July 26, 2008

Slick Rick - The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (May 2, 1988)



MC Ricky D, whose government name Ricky Walters appeared prominently on arrest warrants throughout the early part of the new millennium, is a Bronx rapper by way of London, England. He is frequently touted as one of the preeminent storytellers in the entire genre of hip hop, and on that fact, you'll hear no argument from Max: even today, the few rappers that still attempt to tell stories in their rhymes are playing catch up to Slick Rick.

He rhymed with fellow rapper Dana Dane for a while before becoming part of Doug E. Fresh's Get Fresh Crew, appearing on hit singles such as "The Show" (which, if you believe ego trip's Big Book of Rap Lists, is one of the most religious rap songs ever recorded) and "La Di Da Di", a song which inspired a young Calvin Broadus to completely jack the song, alter the title just slightly, and create his own big hit as his rapping alias Snoop Doggy Dogg. After the success of Doug E. Fresh, his contributions became more and more prevalent, and often moved away from the direction that Doug was aiming for. As such, the record label got involved, and MC Ricky D was asked to "leave the group" (read: he got his ass fired), which is how Ricky ended up signed at Def Jam Records. He quickly recorded his solo debut, and The Great Adventures of Slick Rick was born.

Slick Rick's songs are all about contrasts. His delivery is unmistakeably easy to follow, and the fact that he is British somehow makes the lyrics seem a bit classier than they have any right to be (it's true: read HHID with a British lilt and I'll sound classier as well). The sense of humor that is inherent from the very first song, "Treat Her Like A Prostitute", is a positive as well. However, the use of profanity (not very rare in hip hop, of course) and vulgarity, especially regarding the female gender, is a bit disparaging (see: the song title I just named). This characteristic has earned Ricky a lot of detractors, most of whom have never listened to one note of the man's music.

The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick is considered to be a hip hop classic, and earned the once-coveted five-mic rating in The Source upon its release. Of course, Ricky's personal life took a turn for the worse after the release of this disc, but I'll save that for another review. The production, provided by Run DMC's Jam Master Jay, Public Enemy's The Bomb Squad, and Rick himself, sounds incredibly dated, and that fact alone will probably cause the younger of my two readers to turn away in disgust and wonder why I'm writing about shit that's a full decade older than they are. Trust me, kiddos, this album is considered a classic for a reason, and I'm the guy that argues for days that the beats have to be compelling for the rhymes to work.

Still here, kids? Okay, carry on.

1. TREAT HER LIKE A PROSTITUTE
I find it hilarious that this subject matter, which is essentially the idea of not wearing your heart on your sleeve, is treated in such a profane and, yet, relatable manner. It helps that Ricky is incredibly easy to follow, and that the beat makes for an easy transition from Doug E. Fresh's material to Ricky's solo work.

2. THE RULER'S BACK
Probably would have made more sense as the opening track, but still, effectively introduces MC Ricky D to the masses, and sets up expectations well. Jam Master Jay (R.I.P.) provides the beat, which is pretty ill, although the horns start to grate on the nerves after a while.

3. CHILDREN'S STORY
This may sound different than what you're used to, with a sparse beat (at least, when compared to its better-known remix) and the reference to the "spanking shotgun" instead of the much classier "dope machine gun", but this song is still a classic for a damn good reason. I always loved how the song is actually pretty fucking dark, but the video is chock-full of slapstick comedy.

4. THE MOMENT I FEARED
Even though the Bomb Squad's beat utilizes "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" for the umpteenth time in hip hop (I certainly hope Bob James was able to pay off the mortgage on his seventy gazillion mansions (one of them has a pool!) with all of his rap royalties for this and "Nautilus"), Ricky's storytelling reaches new heights, as he includes himself in his tale and exposes his inner monologues. Not a better song than "Children's Story", but just as good.

5. LET'S GET CRAZY
I didn't care for this song.

6. INDIAN GIRL (AN ADULT STORY)
Slick Rick performing the female voices makes me laugh out loud. The punchline to this track is kind of gross and not for the faint of heart, but everything leading up to the "adult" portion of the story is entertaining. Is the ending justified because the "Indian girl" of the title was raped? Do you consider the song to be an elaborate metaphor about the birth of the United States of America as we know it today? Rick is smart enough to let you two readers draw up your own interpretations.

7. TEENAGE LOVE
Overtly sweet, but ultimately boring. (The comment section is below, you two: Have at it. That's what it's for.)

8. MONA LISA
Who doesn't love this beat? The intro runs a little bit too long, but the way Rick says "Enough!" makes up for it.

9. KIT (WHAT'S THE SCOOP)
The Knight Rider motif is bizarre and doesn't actually work, but ultimately, the song itself is enjoyable. I can't really remember that much about it, though.

