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An Evening with Slick Rick

 

Anyone who knows me knows I believe that hip-hop made in the late 1980s were some of the best music ever created. It was a time of originality, where artists strove to be different.

 

If you were copying someone’s idea, called "biting," you would be shunned and, in some cases, it would lead to fist fights.

 

It was a time when rappers took pride in their originality as opposed to nowadays where everyone is copying the latest hit record hoping for the same success as their peers.

 

By Quiban Salazar-Moreno

 

So this night, the Friday night of NBA All-Star Weekend (also my 30th birthday), I felt like a teenager again as I spent the evening with one of my hip-hop heroes, Slick Rick.

Slick Rick (aka Ricky Walters) was born in London, England, in 1965, and moved to New York City when he was 11, a time when hip-hop culture was beginning to form. He came into prominence in the early to mid-‘80s with his Doug E. Fresh and their group, the Get Fresh Crew. It was their hit songs, "The Show" and "La Di Da Di" that brought Rick to the forefront and ultimately got him his record deal.

In 1988, Slick Rick released his debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. It was and still is considered a hip-hop masterpiece. He is unequivocally the best storyteller rapper because, in listening to his music, you can see the images he speaks about so easily. No rapper to this day has matched up to that skill.

Always adorned in dozens of gold chains and jewelry, Rick was the first rapper to have "bling, bling" before the term was invented. His trademarked eye-patch (which covers a blinded eye that was sheared by glass when he was an infant) always had a diamond or two attached to it and his teeth sparkled with gold and diamonds.

 

This showboating caused some jealousy, even among his family. In 1990, Slick Rick was jailed for allegedly shooting at his cousin after he harassed Rick’s mother and was reportedly trying to rob Rick behind his back. Rick also led the police on a high speed chase after the incident.

 

For the next six years, Rick was behind bars but he was able to release two albums, The Ruler’s Back, in 1991, and Behind Bars, in 1994, neither of which matched up to the success of his first album.

Slick Rick was released in 1996 to much fanfare, and began work on his 1999 album, The Art of Storytelling, which paired him with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Outkast, who mold their styles after Rick.

 

But tragedy would strike Rick again a couple of years later. While performing on a cruise ship in 2002, INS officials seized Rick and locked him up in a Florida prison.

 

Apparently, INS officials had been trying to deport Rick back to London for over a decade. After spending almost a year and half sending in appeal after appeal to stop his deportation, Rick was finally freed and was able to go home to New York with his wife and children.

"We’re living in crazy corrupt times," Rick says now. "Some things are beneficial, some things are not. But I learned that any little thing you do can be held against you if you’re not a citizen of this country."

 

"The laws are changing rapidly; you jump a turnstile, next thing you know you’re deported back to Mexico or South America or something. Those are the lessons you learn, they’re pretty harsh, but luckily for me, my situation was in the early ‘90s before these ridiculous laws started to come out."

When I met Rick backstage at the Auraria Campus Events Center, he was wearing no jewelry, except for a watch and a couple of rings, and was very soft-spoken. Hip-hop legends MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, and Whodini were also in the house. For a hip-hop head my age, you know that I was having the time of my life hobnobbing with these people I grew up listening to.

But I was a bit taken aback to find that such a flamboyant rapper in the ‘80s, like Rick, is so mellow. His wife Mandy, who also acts as Rick’s manager, noticed my surprise.

"You didn’t expect him to be so low-key did you?" she asked. "You know he’s 40 now and he’s learned how to keep his real life and hip-hop life separate."

I noticed that right away when he took the stage with Fresh. He whipped out his dozens of gold chains, his gold teeth, and diamond studded eye-patch and proceeded to give the crowd a taste of what hip-hop was like during the ‘80s. Once the set is finished, we were whisked away in an SUV on our way to the ESPN Zone, where Stuart Scott was holding a private party.

 

On the way to the venue, Rick let it be known that he’s going to embrace his adulthood and create hip-hop for adults.

"I have album coming out hopefully this spring and I’m trying to make it as hot as possible for the adult audience," he said. "I’m going to talk about whatever adults are talking about in 2005."

 

"Hip-hop is almost 30 years old and it’s only catering to a youthful naïve mentality. You know, womanizing and whatever, that young mentality stuff. You can’t really knock the youth for being naïve, because we were all youth and naïve once too, but for a culture to be 30 years old it should have some mature outlet and there is none."

When we arrived at the ESPN Zone, I was surprised to be greeted by more hip-hop legends in Nice & Smooth and Biz Markie.

 

A lot of these rappers from those days came up together in the industry and helped build it. They have stories upon stories of the times when hip-hop was at its peak of originality.

 

As Rick and his wife took a seat on a nearby couch in a make-shift green room, which on any other night is an employee break room, Greg Nice (of Nice & Smooth) sat down next to me and told me about his plans, and how he and Tupac were close friends and were about to work on several projects before his death in 1996.

Shortly thereafter, Biz Markie walked in and greeted Rick with a hug. He reminisced about a show Rick did in Long Island in 1988. "Man, he was doing ‘Treat her like a Prostitute’ and ‘Indian Girl’ (two of Rick’s early male chauvinistic tunes) and the girls were in the front row crying," Biz said. "They were going crazy over you." Rick just laughed and humbly said, "That didn’t happen man."

"They were going crazy over you man," Biz insisted. "Now everybody is biting your style. Remember back in the day we used to fight when people were biting our style? It’s not like that nowadays. But still no one could ever tell a story like you."

Biz and Rick give each other a quick hug, as Biz exits to DJ another party at a another location.

As the night winds down, Rick and Doug E. Fresh prepare to do another set for a mostly corporate (read: White) crowd hosted by ESPN’s Stuart Scott.

 

While Doug E. Fresh warms up the crowd with old school favorites, Rick is behind the stage sporting his gold chains once again waiting for his queue to walk out. I quickly asked him if he ever gets tired of people always wanting to hear his classic material from the ‘80s instead of more recent stuff from the past few years.

"Nah man, not at all," he said while getting his queue to hit the stage. "The audience that comes out to the shows, they’re pretty much expecting to reminisce on the old, happy party stuff we did back in those times."

And good times they were.

 

Editor's Note: The Piece was written in 2004.

 

Q is a hip-hop journalist and entertainment writer based in Denver, Colorado. He's a regular contributor to Aol BlackVoices, Vibe Magazine and a host of other publications.

 

He blogs at Qsviews

 

E-mail comments to editor@thenewblackmagazine.com

Hanging Out With Slick Rick

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