In 1985 Slick Rick exploded onto the rap scene as part of Doug E. Fresh And The Get Fresh Crew, when they released their double-sided single The Show/La Di Da Di, which would become only the 4th rap single to ever go GOLD (sell over 500,000 copies) and became an instant classic. In the subsequent years, there was some sort of fall-out between Rick and Doug, and they went their separate ways. Rick went on to sign with Def Jam Records and in November 1988 he finally released this, his debut. With production from the legendary Jam Jamster Jay (R.I.P.), Eric Sadler and Hank Shocklee of The Bomb Squad, as well as himself, Slick Rick provides us with 12 tracks, showing off his considerable storytelling skills.
The first track from the album was the slow jam TEENAGE LOVE, which I admit to not being crazy about at the time. This was during a time when, thanks to the success of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love”, every other rapper seemed to think he needed to put out a love song too. So this was Rick’s version, and it is a decent song. But it wasn’t the follow-up that I had been waiting 3 years for. Thankfully, the second single from this album would more than make-up for it, as Rick released CHILDREN’S STORY. This has a catchy uptempo beat, and the 4-minute song is mostly just one long non-stop verse, which is unusual at the time. What I find interested is that the beat is so catchy, you don’t even notice at first how brutally violent and dark the lyrics are. Rick is telling the story a teenager who is talking into helping commit a robbery by one of his friends. After that first successful robbery, the boy because hooked on to the life of crime and keeps robbing people, until one of his victim turns out to be an undercover cop. This leads to a chase, during which the boy begins to feel remorse for his actions, and so he gives up but the police shoot him dead anyway. It’s pretty damn tragic. But the humorous music video, which doesn’t follow the story of the lyrics, also helps water down the impact.
Most of the rest of the album continues in this vein, with Slick Rick telling various stories in his songs, with topics ranging from funny, to violent, to X-rated.
THE MOMENT I FEARED has Rick rapping a story about getting mixed up with the wrong girl and by the time’s it’s over he’s killed two people and goes to jail where he ends up getting RAPED. It’s hard to imagine any modern-day rapping being that vulnerable on a song. But, like with Children’s Story, Rick was trying to send a message about how a life or crime doesn’t pay. In INDIAN GIRL, Rick raps a story about Davy Crocket meeting a young Native American girl named Running Rabbit, who invites him back to her place for dinner. After which they go to her bedroom, where he proceeds to force himself on her. It’s not a pleasant theme, but the ending sends a (funny) message about STD’s. And in MONA LISA he meets a girl at a pizza place but, for some reason, just as he’s getting to know her, his friend takes him away, so he misses her.
Then you have a song like TREAT HER LIKE A PROSTITUTE, where he raps about not trusting women.
Excuse me, What? Can I have your attention
There’s just a few things that I’ve got to mention
There’s girlies out here that seem appealing
But they all come in your life and cold hurt your feelings
I’m telling you. as Rick is my name
I wouldn’t trust no girl unless she feels the same
Treat ’em like a prostitute
Don’t treat no girlie well until you’re sure of the scoop
Cause all they do is they hurt and trample
Listen up close, here comes my first example
The following 3 verses are all about men finding out that their women have cheated on them. I loved this song as a youngster, but now as a (I like to think) enlightened adult, it’s hard not to see this song as quite misogynistic.
There’s more creativity with the song KIT (WHAT’S THE SCOOP?), which tells the story of Rick teaming up with KITT, the talking care from the TV series KNIGHT RIDER, to catch some thief who stole Slick Rick’s “crowd” (at a concert). A funny little song.
But Slick Rock’s not just a storyteller. With songs like THE RULER’S BACK, LET’S GET CRAZY, TEACHER TEACHER, and LICK THE BALLS, which are all full of braggadocio lyrics, Slick Ricks proves he can go toe to toe with the lyrical legends of his day.
And then with his third and final single from this album, Slick Rick gets directly socially conscious, extolling the virtues of hard work and getting and education and pleading with youngster to avoid teenage pregnancies and criminal behavior, with the mellow track HEY YOUNG WORLD
As I said in the beginning, when this album came out many of us had been waiting a long time for the return of Slick Rick, and this album more than satisfied that desire. Slick Rick proved he could stand on his own, and wasn’t just a sidekick, with creative rhymes and good production. 27 years later, these songs still stand up up, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
Chacebook rating: 4 and a HALF STARS