Ricky Walters, Slick Rick, formerly known as MC Ricky D of the Get Fresh Crew, has consistently moved crowds with his clever narratives i.e, “The Show”, the immensely “jocked” La Di Da Di”, “Mona Lisa” and “Children’s Story”. Unfortunately, the party almost came to an abrupt halt in 1990 when “the Rickster” did a six-year bid up-state for shootin’ a fair one at his cousin. As a result of Slick Rick’s hiatus came two lackluster albums, “The Ruler’s Back” and “Behind Bars” were released almost as somewhat of an afterthought. However, in 1999 a less restricted Rick released his fourth joint, “The Art Of Of Storytelling”, coming back with a full-blown dedication to constructing a pretty darn good LP to make up for the “half-hearted” efforts of the “Ruler’s Back” & “Behind Bars”. While Slick has never taken too many heads outside of the party, chicken head tales and platinum-drenched fantasies, he holds his firm ground in Hip Hop as one of the best, most lyrical and charismatic emcees to ever touch the M-I-C. Rather than rehashing the painful experiences that led up to the release of “Art Of….”, Slick chose to stick to the script that made him a household name during Hip Hop’s “Golden Era” …plus, in the 9-9 there still wasn’t too many emcees in the game that breathed life into a comical tale like Rick could.
The album opened like a gangster flick with Slick strolling down the prison hallways on his way to being a “free man”. The score of eerie violins trace Slick’s footsteps as Run, Redman, Nas and Ed Lover revisit some of Rick’s lyrical gems from some of his most well-revered hits. The album’s biggest smash “Street Talkin”, which also featured OutKast, and the Nas featured “Me & Nas Bring It The Hardest” find Rick showcasing his signature rhyme style he helped pioneer, a la “85 style” bitches!! “Adults Only” will have you flashing back to many of the moments on Rick’s classic “The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick” as he offers Triple-X accounts of….ahem…”culo” sex. But the true-blue highlight of “The Art Of Storytelling” arrives with some help from Raekwon on “Frozen”, where the unique tag-team serves a healthy dish of battle rhymes over some sick “synths”.
With “The Art Of….” , Slick Rick proved that he was still as zany and animated as the original persona he created on his solo debut. Even to this day, Slick’s presence is still in high demand, proving that his die-hard fans would much rather seek refuge in his rhymes than have there ears blasted with “violent reality” delivered from far less talented emcees. Rick has always succeeded in providing a nice break from all the “BS” in Hip Hop….”We Like To Party/We don’t bother nobody…” the truest words this legend ever spoke and always part of the true B-Boy’s mantra.
After “holdin’ down” much of the CNN classic “The War Report” and delivering a decent solo debut, “N.O.R.E.”, due to parter-in-rhyme Capone’s jail time, Nore set out to enjoy the fruits of his labor with his sophomore LP, “Melvin Flynt: Da Hustler”. However, contrary to wishful thinking, Nore’s third installment in as many years was most definitely not the CNN reunion that the world had been waiting for. Even though Capone may have been listed as the album’s (Melvin Flynt) “co-producer”, he strangely didn’t appear on a single song, which unfortunately left Nore’s new persona, “Melvin Flynt” to attempt to shine on his own once again. Even with the semi-notable success of the album’s first single, the Neptunes producer “SuperThug wannabe” “Oh No”, many fans were quick to dub this release as a “sophomore slump” from one of Lefrak’s finest.
In what was intended to be Nore’s musical conversion from “thug” to “hustler”, the album looked, felt and even smelled like the same ol’ product that was “on the run eatin” only one year earlier. Although Nore may have stayed true to his unique delivery of unrelated words in typical Nore-form, he seemed to give up some of his lyrical…prowess, if you will…for the sake of a more stylish delivery of verses that didn’t hold the same impact of those on his previous solo effort and on “The War Report”. In the end, “Melvin Flynt” barely served as a snack to hold over fans until the release of CNN’s highly anticipated follow up to “The War Report”, appropriately titled “The Reunion”.
Knowing the appropriate time to reinvent oneself is very critical to the longevity of an artist’s career. In the late ’80′s, when conscious rap was “in”, an emcee by the name of D.O.P. emerged as one half of the duo 2 Kings in A Cyper. Then when the transition came from “fist pumpin” to “booty-shakin”, D.O.P. then transformed himself into producer extraordinare Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie and soon became one of Puffy’s infamous Hitmen. Over the years prior to the release of “Tell ‘Em Why U Madd”, D-Dot found himself laying the tracks to some of Bad Boy’s most memorable jams such as Biggie’s “Hypnotize”, Diddy & Mase’s “Been Around The World”, The Lox’ “Money, Power, Respect” and the classic posse cut “It’s All About The Benjamins”. Sometime during that time line D-Dot chose to pick up the mic again, this time as the disgruntled, hilarious character called the Madd Rapper. Not since Shock G of Digital Underground introduced the world to Humpty had such a free-spirited alter ego been nearly as successful posing as a dual persona.
Thankfully, on “Tell ‘Em…” D-Dot’s production connections paid dividends. For instance, on “Bongo Break” an aggressive Busta Rhymes flipped over a thick bass-line sample that many heads will recall from the J-Live classic, “Braggin’ Writes”. Raekwon stomped through on “Ghetto”, while the Beatnuts added a much needed dose of flavor to “Esta Loca” and young and hungry Eminem injected his array of one-liners into the twisted “Stir Crazy”. Interestingly enough, despite all the inclusive star power, D-Dot himself also delivered an impressive appearance with lines like: “All of a sudden now she’s on my di*k/Was in the Sound Factory when she heard my sh*t/I met her a few times before, I knew her girl Lenore/She told her no, I couldn’t score, too rugged and raw…from the smoothed out cut “Not The One”.
Ultimately, the Madd Rappers’ trademark rants did tend to become annoying. Plus, there are moments on the album where D-Dot’s lyrics…while tolerable…would have been much better had they not been delivered by “The Madd Rapper” per se. Better yet, who knows? Perhaps the Madd Rapper persona was created to serve as the scapegoat for a questionable debut album.