British-born rapper Slick Rick is fighting the U.S. government’s efforts to have him deported again, according to his legal representatives. In recent years, the rapper (real name: Ricky Walters) has been twice allowed by the courts to stay in the country after the Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered him deported.
But according to his legal team, the Department of Homeland Security has renewed Rick’s case and is attempting to move it to Florida’s 11th Circuit Court in Miami, where he was bizarrely arrested in 2002 for “deporting himself” and “illegally re-entering the country” after performing on a Caribbean cruise ship.
In 2003, an immigration judge permitted Rick to stay in the U.S. due to his “outstanding equities.” At the time, the rapper was facing deportation because of a felony he committed in Miami in 1990. The longtime New York resident was recently stripped of his permanent resident status and his right to leave the country, according to his reps.
“The bottom line is, this is something that happened a decade and six years ago and that’s 16 years ago,” Rick tells Billboard.com. “We as Americans need people, not machinery, [to] weed this out so we don’t look insensible in front of the international and intellectual world.”
To help with his cause, Rick has called on the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which is co-chaired by Russell Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis. In support of the rapper, the organization will hold a press conference Tuesday (Oct. 24) in front of the Federal Court Building in New York.
“It can’t hurt to let everybody know what’s going on,” says Rick, whose wife, children and parents are all American citizens. “They’re just trying to help people to see certain defects in our judicial system. It’s not really to blame anybody. It’s really to just make sure that everything runs smooth. I have a lot of confidence in America. I just assume that once the issue is brought before the public, everybody will be on the same page. What’s the sense of rehabilitation if we’re going to take something that happened almost two decades ago and punish people? It doesn’t make sense.”
Although he’s not working on new music, Rick has participated in a number of old-school tribute shows and events to stay active. “People are nostalgic for the music they like so I just get in where I fit in,” he says. “But you have to be inspired [to make new music]. You don’t want to just make songs that are commercial and that you didn’t put your full heart into.”
Rick adds that he doesn’t quite see a niche for himself in today’s genre. “Right now, the industry is pretty much marketed to the younger generation. Hip-hop is over 30 years old but for some reason big business feels that it should just remain juvenile,” says Rick. “I just feel that there’s a market for mature rap that’s not being catered to. When the market is ready, then we’ll step in and do our thing.”