Slick Rick – Need Some Bad (Prod. by DJ Premier)
The Ruler’s back! Let the rap world rejoice as one of the most influential emcees to have ever graced the make has unexpectedly returned to spit a full track again, on a Premier beat no less. Reports say 70s and 80s babies may endure slight skippage of the heartbeat today.
While Rakim is hailed as the one who introduced a level of seriousness, intricate rhyme schemes and lyrics and authorative delivery unheard up until that point it’s not a stretch to say Ricky D was every bit as influential, if not more so. You can see the same dichotomy at work with movie criticism; no matter how great a comedic film is, it will loose when put against a well-received drama in the Oscar race because it delivers something serious as opposed to a comedy, which is ‘only for laughs.’ This has absolutely nothing to do with the level of it’s craft though, it depends on little more than audience perception. Same thing with Rick, humorous misogyny and a cocky, nonchalant vocal performance don’t go down as well with many critics and scribes as rapping about pyramids and assuming leadership do, no disrespect to the R.
Just ‘La Di Da Di’ by itself inspired generations of emcees and was sampled almost beyond belief, but it’s his knack for storytelling and flair for dialogue, including impersonated voices ranging from various females to extraterrestrial aliens, that really cemented his impact. It broadened the spectrum of what a hip-hop song can be to virtually limitless capacities and like a true master, he made it all sound so easy. The nonchalant conversational tone of his delivery coupled with the traces of his British accent accumulated into one of the most original and hilarious flows in the game. From Snoop to Jay to Nas to Biggie, you’d be hard pressed to find a single emcee who hasn’t tried to emulate it at least once. Nas might be more closely associated with Rakim’s style (being hailed as the second coming of the ‘Mic God’ ‘n all) but it was Rick’s flow he, with all respect, jacked wholesale on his 2003 single ‘I Can.’
The impact of Slick Rick’s career on rap as a whole is even more impressive when you consider he only has 2 great albums under belt, one of which still stands tall as an undeniable classic and has easily stood up to the test of time since its release over 2 decades ago. After his succesful debut Rick was sentenced to jail in 1990 following the shooting of a bodygueard who shot him earlier. Rick was bailed out by Russell Simmons upon his arrest and quickly wrapped up the recordings for his ultimately dissapointing sophomore album before the court case hit him. While in jail his third album, made up of scraps, was released and didn’t exactly further his career either. But once liberated he proved on his 1999 comeback album ‘The Art of Storytelling’ that he could still hang with the new jacks he inspired and he hadn’t lossed a step. Despite claims to the contrary made by Gloria Carter’s baby boy, Slick Rick invented swag.
Back in 2006 Slick Rick talked to XXL about his reasons for not pushing towards another comeback record after his legal troubles (this time to no fault of his) with Homeland Security were ironed out. Citing trouble with Def Jam about wanting to pursue a more mature direction he even considered switching labels.
It’s the whole industry in general. Too much catering to the youth mentality. Imagine if all our stars—the Beatles, whoever—all they sang about was womanizing, and stuff that we did as kids but have now grown up. It would get tiring after a while. You won’t even enjoy yourself when you go to a disco and a club anymore because everything sounds shallow.
Demand for more ‘Great Adventures’ is still there and his brief flourishes of greatness on guest appearances over the past years make him sound comfortable and fully up to par among the most respected of his peers, if not straight outshining them.
This new track, created for the soundtrack to Jonah Hill comedy ‘The Sitter,’ seems to have married Rick’s same old player persona with his advanced age. Clearly he is no longer a young guy but he cleverly steers clear of trying to emulate one while still touching on the subjects so familiar to him. Since his last album the playing field in hip-hop has become wider than ever before. Every adjective from ‘emo’ and ‘alt’ to ‘indie’ and ‘pop’ can be placed before the word ‘rap’ to describe a widely accepted subgenre not foreseen in the golden age by even the most inspired Nostradamus-emulators. Surely there’s room for whatever lane one of the greatest emcees of all time wishes to inhabit.
‘The Sitter’ seems like a pretty generic Hollywood comedy, the type of film churned out by the machine with a differing male lead every few years, but if it brings the imperial grand wizard Ricky D out retirement for more solo material I’m all for it. Despite hip-hop encompassing so many styles now it can sure use a vet showing everybody how to tell a great story and take ourselves a bit less serious, especially if the most prominent ladies man keeps moping and whining about it and rappers put on their most serious face for a blatantly charts-pandering mess of an album. So let’s hope this is the first sign of ‘The Further Adventures Of Slick Rick.’ To return to the film analogy, I’ll be first in line for a ticket to the show if rap’s premier storyteller returns, Academy nominations be damned.