These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
As both a journalist and a fiction writer, I fashion myself a storyteller. So naturally, I have always been intrigued by Slick Rick, the oft-hailed greatest storyteller in the history of hip hop. Going chronologically, I was fortunate that Ricky D’s debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, dropped in ’88. I gave it a few spins, and without further ado, here are my two bits of copper on the album.
Often times, those with mammoth reputations can prove very disappointing when they fall short. Fortunately, Slick Rick definitely lives up to the hype surrounding him as the titan of tales. Ricky D’s stories are sometimes humorous, often cautionary, and almost always gripping. His debut album alone proves he’s the gold standard for storytellers in hip hop. Rick’s smooth delivery and conversational flow bring his words across clear as day. His rhyme schemes are fairly simple but manage to get the job done, painting poignant pictures to his narratives. “Children’s Story,” “Indian Girl,” and “Mona Lisa,” are all excellent showcases of his talent for storytelling.
Fortunately, Rick doesn’t have to do it all himself. The album’s production, provided by the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee and Eric Sadler, as well as The Ruler himself, is appropriately smooth and funky. The album manages to have a cohesive sound throughout without becoming repetitive. What’s more, the production keeps in theme with the theme of each song, making The Great Adventures of Slick Rick a cinematic affair. Peep how the tense drums add to the danger of “Children’s Story.”
When Rick isn’t dropping narratives, he does a good job boasting with flair. He serves up silky fun on “The Ruler’s Back” which features some funky trumpets courtesy of Jam Master Jay. He also is convincingly hip hop while covering Taylor Swift-type ground on “Teenage Love.” However, songs “Kit (What’s the Scoop)” and the pointless “Lick the Balls,” would have been better left on the cutting room floor. Still, Rick has far more hits than misses; “Hey Young World” is an amazing and compassionate warning to America’s youth about staying on the straight and narrow. Everything from Rick’s cool demeanor to the song’s subtle piano keys have me wondering why it’s not listed on more “greatest songs” lists.
Quite simply, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick is dope. It isn’t flawless like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back and it doesn’t have the impact of Straight Outta Compton, but Ricky’s debut album features a slew of funky songs that sound as smooth as 2011 as they did in when Ricky Walters first donned his eye patch.
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