Photo By: D-Nice Photography
Slick Rick is still looking real cool. Walking through the audience toward the Paradise Theater stage in The Bronx – gaudy jewelry sparkling against the spotlights – it brings you back to 1988, when he commanded attention during his club days at Latin Quarter. He has been known to wear a ton of 80s classic gear, from the Kangol hats to the Clarks Wallabes, as well as silver medallions and lots of heavy gold chains, but Tuesday night he kept his style to a minimum. Maybe it was a sign of the times or just a veteran showing off with class. But much like when a grade school teacher prepared his or her students for storytime, Rick the Ruler sat down, grill gleaming when he smiled, ready for a few more life stories to tell.
On the second day of Red Bull Music Academy’s New York: Five Out of Five World Tour, where the first day started with a Queens dedication from Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks, host Jeff Mao served as our narrator through MC Ricky D’s chapters. Before analyzing The Great Adventures of Slick Rick in full, Chairman Mao delved into topics such as his beginnings in the Kangol Crew with Dana Dane, The Cold Crush Brothers‘ inspirations behind his signature storytelling and his thoughts on the diverse feel of the Bronx.
“The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop,” Slick Rick said. “It’s a multicultural place, a lot of Latins mixed with Blacks. We just had a lot of fun – breakdancing, doing our thing growing up – hip-hop became a toy for us instead of graffiti-ing all that stuff, and we just worked it to where it is now.”
Mao had Slick Rick recalling many career highlights such as traveling overseas for the first time to revisit his hometown in England. However, his defining moment is the internationally known single, “Lodi Dodi.” Slick Rick said his breakout single wasn’t even in stores, yet everybody on the streets managed to have a cassette of its live recording. Due to its popularity, this eventually prompted the record labels to organize an official release. For the man who described his younger self as having a “high-pitched voice like a girl, nobody wasn’t checking for the kid like that,” he certainly made an impression.
Songs like the Get Fresh Crew’s “Lodi Dodi,” which featured Doug E. Fresh’s beatboxing and Slick Rick’s art of storytelling, solidified its mark in the golden era of hip-hop. Slick Rick is one of those artists who stayed ahead of the curve of battle rappers with similar cadences. “Lodi Dodi” showed a more humorous, happier, and inventive rapper, which set him apart from the rest. Simply put, Slick Rick, who utilized back and forth rhyming with separate characters and vocal ranges, fully embraced the blueprint of a narrative with hidden messages. Think “Children’s Story” and “Teenage Love.”
“When I was in high school, English was probably one of my favorite subjects,” he said. “You study essays, how to write an essay, you have a beginning, and your body and your end like the teacher teach you. That was like what rap was – three verses.”
After a cameo by BX native, Funkmaster Flex, who expressed his thoughts on the essence of the borough and his stories behind “neighborhood celebrities” becoming idolized icons, the stage transformed for Slick Rick’s performance of The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Shows like this one – with many audience members above 30 – have become a rarity for younger hip-hop heads to appreciate the genre’s imaginative and rich lyrics of the past. DJ D-Nice (who can name-drop himself for days) and the previous DJ kept us grooving to classic 80s hip-hop and modern hits. Eventually Lifted Crew, a 10-piece powerhouse, hit the stage to play a set, while having the honor of being Slick Rick’s live band.
There were some technical difficulties, mainly from the microphones not working, including Slick Rick’s shiny one. But he came out – this time wearing a very large chain and an equally-sized silver medallion – ready to give fans what they came for.
Although addressing the crowd as “family,” he seemed to be going very quickly through his 12-track album, ending his performance in less than an hour. Still, Slick Rick pleased fans of all ages. He performed an acapella of “Lodi Dodi” side by side with a beatboxing DJ, shouted out Snoop Dogg for keeping his crowned jewel “fresh” and decided on doing a revamped “Children’s Story” with Lifted Crew. Then, he immediately exited the stage, but not before giving his gratitude.
Well, for one night only, the Ruler was back.
Props to Blow! for the footage.
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