#77. I met Slick Rick (Tampa, 1999)


The Ruler has a creamy English accent.

My two small daughters mostly don’t like any music that isn’t garbage. In the car we stay in a constant tug of war between their modern pop radio station, and my old school rap station. They happily give me my way though, if rapper Slick Rick comes on. Something about his English accent, and his narrative songs — my 10-year-old can recite “Children’s Story” word-for-word, just like I could at 14:

Once upon a time not long ago / when people wore pajamas and lived life slow, when laws were stern, and justice stood / and people were behaving like they ought to: good…

Compared to my kids’ favorite rappers today, that sounds like Shakespeare.

In my late 20s, twas my honor to interview Rick the Ruler, who’d just been let out of prison. I mainly remember his voice on the phone, that U.K. via Brooklyn accent, so smooth and nice as he described what to expect from his live show at a Tampa arena, opening for Nas: “My thing has always been to dress. I try to use the jewelry as an eye-catcher… 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.”

Envision the creamy sound of Slick Rick’s voice saying that last line: “so the color schemes look pretty.”

We talked more than I thought we would about his recent time spent in prison for attempting to murder his former bodyguard, also his cousin, who’d continuously tried to extort money from Rick. During that skirmish, Rick also shot an innocent bystander in the foot. “Did people in jail recognize you?” I asked him, cautious not to get too personal with, or otherwise bum out, MC Ricky D.

”Yeah man, you can’t miss the [eye] patch. Even if you never heard a song, you’d think, I’ve seen that guy on TV or something,” he chuckled, then continued, casual and open about what had to be a terrible experience: “ It goes both ways though: There are the people in jail 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.”

Rick bragged on his quite good 1999 comeback album, The Art of Storytelling, which featured OutKast, Redman, and Raekwon, among other rappers who idolized Rick. He admitted to me that he hated his previous two albums, Behind Bars and Ruler’s Back.They could have been at least 75% better. Time wasn’t able to be spent on those records,” Rick said. “Both albums were recorded while I was on bail for three weeks. Those two albums are not good mainly because the music was later put onto the raps,” he said, lighthearted, not defensive regarding those musical mishaps. “There was no chemistry. And I hadn’t time to go back and change things.”

I love that: “I hadn’t time.”

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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