Slick Rick, whose mellow voice and story-telling style featured on old-school rap classics such as "La Di Da Di" and "Children's Story," still calls New York home despite four years of efforts by the INS to deport him to his native England on the basis of his 1991 attempted-murder conviction. Though he's lived in the U.S. since age 11, he never obtained citizenship. The government makes its case on a 1996 law requiring the expulsion of foreign-born felons who spend more than five years in prison. A model prisoner, Rick served only three for the felony, but in a bizarre Homeland Security legal jumble that would give Kafka nightmares, immigration-related jail time carried him over that five-year threshold.
As if that wasn't enough, he feels abandoned by the music industry as mainstream hip-hop seems stuck in a prolonged childhood. He hasn't released an album since 1999's The Art of Storytelling, but he still believes the adults who grew up listening to golden era hip-hop will start craving a little maturity in their music.
In an interview with the Dallas Observer, Rick talked about his new material, hip-hop's stunted maturity, his INS battle and bringing the old-school flavor to Dallas.
Slick Rick performs Friday, December 15, at Deep Ellum Live.
The rumor that you're working on an album called The Adventure Continues, is there any truth to that?
Yeah, I mean, you know—yeah, I'm still working on my own stuff. But it's not gonna—I'm just waiting on the record labels to take a stronger interest in the older artists. More of a market for mature rappers, you know what I mean?...A lot of the older artists—let's say Method Man, Busta Rhymes—were not getting the sales that the industry was hoping. And due to that fact, it seems like they are dropping a lot of these great artists or putting them on the shelf, in hopes that the younger artist will sell more records.
Is the Dallas show just a one-time thing, or are you on tour?
We're just doing a couple dates here and there. There's a surge for old-school hip-hop. A lot of people like the feel of that era of the late '80s, early '90s, so they request us. And we go in and make them have a good time, make them feel good. But I think in the future, hip-hop will be better for a mature audience. Because right now, coming from New York City, we're not getting the strong melody-ish tracks that we used to get, that we grew up on, like Public Enemy, L.L. Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, you know. Not the rapping, but the music is not as good...I think we need better production, not to be jealous of the new generation...People like to go to a club and dance and have a good time. If you're not going to the club and having a good time with the music, if it's not moving you in your soul, something needs to be fixed.
What's the situation with your struggle with the INS now?
Right now the lawyers are looking into what they can do as far as moving the venue. It's still pretty much not clear, it's in limbo. Basically, we're talking about something that happened over 16 years ago. I've spent more time fighting immigration instead of my crime. And I've won every one of those [immigration] cases. So for this to go on like this, it seems more mechanic than human. It doesn't seem like there's a human being in it, that there's human common sense. For this to go on over 16 years, it doesn't seem intelligent.
I don't want you to get the wrong impression about me not making records or anything. I'm still into making records, but the opportunity hasn't arrived. The days of 3 million, 5 million, 7 million sold is over.... Hip-hop is 30 years old. It has to show growth, but it's still acting like a child in Pampers.
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