In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Slick Rick, who is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of his debut album 'The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick'
1: ‘What kind of fuckery is this/You made me miss the Slick Rick gig’ is a lyric from a song by which singer?
CORRECT. It’s from ‘Me and Mr. Jones’.
“My first impression when I heard it was it was good to have somebody of that high status mention you in their hit. I was impressed by that, and it was a nice compliment by such a big celebrity at the time. Rest in peace.”
You’re referenced constantly in pop culture. Have any nods surprised you?
“I look at it as an honour. It keeps your name alive in different genres of music and aspects of culture. So I’m honoured and enjoying the recognition.”
2: Which band raps: ‘Knock an eyeball out, like you Slick Rick’?
“Oooh…I don’t think I know that one.”
WRONG. It’s Insane Clown Posse, from their ‘Kickin’ Kickin’ track.
“Okay….(Laughs) I didn’t know that one! At first, I didn’t need to wear the eye-patch so I tried to wear glasses and stuff like that and it just wasn’t working for me, so I went with the patch and got used to wearing it. It reminded me of a young Sammy Davis Jr. At the time, there was a lot of variety in the hip-hop scene and a lot of golden celebrities, so I guess the patch and the English accent gave me a distinct recognition against my peers. If you say ‘You know the rapper with the patch on?’, people are gonna say ‘You mean Slick Rick/Ricky D?’, ‘cos there’s only one.”
3: What number was ‘Children’s Story’ ranked on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop?
“I don’t know. (Laughs) I’ve no idea!”
WRONG. It was 61.
“61? Oh, okay. I was going to say 62 (Laughs).”
Did you know at the time it was special?
“Yeah I tried it out in my community and once I knew my community felt it, I was confident within myself that it was going to be a hit. I was pretty sure once it spread throughout the hip-hop community, it would make its mark.”
Is it interesting looking back and seeing how the lyrics predicted your imprisonment for attempted murder a year later?
“Not really, because at the time, you’re an excited youth and want to tell a story that’s relevant and exciting and draws your peers in – I wanted to make Goodfellas or The Godfather 1, 2, and 3 in a hip-hop way.”
4: Which then-unknown rapper appears in your 1988 ‘Teenage Love’ video?
“That would be Big Daddy Kane and Dana Dane….”
Think more unknown at the time…
“Oh! Lil’ Kim! (Laughs) Right!”
“In that video, I remember I didn’t like the coat I had on underneath my fur coat – little errors. Other than that, I had fun. I remember borrowing Big Daddy Kane’s gold chain to look fly because he was getting more money than me at the time. I didn’t know Lil’ Kim at the time. But people told me years later it was her and it was shocked ‘cos I didn’t know this little girl in the video as an extra was actually this big celebrity.”
5: In Keri Hilson’s ‘Knock You Down’, which song of yours does Kanye West reference?
“Um, I don’t know. Sorry!”
WRONG. It’s ‘Hey Young World’.
“Oh yeah! He says something like ‘Hey young world, I’m the new Slick Rick’. Got you!”
What do you think of the current state of hip-hop?
“I like the direction it’s going in. I’m like everybody else – if the hits are good, they’re appreciated by the community. It’s like the Apollo theatre. If something is good, you get the standing ovation but if it’s not good, the guy with the shepherd’s crook pulls you off. I look at it like inspiration. It’s like if Van Gogh was paining and another painter came along and inspired him continue his craft in his lane. It’s like you wouldn’t pit Picasso against Van Gogh, you know what I mean? But they could inspire each other to continue their craft and make excellence in their lane – so it’s pretty much the same thing. We inspire each other to be more excellent in our individual craftmanship. Etc.”
Was there a moment where you felt like you’d become a rap elder statesman?
“I guess when you see a lot of younger artists use your material in their new record – that helps with the whole elder statesman thing. Plus I’ve set the bar at a certain place – so I always try to stay above the bar. That’s just how I move and shake.”
