Before Jay-Z was Jay-Z—an international magnate worth half a billion dollars, the reining rep of East Coast hip-hop, and married to pop's most beloved star—there was JD. Jay was up and coming—on the verge of greatness—but one track plastered him and rap's baller lifestyle across the screens of millions of American homes just before his breakout third album dropped.
That was his guest spot and co-starring role in Jermaine Dupri's video for "Money Ain't a Thang"—the lead single from the producer's debut album after years in the game signing artists (like Kris Kross, Da Brat and Lil' Bow Wow) and contributing to the records of Lil' Kim, Mariah Carey and even Destiny Child's first album. So, while Jay and JD were tossing up stacks in the limelight and being nominated for a Grammy, Dupri's star-studded debut also included a track featuring the more subdued, yet influential Slick Rick.
Slick Rick's opening lines on "Fresh" are as good of an introduction as you can get to the coarse, eyepatched rapper from The Bronx. True to Slick Rick's style, "Fresh" is vulgar and smooth as Rick and JD trade narrative verses in an elucidative manner that unabashedly buttresses their status as hip-hop deities.
Truthfully though, Slick Rick has been at it since 1983—inventing and evolving the rap game—and dubbed "hip-hop's greatest storyteller" while rapping alongside the likes of Outkast and Nas and influencing the work of Snoop Dogg, Biggie, TLC and Black Star.
"Fresh" is full of indelible lines and imagery that were definitely not 1998 MTV friendly (and likely not 2014 friendly either—if MTV still played music videos), but that's Slick Rick's trademark: comic one-liners full of wit that are often intended to appall—such as the observation that Rick's fetching appearance "could even make a grandmother catch an orgasm lookin' at me," immediately followed by "it's kinda outlandish"—uh, yeah.
That's Slick Rick.
Leave a comment below for your chance to win a pair of tickets to Slick Rick at the Alhambra Theatre on April 19 as part of the Soul'd Out Music Festival.