It's been just over 20 years since a one-eyed rapper from the unlikely London neighborhood of South Wimbledon released what would become one of the most pivotal hip-hip albums of all-time. Entitled The Adventures of Slick Rick and featuring the cautionary "A Children's Story," the LP not only highlighted the talents of the very same man who first struck paydirt alongside Doug E. Fresh in 1985's "La Di Da," it served as the launch pad for one stellar career.
Well, it would've served as such, anyway. Had not the eponymous character gone on to gun down a couple cats in front of a New York nightclub and get sent up the proverbial river for five long years.
But in hip-hop, street cred means more than anything, and two counts of attempted murder and half a decade in the hokey poky is more than enough cred for anyone. Add that fact that over the ensuing years "A Children's Story" was covered by both Tricky and Everlast, and sampled by everyone from KRS-One to Snoop Dog, and the cred gets all the more incredible. Still, despite recording a quickie while he was out on bail (The Ruler's Back), and another while he was locked-up (Behind Bars), Rick never did regain his place in hip hop's pantheon.
Until, that is, Slick Rick re-hit with 1999's The Art of Storytelling, which is considered by many to be the real follow-up to his heavily-sourced debut. And while much of that impact and consideration might be attributed to the fact that Rick was backed by the likes of Nas, OutKast, Raekwon, and Snoop Dogg, the album's success was truly a testament to Slick's skills as a spinner of low-slung tales.
But if Storytelling seemed to cement Slick's place among hip hop royalty, the U.S. government was not about to bow down -- or out. In 2002, while performing aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Florida, Rick was nabbed by I.N.S. authorities and held for deportation.
Seventeen months of appeals later, he was released, and things started going uphill: appearances on Ghostface Killah's "The Sun" (from the album Put It on the Line), Missy Elliott's "Irresistible Delicious" (The Cookbook), The Juggaknots' "Vows" (Use Your Confusion) and, perhaps most visibly, Chamillionaire's bracing "Hip Hop Police" (Ultimate Victory), as well as inclusions in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," "True Crime: New York City," and "Tony Hawk's Proving Ground."
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Then, on May 23rd of last year, after taking the seat of the disgraced Elliot Spitzer, New York Governor David Paterson awarded Slick Rick a full and unconditional pardon for his original crimes, which should eliminate Immigration's case against him, and VH1 finally came through with long overdue honors.
These days Slick Rick is biding his time performing live and waiting for the music industry to start showing more love to its veterans. But that doesn't mean you've gotta wait to show yours. Catch him in action and relive the former glory. You won't be mad that you did.
Tuesday, January 27. Louis, at the Gansevoort Hotel, 2337 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Show starts at 11 p.m.; tickets cost $20. www.louismiami.com