Classic Artist of the Week: Slick Rick

This week’s Riffs & Rhymes Classic Artist is the most successful British-American rapper in music history, Slick Rick. Born in South Wimbledon, London, and raised near the Bronx, New York City, Slick Rick (birth name Richard Martin Lloyd Walters) is credited with introducing storytelling and narrative to rap music, and is one of the most sampled hip-hop artists of all time.

Walters’ career began in the early to mid 1980s on the streets of New York where he was ultimately discovered by Doug E. Fresh, joining his Get Fresh Crew, where Walters played big roles on tracks like “The Show” and “La Di Da Di” that turned the rap world upside down, propelling him into immediate stardom and further expanding gangsta-rap’s growing platform.

After his time with the Get Fresh Crew, Walters became the third artist to sign with Def Jam Records, where he produced his debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. The album was successful, reaching the top spot on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart, while featuring three well-performing singles. Critics praised Walters’ ability to deliver an exciting story from start to finish, a characteristic which became the Slick Rick trademark and exerted enormous influence on how rappers implemented narrative in their songs.

Throughout the early 1990s, Walters released two poor-performing albums, largely due to his everlasting legal battles, incarceration for attempted murder and citizenship disputes. In 1999, he bounced back with his fourth album, The Art of Storytelling, pairing him with other legendary MCs like Nas, OutKast and Snoop Dogg. The album was considered an authentic and triumphant follow up to The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.

Recommended Listening:

Album: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)

Album: The Art of Storytelling (1999)

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