For six months, Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters has been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, but now the worst is imminent. At any moment, the rapper best known for crafting humorous rhymes on
For six months, Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters has been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, but now the worst is imminent. At any moment, the rapper best known for crafting humorous rhymes on classic tracks like "Mona Lisa" and "The Show" could be deported to England, where he was born 37 years ago, his ability to legally travel to the United States again seriously jeopardized.
From a cell in Florida's Manatee County Jail, more than 1,000 miles away from his home in the Bronx, N.Y., Walters has watched his appeals be rejected. He now waits for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to carry out the order to send him to a country where he hasn't lived since he was 11. And he wonders what it will all mean for his career and family.
"My whole life has been uprooted. One minute you're in America, you got your ties ... the next minute you're being deported," Walters said. "It's ripping [my] whole family apart. It's nerve-racking."
Walters is facing deportation because of an attempted murder conviction 11 years ago. In 1990, a year after his solo debut album, "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick," went platinum, Walters shot his cousin, the cousin's then-pregnant girlfriend, and a bystander, during a dispute. He pleaded guilty and spent five years in a New York prison.
In the years that followed, Walters returned to the Bronx, where he owns property, to focus on raising his son and daughter, now both 11, and getting his career back on track.
But in June, three months after he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame along with his original partner, Doug E. Fresh, a U.S. law requiring the INS to deport foreigners convicted of "aggravated felonies," such as murder, rape and some lesser offenses, caught up with Walters. Citing a 1997 Board of Immigration Appeals order to deport him, INS agents arrested Walters as he came into port after performing on a Caribbean cruise. He's been in the Bradenton jail, 32 miles south of Tampa, ever since.
"It's like being re-punished," Walters said. "I was in the process of working on another album. I'd been on the street for seven years, no problems."
Walters has taken to calling New York radio stations to speak about his situation. Russell Simmons, who owns Walters' label, Def Jam Records, has lobbied members of Congress for support and collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for the rapper to be allowed to return to New York while he fights deportation.
But it doesn't look good. "Looks like a 95 percent chance that I'm being deported," Walters said. "So I have to be a realist. I have to prepare myself for the worst right now."
Walters' wife, Mandy, a New York native, says she's been preparing for a new life in London, where the couple plans to live if Walters is deported. His children from a previous relationship live with their mother.
Walters says he has spent much of his time in jail reflecting on what put him in this position in the first place. "I would tell my fans to learn from my mistake and never take the law in your own hand," he said. "It's an old case, [but] it still comes back to haunt you."
His ability to perform in the United States in the future could also be hurt if he is deported. Aliens removed or convicted of an aggravated felony are not allowed to re-enter the United States unless they obtain permission from the U.S. Attorney General, said INS spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez.
Still, Walters says he's eyeing a comeback. "Luckily for me they speak English and it's not like a Third World country," he said of England.
He has been writing rhymes for the follow-up to his 1999 album "The Art of Storytelling." While one might expect the new material to be dark, reflecting his imprisonment and separation from his wife and children, Walters says, the tone will be upbeat as always.
"What can you do? You gotta put a smile on it," he says, adding that while he had decided to title the record "Ferocious," he has changed mind in recent weeks. "I'm leaning more to 'The Adventure Continues.'"
Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.