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Tuesday, September 27
Better than: Date night at the movies.
Last time I caught up with Slick Rick, it was a family affair. Performing at a Crotona Park Summerstage event with DJ Brucie B (some 20 blocks south from last night’s venue, the magnificent Paradise Theater), there were enough kids around for a night of barbeque and old school rap that Rick was able to sing “Hey Young World” and really mean it. Last night, however, was a chance for moms and dads around the Bronx to put their babysitters to work. “Make some noise if you’re over 30!” the house emcee screamed before running off a list of ’80s reference points, from rap acts to Sunday-morning cartoons. Needless to say, the place got loud.
Compare this to earlier yesterday evening, when Rick spoke with Ego Trip’s “Chairman” Jeff Mao for a panel discussion sponsored by Red Bull. (The energy-drink company is putting on a series of workshops and performances by big names in New York hip-hop around the five boroughs all this week.) The small crowd was mostly silent, listening to the rapper break down The Great Adventures of…, his masterpiece of a debut, track-by-track. A few highlights: Rick still thinks that Def Jam should have released “Children’s Story” or “Mona Lisa” rather than “Teenage Love” as the record’s lead single; Rick considers both “Let’s Get Crazy” and “Teacher, Teacher” to be album filler, forced on him by his label (“Y’all ain’t gotta clap for that garbage,” he said after Mao played the former); Rick really likes the phrase “whatever’s clever” and will throw it in at almost any point in the conversation.
At one point, Rick explained that he felt blessed to have grown up in the golden age of hip-hop not only because those were exciting times but also because his legacy-artist status ensures that he’ll always have a (paying) audience coming to his shows, Patti LaBelle style. It was hardly surprising, then, when Rick took the stage later that night, his setlist was exactly the same as it was for that Crotona Park show. “The Ruler’s Back” of course, led things off, and was followed by 1999’s unfairly overlooked “Street Talkin’.”
Again, Rick barely moved from his spot on stage, leaning back and closing his eyes in concentration, as if he were pulling the lyrics from a dusty corner of his brain one word a time. On, say, “Mona Lisa,” those words were a touch flat (he barely changed pitch for the “Well I’ve got courage and I don’t like porridge” interlude and, no longer in his early 20s, couldn’t reach the “Walk on By” falsettos that finish the song), but the crowd, too busy rapping or dancing along, hardly noticed or hardly cared.
Critical bias: Red Bull is gross.
Overheard: Once they’re uploaded, I’d definitely suggest checking the videos from the interview. (Things get particularly good when Funkmaster Flex makes a surprise appearance.)
Random notebook dump: “Positivity, y’all,” Rick said before performing “Young World.” Very based.
“The Ruler’s Back”
“Street Talkin’ ”
“Da Art of Storytellin Pt. 1”
“La Di Da Di”
“Hey Young World”
“The Moment I Feared”
“Lick the Balls”