January 14, 2010
The most enduring recording of SLICK RICK (Richard Walters, aka MC Ricky D and Rick the Ruler, born 1965) is probably his guest appearance on Doug E. Fresh’s “La Di Da Di” in 1985. But his weirdest artistic triumph is 1991’s flop The Ruler’s Back, a frantic set banged out very quickly while he was out on bail (on his way to five years in stir for attempted murder). Almost every track follows the same formula: three verses of sixteen lines, each ending with the title and a sample or two. In one song, he’s Moses; in another, he’s James Bond; in a third, he’s Top Cat. Every lyric’s conceit is a stream-of-consciousness channel of escape for an exhausted man in trouble for violence. (“I Shouldn’t Have Done It” is about cheating.) The whole thing is sputteringly rushed and deadpan: Vance Wright’s beats tumble all over each other, and Rick’s taunting, British-accented drawl is reduced to a flat murmur rat-a-tatting out strings of syllables in overlapping phrases, as if breathing were a luxury available only to MCs not in quite so much of a hurry.
HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM — a series of 25 posts about old-school hip hop | DJ Kool Herc as HiLo Hero | Gil Scott-Heron as HiLo Hero | Slick Rick as HiLo Hero | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels as HiLo Hero | Afrika Bambaataa as HiLo Hero | Biz Markie as HiLo Hero | Eric B as HiLo Hero (forthcoming in November) | U-God as HiLo Hero | Slug as HiLo Hero | Adam Yauch as HiLo Hero | Ghostface Killah as HiLo Hero | DJ Run as HiLo Hero | Flavor Flav as HiLo Hero | Scott La Rock as HiLo Hero | GZA as HiLo Hero | Schoolly D as HiLo Hero | Aesop Rock as HiLo Hero | Notorious B.I.G. as HiLo Hero | Melle Mel as HiLo Hero | Rick Rubin as HiLo Hero | Rakim as HiLo Hero | Ol’ Dirty Bastard as HiLo Hero | Madlib as HiLo Hero | Talib Kweli as HiLo Hero | Danger Mouse as HiLo Hero | Kool Moe Dee as HiLo Hero | Chuck D as HiLo Hero | Dizzee Rascal as HiLo Hero | RZA as HiLo Hero | Cee-Lo Green as HiLo Hero | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Garry Winogrand, John Dos Passos, and Yukio Mishima.
READ MORE about the Reconstructionist Generation (1964-73).
What do you think?
I encountered the stylings of Slick Rick at a very impressionable age — I was a high-school junior and senior in 1985 — and can’t help but believe that the secret to what makes me tick today can only be discovered by listening obsessively to his music again. Soon. Thanks, Douglas, for such a specific recommendation!
“Children’s Story” is a nice jam too; although not that weird …
I agree, Srivatsa. “Once upon a time not long ago,/When people wore pajamas and lived life slow” — a beautiful idyll conjured up by Slick Rick.
“Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier”. (And those are about the only safe-for-work lyrics in “Indian Girl”, the raunchfest that renders the sensitive “Teenage Love” surprisingly poignant.)
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