Slick Rick May Still Be Hip-Hop’s Best Storyteller. A New Video Explains Why.

Slick Rick’s most recent album was The Art of Storytelling. That was 1999. However, Ricky Walters’ place in Hip-Hop may very well be cemented. The British-born, Bronx-raised MC was part of a class that literally captivated the listener through verses. Beyond a series of cool lines, the Def Jam Records star and onetime Doug E. Fresh affiliate put on one-man plays, and hits resulted, including “Mona Lisa,” “Children’s Story,” and “The Moment I Feared,” among others.

Rick’s unmistakable vocals and storytelling abilities are the subject of a new video analysis. JayQuan opens his latest The Foundation episode by highlighting why Rick’s ability to “cut the tape” is unique. In many cases, including the three songs mentioned, Slick Rick was able to create multiple characters in his rhymes. The MC with a unique voice and cadence could create dialogue, and interplay that other MCs could not. He was unafraid to voice females, friends, and opposing forces. In an era when Eddie Murphy did this on screen, Rick The Ruler achieved it in his rhymes.

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Being recognized as one of the greatest storytellers, Slick Rick does not fall short on subject matter. JayQuan points out that Slick was able to manipulate his voice while telling various stories surrounding different subject matters like in his song “It’s A Boy” where he breaks down learning of his child being a boy, “Hey Young World,” a message track and “Moses” from his The Ruler’s Back album where he tells the Biblical story in his own words. Whether he created the tale or not, MC Ricky D thrives on narrative.

JayQuan also points to Slick Rick’s whimsical imagination. He paid tribute to “Kit (What’s The Scoop?)” from Knight Rider on the song of the same name as the heroic car. He played a soldier in Iraq for Mos Def’s “The Auditorium,” and moreover, years before Drake and Pharoahe Monch, Slick Rick was willing to break into song amidst one of his raps (see: “Sittin’ In My Car”). The storyteller had many methods to kick his allegories.

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Although the production on his last few products did not match that of his first, The Great Adventures of Slick RickThe Ruler always brought impeccable rhymes and flow. This documentary (which uses rare audio and music videos) examines Rick’s catalog with comprehensive care and critique. Circumstance and production held back much of Rick’s career, following that debut.

Many of today’s greatest storytellers mirror Slick Rick’s technique such as Kendrick Lamar who is known for his overlapping voices in his track that were introduced early on in his career and have kept him relevant. The debate revolving the greatest MC storyteller goes on but Slick Rick’s name is never absent in the discussion.

JayQuan has made similar analysis videos on some of Rick’s contemporaries: Rakim and Kool G Rap.