Hello, am I speaking to the Ruler? [laughs]What’s up guy?
What are you doing today? I am just laying back today. We did a couple shows with Lauryn Hill and I am having a day off.
Everyone’s happy to see you back! Which is saying something since hip-hop fans are not known for their continuous loyalty. What’s your trick? I guess you gotta spark some kind of interest in the public’s mind. I was known for humorous stories, brining humor into people’s life. That element shines through to today. It’s not like the everyday rap stuff. It’s a different avenue.
Now that you are back do you find yourself being pegged as an “old school” artist? That doesn’t bother me because when you do an interview they’re always gonna run down your whole rap credentials. It’s part of the job. Slick Rick comes with a history that goes back to 85.
Is the industry being good to you upon your return? Or are they trying to angle you? You gotta create your own angle. I never had an angle. I was just being myself, enjoying my craft. My wife Mandy handles the business [via their company Slick Rick Entertainment] and I handle the entertainment. She does the paperwork and makes sure the artists are where they need to be. She’s a more professional person than I am.
You met Mandy right before you went into jail. How did you meet her? At a club in New York called the Supper Club right before I was abruptly brought back in. I was brought back in for immigration, not like I did anything wrong. It came out of nowhere, an immigration case, my status changed from minimum to medium, and at medium you have to be incarcerated until the case is resolved. So I had to go back in for two more years as the court dragged on. My case wasn’t really called for two years after that. So half of our relationship was visits.
And I hear you are a landlord now? I am the landlord of two three-family buildings in the Bronx. We live in one of the apartments.
You’re playing in Tampa with Nas and Foxy Brown and Ja Rule soon. That’s an interesting bill. A younger generation bill. Nas has that strong skillful thug rap, and Foxy brings her own ra ra, know what I’m sayin? And I bring the new and the old-school humor. So it’s a variety show.
How does the eye of Slick Rick see the current hip-hop landscape? It’s as it’s always been: rappers acting cool in whatever part of the country they’re from, emphasizing the environment that they grew up in. I guess that’s what it’s always been. Everyone wants to demonstrate that they can survive in their neighborhood, and they bring their lil skills to the table.
What type of show are you putting on these days? It’s just me and a DJ — I haven’t confirmed which DJ yet. And I do some skits here and there. My wife comes out in one skit dressed as a maid, stuff like that, to give the public something to look at. You gotta do a lot more if you’re from the old-school [laughs]. I like to dress. My thing has always been to dress anyway. I try to use the jewelry as an eye-catcher, you know what I mean? I try to make the show oriented around little pictorial skits. Like me and the DJ might have little conversations between us to highlight the rap. I have everybody dress coordinated so the color schemes look pretty.
Tell me about your new record. Great Adventures was my best album, then the second and third albums were not good at all. They didn’t reach their potential. I can make excuses about how I was busy at the time going to jail, but I will just say that they are not good albums. This album is a continuation of the first album. This is the real second album. You can tell I am laid back and having fun with my craft. Each record on the album paints its own story, it’s own visual picture. The CD is almost like cable: you turn the channel and you’ll see a different picture. It’s got different mental avenues.
You really think two of your records were straight up failures? They could have been at least 75% better. They was rushed. A lot of the raps and the music didn’t have chemistry. A lot of the raps were too fast. A lot of songs did have potential to be great but the time wasn’t able to be spent. They were made while I was out on bail. After eight or nine months I came out on bail for like three weeks. So it was pressure to make both of those two albums in a three-week span—mostly just to keep my name alive. A lot of the music was put onto the raps afterwards. And it wasn’t like I could go back and fix anything.
When you were in jail did people know who you were? And was that good or bad for you? Yeah man, you can’t miss the patch. Even if you never heard a song, you’d think, I’ve seen that guy on TV or something. But it goes both ways: there are the people who admire you, and then the people who want to make a name for themselves by picking on you, making your bid a little harder than it needed to be. Mostly though if you’re in a confinement with a certain amount of people you’re gonna bond, just like how you might not like all your cousins and relatives but you’re gonna bond.
How did your stint change you? It just makes you more grounded and mature. You see you can’t really depend on nobody, you have to depend on your own self. When you’re younger you’re moving fast and not thinking. When you’re older you see reality for what it is and that you’re responsible for your own destiny and you need to take responsibility and be more mature and grounded.
How does that come through in your new music? One of the elements I always had was I’m more grounded, so people can relate to me. I basically talk how anyone would talk. It’s not hard, gritty, complicated raps where you need to figure it out; it’s easy to fall into, you can visualize where I’m coming from, and that helps. My strongpoint is to make people visualize stuff. You can follow a story all the way through. It makes it more interesting when you have something to do with your mind. I’m just on a more mature rap.