1 January, 1997@12:00 am
Shortly after the success of collaborative tracks, “The Show” and “La-Di-Da-Di”, with Doug E. Fresh, the show-stealing (no-pun intended) MC Ricky D, landed a solo deal of his own, with Russell Simmons’ newly formed Def Jam Recordings. 1988 was the year that Slick Rick emerged on the scene with his debut album, chronicling twelve of his great adventures, which would soon crown Rick The Ruler as hip-hop greatest storyteller ever.
Slick Rick is one of hip-hop’s most innovative artists in this art form’s short history, not only as an emcee, but as the quintessential character rapper. Who could duplicate Rick’s style? He was not only freshly dipped, draped in truck jewels and gaudy slum village gold, but also rocked an eye-patch and a British accent! Rick was flossy way before every rapper had an iced down medallion hanging around his neck.
Before gangster rap made its suburban home invasion, Slick Rick penned a classic keystone caper made up of one verse and no chorus; it was just an incredibly dope beat consisting of a mischievous baseline, a catchy piano riff, a few subtle sitars, and Rick’s endlessly quotable rhymes. “Children’s Story” was a brilliantly penned classic, instilled in the heads of hip-hop listeners to the point that to this day, it actually could be recited to their offspring as a bedtime story. Rick spoke to the youngsters; back in the day, this writer felt “Teenage Love” in all its corniness. And as an impressionable youth, “Hey Young World” brought a tear to my eye, with all of its moral value. The wisdom of Confucius was channeled through Slick Rick with poignant aphorisms like “don’t be a dumb dummy and disrespect your mummy” or “if you smoke crack, your kids will smoke crack tomorrow”. Whether he knew it or not, Rick was indeed a “Teacher Teacher”, (just ask Dana Dane).
But not all of Slick Rick’s material was rated ‘G’. Some of his most hilarious and equally vivid stories were animated on tracks like “Treat Her Like A Prostitute” (“you see the mailman’s bag, and the mailman’s pants!” ), or “Indian Girl”, which forever sealed the fate of Davy Crockett with crabs with spears and Indian drums. The Bomb Squad produced, “The Moment I Feared”, was equally memorable, yet soon life would imitate art, with Rick catching a gun case and a free trip up north, much like the third verse on the song prophesized.
While Rick was locked up, Def Jam unlocked their own vaults attempting to release sub-par and remixed Slick Rick albums such as The Ruler’s Back or Behind Bars, but neither were as memorable or successful as The Great Adventures Of…. By the time Rick was released, in late 1990′s, his past-prime, The Art Of Storytelling was released too late for anyone to care. While Rick himself seemed tired, each of these albums lacked the classic production style made possible by the collaborative efforts of Slick Rick, Vance Wright, Jason Mizell, Hank Shocklee, and Eric Sadler. In retrospect, the sound itself is ridiculously primitive compared to today’s standards, but the for heads who witnessed this album in it’s heyday, the trumpets blow on “The Ruler’s Back”, still in all their glory.
Some fifteen years down the line, one of the most amazing things about this record is that it has influenced so many artists, that almost the entire album has been covered. From Mad Skillz to Macy Gray to Nas to Tricky to Tame One to Jay-Z to Mos Def to Black Rob to Wyclef Jean - the list goes on, but more than half of the songs on this album have been remade by other artists in the last few years, (not to mention Snoop Doggy Dogg & The Roots covers of “La-Di-Da-Di” and “The Show”, respectively). Talk about making your mark. Still not convinced that Slick Rick’s Great Adventures Of… is a classic? Sit down, eat your slice of pizza, and be quiet….crumbs.
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