radar was making a lot of noise on the scene and they came to me and I was lucky to be young enough and I don’t want to say naive just… ballsy enough.
Berner: Nah! You pushed back like in negotiations you have to choose or you push back on. And sometimes it’s a bold and a long, and you got to go long when you push back right. I usually follow my gut. You followed your gut, and you knew what you wanted.
Paul: Yeah it was just from a place of passion. I’ll always regret it if I don’t complete every piece of my dream to get it won’t be whole.
Berner: For everyone listening right now, let’s, for motivational purposes, list some names of other people with a signature shoe.
Paul: We got Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, not Kyrie just yet, and myself. All basketball players except for myself I’m pretty sure.
Berner: You’re the only skater, the only Mexican, and you’re from California, for a signature shoe that’s huge.
Paul: I’m blessed from God for this.
Berner: So, to talk more about your brand. Primitive is killing it bro.
Paul: Thank you man. It’s a huge blessing. We’ve had our breakout year this year. You know primitive is now 10 years old this summer will be 11 years old and it’s been a hell of a ride up and down and sideways. Every kind of way but the right way up until this last couple years. And I’m just so glad we stuck in there, fought the battles, and really stuck to our guns and everything’s kind of coming together man. I can’t give enough praise to my partners, they’re the brains behind the machine. We built this thing together, brought it back from damn near being out of business and learned so much.
Berner: I’ve seen it pop again hard. I always wanted to get in the clothing business and a lot of people doubted “Cookies” as a clothing line when it came out. The concept called a weed brand or whatever but we got into the “cut-and-sew” really heavy. It’s a big risk because the margins are very low and people might not buy it and you get stuck with it. It’s more safe to stay with printables. I’ve seen the kind of evolution of primitive. The shit is fly. You have got dope ass shit!
From Skateboards to Streetwear
Berner: Do you find the skating like culture has a lot to do with what street wear is today?
Paul: A million percent. It’s really cool to see and skateboarding getting that kind of shine in this in like it’s transcending just skateboarding, which some skateboarders will probably have a problem with, but I love seeing it spread man because we’ve been so influenced by popular culture over the years. It’s kind of cool to see us now be embraced by it. Music and skateboarding go hand in hand. I mean we’ve really been influenced so much by especially hip hop but all kinds of genres. That’s what helped us develop our style and our fashion there’s so many things I think we can identify between those cultures just coming out at something from nothing. I mean a lot of guys in skateboarding come from rough backgrounds. You know, it’s something real easy and accessible to get into it doesn’t cost a shit ton of money. You don’t have to have a team to play. You just need a decent piece of concrete, a skateboard that at least rolls, and some decent shoes just to get started and you can have all the fun you want by yourself. Then, you know, you meet other kids of similar interests at the skate park or at the local skate spots and you just build these bonds that last a lifetime. I got friends that we’re still friends because of skateboarding since we’ve been 12 years old. You know it’s crazy how it grows just organically man.
P-Rod’s Advice to New Clothing Brands
Berner: Now it’s a new game. Now there’s the Internet. Now there’s a bunch of clothing brands. What’s the best advice you can give them to start off?
Paul: It all comes down to the skills man. You have to love your craft, like we talked about in the beginning. You fall in love with the craft of skateboarding. If you love that shit? You can’t go to sleep because you’re thinking about trying to learn a trick that you want to do tomorrow and that shit like absorbs your whole mindset in your life? You’re already on the right path. Now these days it’s much easier. Back when I was coming along I said I had to find a camcorder. Now you just got it in your pocket so you can document your progress, have your homies film you, put together a little edits right down in imovie and DM. You got a sponsor you want then show them. So what if they don’t respond or they say it’s not good enough. Okay try again. That’s what you learn from skateboarding, you fall over and over and over and over and over and finally do it. So the process of trying to get recognized is the same thing. Just know that as you progress, as your passion helps you grow every day, it’s gonna happen and just takes that one person to respond and your foot is in the door. Just don’t ever let up off the gas.
Berner: Stay focused. You gotta stay persistent and consistent. You gotta have it. Either you have it or you don’t. If you have it you’ll know what to do. You follow your gut and get crackin. Follow my boy Paul Rodriguez. It’s the only Mexican with a signature shoe right now with Nike as fuck and its humungous. Might be a Cookie/Primitive collab coming soon. I appreciate you for a game I got good energy from this conversation. Thank you brother thank you so much. If you enjoyed this week’s episode with Paul Rodriguez you can watch on YouTube to get crazy visuals for these episodes. Our boys Spielberg is killing it with the visuals. Make sure you check it out on YouTube. Comment. Let us know what you think about the podcast. We’re getting a lot of great feedback on Twitter. Some feedback on Instagram but Twitter people are really expressing the way they feel about the roundtable.
On this episode of The Round Table Berner sits down with the legendary Professional Skateboarder Paul Rodriguez!
Paul talks about growing up and becoming a sponsored skateboarder at the age of 14, winning gold medals at the X games and how his Nike SB signature shoe came about and more.
So much game in this episode, light one up and press PLAY!
Ben Yang, also well-known as Ben Baller is a musician, actor, and jeweler. He founded Icee Fresh Jewels, which creates extravagant diamond-encrusted jewelry.