Even though he’s considered one of rap’s all-time greats, when Slick Rick is asked about his most significant accomplishment, he doesn’t mention having a platinum-selling record, classic hits like “Children’s Story” or even his most recent accolade — getting saluted as a pioneer at the “VH1 Hip-Hop Honors.”
Instead, he cites: owning a home.
“I guess my biggest accomplishment would be to purchase some real estate in the Bronx … to have something to fall back on a rainy day,” Slick Rick, who’s now a landlord, said in a recent interview.
While that may seem rather mundane compared to his glamorous past, for Slick Rick — born Ricky Walters — achieving simple things is especially sweet considering the struggles he has endured for almost two decades. The eye-patch wearing, British-born rapper became a sensation in the early 1980s with songs like “La Di Da Di” that highlighted his suave, London-inflected delivery and his opulent dress. He was a top rapper when he was sent to prison in 1991 for wounding his cousin and another man.
He was released in 1994, fulfilled his probation requirements and resumed his rap career. However, in 2002, he was arrested again, this time for a 1997 Immigration and Naturalization Service warrant that had not been pursued earlier.
He spent a year and a half in jail before a judge allowed his release in 2003, saying that the Bureau of Immigration Appeals denied Walters’ due process when it issued the warrant. But Homeland Security officials continued the case and he remained under threat of deportation, despite living in the United States since he was a child.
Earlier this year, New York Gov. David Paterson pardoned Slick Rick for his crime. While Paterson’s pardon appears to have lifted the legal cloud over him, Slick Rick noted that he’s still not in the clear.
“We’re in a better position that we was before. We have a couple of hurdles that we have to go through, just clarifying everything with the immigration people,” he said. “Other than that we’re just on standby to see what the board does from this point forward.”
While being a landlord is Slick Rick’s occupation, he still considers rap his full-time career. He says he performs once or twice a week. At the “VH1 Hip-Hop Honors,” which premieres 10 p.m. EDT Monday (and through the week) on the cable network but was taped Thursday, he performed one of his most popular songs, “Children’s Story,” while being feted by rappers like Busta Rhymes and Fabolous.
Other acts honored for their groundbreaking work were Too Short, Cypress Hill, De La Soul and Naughty By Nature. There was a special tribute featuring Scarface, Chuck D and Flavor Flav, Mos Def and singer Estelle for Isaac Hayes, one of rap’s more sampled musicians. He died in August.
Slick Rick, who hasn’t released an album of new material in 13 years, says he hopes to put out an album soon, as long as the circumstances are right.
“I’ve been through a lot of record labels and getting ripped off and end up owing the taxman money that you didn’t earn, so it’s been a long struggle,” he said.
His legal woes have also been a long battle as well.
But he remains philosophical, and not bitter, about his life.
“Some things are out of your control,” he said. “As long as you’re a good person, and you know in your heart that you’re a good person, then you just leave it to faith and whatever happens. That’s the best way to look at things like that and that’s how you hold your head (up).”
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