6: You appear as a character in the game Def Jam: Fight for NY. What is the name of your Blazin’ Move?
“Um…I have no idea.”
WRONG. It’s ‘The Show’, named after the Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew breakthrough single you featured on.
“Ok, got you! ‘The Show’ was like groundwork of me moving into a different tax bracket! You go from a minimum wage lifestyle and then move into a different tax bracket and build from it. It’s like if I made an apple pie and I knew it was selling, then I would need to keep on making the pie in the same way to keep the momentum going. Once you have a recipe that works, you keep going with it and you should achieve wealth and celebrity. ‘The Show’ and [B-side] ‘La Di Da Di’ was the groundwork for ‘The Great Adventures of Slick Rick’ and showed me what kind of humour and music, grit and music is acceptable to achieve this status.”
Mark Ronson called ‘La Di Da Di’ the ‘National Anthem’ of hip-hop and is one of the most sampled tracks ever…
“Back in the day when me and Doug E Fresh made records, it was simple and easy to sample because the whole song was pretty much words without a lot of musical instruments to block it. It was easy to take sentences and words from ‘La Di Da Di’ and incorporate it into your songs – there’s a whole four minutes of conversation where you could just grab something. If you’re in the hip-hop game from those early days, you’d sample from your hip-hop collection – pretty much that would be one of the easiest ones to sample from.” The one that stood out for me the most would be Color Me Badd sampling ‘to the tic toc you don’t stop’ in ‘I Wanna Sex You Up’ – that was good for keeping your name alive through dry spells.”
7: Which group recorded a diss response track to ‘The Show’ called ‘The Showstopper’?
“Oh, that was Salt-N-Pepa.”
“(Laughs) It was a shock because we wasn’t expecting someone to come from the left at us like that. The last time something probably happened like that was [UTFO’s] ‘Roxanne Roxanne’, and then Roxanne Shanté hit back with ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’, and there were a load of response tracks. So it was a shock to see someone come at us from leftfield that we didn’t know at all, but you’ve just got to roll with the punches. It was 30-odd years ago and we’ve done a lot of shows together with Salt-N-Pepa since. It was all youthful stuff, you know.”
8: You performed ‘The Show’ on Top Of The Pops in 1985. Can you name any of the other acts who appeared on your episode?
“Not really no. In fact, I don’t even have a video of that show. That’s a good one! Who else was on?”
WRONG. You could have had Madness, Wham!, Dee C Lee, Lionel Richie, Feargal Sharkey or Midge Ure.
“On the same episode? Interesting! I didn’t know that. I was raised in England until I was 11 years old so it was a big deal to go back to your birthplace on the most popular music TV show at that time. It felt like a big accomplishment.”
Being born in Britain, the US authorities famously tried to deport you in 2001 in a case that seems to have parallels with the situation faced by 21 Savage earlier this year…
“I learned that you’ve got to be very adult about your situation. You can’t be too childish in your youth, ‘cos it could cost you your freedom later and your immigration status years later. Water under the bridge now and all you can do is everybody else the best. I guess law and order had their reasons. And they started searching for other cases I had nothing to do with, and trying to justify such a long search. But there was nothing – so I just had to wait them out.”
9: Who performed at your 50th birthday party?
“At my 50th birthday party?! Whoah…..it was Nas. (Laughs) The great Nasir!”
“He has his own style of rap, his own way of telling stories and generational input – so it’s refreshing to see others with the same excellence in the same rap genre. We come together and increase each other’s stature.”
10: Who joined you and Mariah Carey to perform ‘Giving Me Life’ on her tour in March?
“That was fun because Mariah Carey has a different audience to hip-hop – like a wider, almost Whitney Houston type of audience. So we get exposed to another crowd – one in a financial higher tax bracket who holiday in The Hamptons.”
The verdict: 5/10
“I guess you know more than me!” (Laughs)