Slick Rick is Hip-Hop’s greatest storyteller. That’s not up for argument. He’s also one of the most charismatic and compelling emcees to ever touch a microphone. The British born, Bronx raised, rapper got his start with Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew, and made a name for himself on “The Show.” Following a pair of powerful singles with Doug, he released his classic debut The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, establishing himself as one of the best in the business.
Though he had his career cut short by a prison stint, Rick is among the most influential emcees ever, with his lyrics being scratched into songs, and constantly quoted by some of your favorite acts. Bow your heads and kiss the ring, crumbs. This is The Primer: Slick Rick.
Be sure to check out previous entries in The Primer Series where we break down the catalogs of many other legendary artists and groups.
“Lick The Balls”
This is The Ruler at his most arrogant and braggadocios. The poor, unsuspecting, beat from Eric Sadler and Hank Shocklee of The Bomb Squad sounds like it’s being jumped by six different people as Rick punches in and out. His humorous jabs and bare knuckle boasts are enough to have any competitor down for the count.
Also note his flow here as a clear inspiration for another legendary emcee, Naughty By Nature’s Treach (see: “O.P.P.”).
No one could weave a story as well as Slick Rick, and this one is his most popular. “Children’s Story” follows its protagonist as he begins a life of crime, to that’s life’s most frequent destination: an early death. As dark as the content, Rick still keeps it lighthearted and fun as evidenced in the nods to Charlie Chaplin in the classic video.
Rick loved the ladies, and his interactions with them in his music spanned a wide range of emotions. At times skeptical (“Treat Her Like A Prostitute”), playful (“Mona Lisa”), and downright disgusting (“Little Indian Girl”), women were The Ruler’s weakness. On “Teenage Love” Ricky Dee, adds another layer, as he laments love gone cold.
So many of Rick’s tales began with an encounter with a woman, but on “Mona Lisa” the female character is just as sharp, witty, and well, slick as The Ruler himself. The uptempo, skittering, battle of the sexes continues to set dance floors aflame today.
“Hey Young World”
Much of Rick’s music was for adults only, but this one was directed at the impressionable inner-city youth that were buying his tapes in droves. The self-produced gem proved that the Kangol clad emcee had plenty of substance to go with his unquestionable style. Only he could make doing your chores, listening to your parents, and staying out of trouble sound so cool.
“Street Talkin (Ft. Outkast)”
Jazze Pha’s tinkling keys and simple synth work, provide the backdrop for an upbeat and rejuvenated Slick Rick to match wits with Outkast’s Big Boi. Both emcees are at the top of their game here, with Rick displaying some his trademark charm and humor, after releasing some understandably drearier material on the two previous albums.
“Behind Bars (Dum Ditty Dum Mix Ft. Warren G)”
Slick Rick is cellmates with West Coast G-Funk legend Warren G on the remix of the title track from Behind Bars. While the album is not among Rick’s best, Warren’s subdued and jazzy production, pairs well with Rick’s vivid descriptions of life behind the wall.
“The Ruler’s Back”
When those shakers and deafening snares give way to regal synth horns, you can’t help but acknowledge the presence of royalty. One of the most quoted and sampled songs from one of hip-hop’s most quoted and sampled artists of all time, “The Ruler’s Back” is an exercise in braggadocio, charisma, and swag.
Still setting off parties nearly 30 (!!!) years later, “La-Di-Da-Di” was most of the world’s introduction to the wisecracking, arrogant, fly MC Ricky D. Displaying his trademark humor and storytelling ability, “La-Di-Da-Di” was where Rick established himself as force to be reckoned with for years to come.
“I Shouldn’t Have Done It”
The normally egotistical Slick Rick, is vulnerable and regretful on “I Shouldn’t Have Done It.” Things take a disastrous turn after Rick two-times his lady and gets caught. Even with the dark turn at the end, the high energy track will still get you out of your seat.