The Red Bull Music Academy presented the second installment of its Five Out Of Five lecture/concert series with Slick Rick at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx yesterday. Slick Rick, who was born in England but moved to the Bronx when he was 11 and gained prominence as part of Doug E. Fresh's Get Fresh Crew in the 1980s, was on hand to celebrate his seminal debut album "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick" from 1988.
The forty or so people that made it out to the afternoon talk were treated to a quick DJ master class before the event by Funkmaster Flex who stopped by to talk about the importance of the Bronx in the early hip-hop scene before Jeff "Chairman" Mao, another Ego Trip Magazine co-founder and former writer for Vibe, The Source and XXL magazines, kicked off the hour-long interview with The Ruler. Discussing Rick's rise to prominence before going through each of the tracks from "The Great Adventures…" he talked of the sacrifices he made to make it in the business.
"Relying on producers to make you famous doesn't always work, so I had to really sell myself," he said, adding that tracks such as "Let's Get Crazy" and "Teacher Teacher" were nothing more than label-mandated album filler that he didn't even want to include on the record. "If you don't sell yourself, if you rely on A&R and all that, then you wind up with garbage like that as your lead singles."
As an artist known mostly for his English accent and influential storytelling techniques, he had a candid view on his own style. "We were just kids, we didn't know anything about drug dealers, flashy cars and women, so we just used our imaginations and made stories that you could envision like a movie," he explained. "Everybody has their own niche; some people are great at battling, some people are great at love songs, and some people's niche is telling stories with humor."
Both Slick Rick and Funkmaster Flex discussed the prominent place that the Bronx has in hip-hop, with Flex ruing the fact that the Bronx is often overlooked in favor of Brooklyn despite the fact that the latter is so much bigger, and calling out Violator and Brand Asset Group CEO Chris Lighty from the crowd for help in telling stories from the early days of the Bronx scene. "I didn't know how influential the Bronx was until I was older," he said. "But the DJ's that came from that scene -- Grandmaster Caz and Grandmaster Flash -- were the equivalent of if Puffy or Jay-Z walked into the room in those days."
And Slick Rick spared some thoughts on the state of the music industry today as well before heading to the stage at night to perform in the foyer of the Paradise Theater. "I'm not Bruce Lee so I can't teach you karate. You can't have an idea of what hip-hop's supposed to be unless you come from that culture," he said to applause from the audience. "You need soul. You need meat and potatoes."
Slick Rick was the second artist highlighted in the Five Out Of Five run. The lecture/concert continues with Wu-Tang Clan's "Enter The Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers" tonight at Eve Ultra Lounge in Staten Island.