"Slick Rick" Walters' label, Def Jam, is hoping that the rapper's fans will help in his fight against deportation from the U.S.

"Slick Rick" Walters' label, Def Jam, is hoping that the rapper's fans will help in his fight against deportation from the U.S. The label has started a "Free Slick Rick" campaign on its Web site, and is asking fans to sign a petition urging the Immigration and Naturalization Service INS to allow Walters to return to New York while his legal problems are sorted out.

The British-born Walters, 37, has been a legal resident of the U.S. since moving to the country in 1976 with his parents, but never became a full-fledged citizen. In New York in 1990, he shot and wounded two people in what he described as an attempt to protect himself against a violent predator and was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree. He served more than five years in prison, during which he released the albums "The Ruler's Back" (1991) and "Behind Bars" (1994).

Following his January 1996 release, the INS sought to deport Walters under a U.S. law that requires the deportation of any non-citizen who serves more than five years in a U.S. prison. Attempting to enforce this law, INS officials arrested the artist more than eight weeks ago in Florida on board the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship, where he was to perform with a host of other acts. Pending an immigration hearing, he has been held by the INS in Florida because he has been deemed a "flight risk."

As reported yesterday, rapper/actor Will Smith, comedian Chris Rock, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and New York state Sen. David Paterson are among those who have lent support by writing letters to the INS.

"I don't believe I'm a bad person," Walters recently told the Los Angeles Times. "The whole incident was years ago. I've been out and six years crime-free. All this now seems like an extreme measure."

Walters' last album was the 1999 Def Jam set "The Art of Storytelling," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 8 on The Billboard 200.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print