Slick Rick has been a ghost for almost a decade now. He shows up to guest on maybe one track a year and hasn’t released a record since 1999. You won’t find him turning up on mixtapes and remixes – he’s turned up on a Ghostface record, a Missy Elliott track, and with someone called the Juggaknots (whose name, unfortunately, recalls Insane Clown Posse). He says the reason he’s been under the radar is that he’s “waiting for a market to open up for a [more] mature audience.” Which is funny. Kanye West is outselling 50 Cent, and one of the biggest singles of 2006 was not about gangbanging or some silly dance but rather Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’,” a track about racial profiling. Perhaps that’s why Rick showed up on Chamillionaire’s severely underrated follow-up, Ultimate Victory, on the track “Hip Hop Police,” a track lamenting the sad reputation of hip-hop, how if you love hip hop you’re treated like a criminal.
Or maybe the reason he showed up on that track was that he was treated like a criminal for the last 20 years. Or that he was a criminal. Here’s a guy whose legendary single, “Children’s Story,” was arguably the greatest narrative in hip hop history, but became notorious for tracks like “Treat Her Like a Prostitute.” Being one of the only British rappers of any importance at the time – or ever – he seemed classier, but was as vulgar as anyone. So his arrest and imprisonment seem all the more bizarre to the casual observer, especially with his prolonged battle with INS in the years following as he fought deportation. Until his pardon earlier this year by New York Governor David Paterson (fun fact, between the two of them, they have less than two functioning eyes), he’d spent about eighteen years of his twenty-year career tussling with the law – two classic albums, two rushed out of the studio weeks before his imprisonment, and years trying to convince the US Government that he’d lived in the US for almost his entire life and it was the only home he’d known.
It’s hard to feel too bad for Rick – he pleaded guilty to attempted murder, and confessed to the crime on one of his forgotten pre-prison albums, but it’s easy to see why Chamillionaire hooked up with Slick Rick. Turning hip hop into a crime isn’t hard when you look at Rick – here’s a guy who served his sentence and couldn’t get on with his career afterwards. Someone who, by all accounts, was thoroughly rehabilitated by his stint in jail, going from being one of the most vulgar rappers in the game to mentoring at-risk youths about violence, but couldn’t get the cops off his back. Someone who got a full pardon from the Governor of New York – who gets that? David Paterson must be a closet hip hop fan – what other politician or bureaucrat would give a shit about Slick Rick?
Maybe we will see another album from Slick Rick. Hip hop is a young man’s game, sure, and Rick’s 43. But the market is opening up more to mature hip hop every day. More people are listening to T.I., who spends a good part of his most recent album reflecting on what his life means now that he’s going to jail for a year, than DMX, who can’t stay out of jail for more than a week at a time. And unlike most other legends who were taken away from the game before their time – the D.O.C. comes to mind – Slick Rick was given another chance. We haven’t heard from one of the greatest storytellers of our time in almost a decade, the rap game has changed, and I know there are more stories to tell. To put it another way – one more story before bedtime, Uncle Ricky? Please?
Posted by Joe Kaiser at Oct 01, 2008 11:36 PM
Though I’m pretty quick to roll my eyes at artists who say things like they are waiting for more mature audiences. That’s bs. Translation = you are old. Come off it.
— Mr Mike · Oct 2, 12:19 AM · #