10. HEY YOUNG WORLD
This song is just peaceful. Regardless of his personal life, you can't say that Ricky D preached violence to the youth. I had also completely forgotten that the Lost Boyz borrowed the piano keys from here for their own "Love, Peace, & Nappiness" (I bet Don Imus loves that title) until I heard this one today. Nice work.

11. TEACHER, TEACHER
Contains probably the strangest boast on the entire album: "If you are a girl, I'll make no man want you." How exactly will you go about doing that, Ricky? Will you force her and her significant other to watch a TV movie marathon on Lifetime? Extrapolate, if you will, over this Eric B. & Rakim-esque beat.

12. LICK THE BALLS
Sure, it's one of the best and most distinctive titles in hip hop history, but is the song any good? Unequivocally, yes. I'm also appropriating the title for my autobiography.

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I mentioned above, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick contains some instrumentals that sound downright fucking corny when matched up today to their equivalents (see: most of the beats on the radio). But you have to imagine 1988 all around you to get the full effect of some of these songs. Is it working for you yet? Well, on a couple of the songs, it'll never work, because their time has passed, but the songs that still work today are standout performances by a legendary storyteller. There may not be a market for rap songs like this anymore, and for that, I am sad, and I will also pass the blame to the fucking South. (Prove me wrong without mentioning the names "Scarface", "Andre 3000", or "Cee-Lo". Seriously. I invite everyone to do so.)

BUY OR BURN? This is one of those discs that makes everybody's rap collection seem several notches above the norm, so I suggest you pick this up. It's okay to buy it used, just as long as you buy it. Slick Rick and his kids will thank you personally. He'll send you a box of chocolates and a platinum eyepatch with all the trimmings.

BEST TRACKS: "Mona Lisa"; "Children's Story"; "The Moment I Feared"; "Hey Young World"; "Lick The Balls"

-Max

13 comments:

  1. Max on the Old Scholl Tip! Ha ha, nice!

    Slick Rick is a legend and this album is one of those who contributed a lot of over and over sampled beats in the future of hip hop and many lyric passages, which were useful to other rappers that followed Slick Ricks kind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. AnonymousJuly 26, 2008

    I love this cd and I agree that it's sad that this type of material just isn't appreciated anymore.

    As for your other Southern rappers not named Scarface, Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo part, I think Bun B is a pretty great rapper. Cunninlynguists aren't half bad either.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good review and very much on point. Love most of the songs on that album - remember going across the USA listening to that on my walkman.

    ReplyDelete
  4. hi... just want to say that i really appreciate your detailed walkthrough of some of the best albums ever!

    Make relistening to these classic albums even better!

    Cheers,

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hated that children's story video. I thought it totally took away from how dark the song was. I'm off to my house again with a broken computer and no internet.pace

    ReplyDelete
  6. AnonymousJuly 27, 2008

    Another good review Max, disagree with the. Ommeny about teenage
    love though...

    Mr. childs

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Prove me wrong without mentioning the names "Scarface", "Andre 3000", or "Cee-Lo"."


    UGK, 8Ball & MJG and Big Boi.

    ReplyDelete
  8. haha I remember childrens story always getting played around lunch time when kube 93 had their old school rap hour, yo as for that last part about the south I agree theres not many others to mention but I dare say that the souths most overlooked gem is SPM (South Park Mexican) lol hes got a kinda corny name and hes in jail for some pretty bad shit but hes a freakin beast on the mic no joke I think you should defenitly check his music out it took me a while to come around but if you like that lyrical shit you gotta at least hear 1 song and Im sure youll agree.

    ReplyDelete
  9. AnonymousJune 17, 2013

    I liked the review but for south artists I say Killer Mike, Cunninlynguists, Big Boi, Z-Ro, and UGK. (Not sure if Killer Mike is Southern though, but his sound is southern)

    ReplyDelete
  10. AnonymousJuly 28, 2013

    That comment you made about the South is probably the most ignorant comment on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  11. UGK. But to be honest I wouldn't say Cee-Lo (especially nowadays) and Scarface is waay better than Andre. Also, Willie D and Bushwick Bill.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Peace Max,
    I've been enjoying the hell out of your reviews, even the ones I've disagreed with. I also big you up on the classy way you handle haters.

    For years and years I've LOVED The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, it truly is a definitive classic. Forever a favorite of mine.

    That said, I do need to correct an error on your part regarding the 5 mic rating in The Source. At the time this album dropped, The Source had not yet been launched. The 5 mic rating came in a retroactive review in a 2002 issue of the mag, alongside 29 other albums. While I disagreed with a good 7 of their choices, I wholeheartedly co-sign on Slick Rick getting that 5.

    Keep up the good work Max.

    ReplyDelete