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Verse Of The Week: Slick Rick

Submitted by on February 12, 2010 – 7:12 pm3 Comments
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It has taken me awhile, but I’ve finally got the time to take a break from my academic grind and hit you with another Verse Of The Week. This week, we’re headed to The Bronx by way of London, England.

The seemingly ubiquitous Slick Rick burst onto the scene alongside Doug E. Fresh with 1985′s classic album and party starter, “La Di Da Di.”

Over the years, Ricky D has continued to electrify audiences with his flamboyant performing style, witty lyrics, and dynamic delivery. Of course, his trademark eyepatch (which he wears due to an accident which left him blind in his right eye as an infant), large and flashy jewelry, and his British accent have all combined to provide him with a star power like no other in hip hop.

While he’s had his run-ins with the law over the years (such as attempted murder charges which left him locked up for most of the 90s and countless immigration discrepancies), he has come out ahead with New York Governor David Paterson granting him a full pardon back in ’08.

He received the pardon because of his extensive efforts to speak to, mentor, and encourage the youth not to take on lives of crime and violence – something that he has done in the community as well as with his music, which brings me to today’s verse.

*** Before I go any further, I’d like to send a special shout-out to a friend of mine and prolific reader, Chris Peck. He suggested the song, “Hey Young World” to me. Strangely enough, I had already planned to do another Slick Rick record, “A Children’s Story.”***

Without further ado, I present to you the first verse of “Hey Young World.”

“This rap here, it may cause concern it’s
broad and deep, why don’t you listen and learn
Love mean happiness, that once was strong
But due to society, even that’s turned wrong
Times have changed, and it’s cool to look bummy
and be a dumb dummy and disrespect your mummy
Have you forgotten, who put you on this Earth?
Who brought you up right, and who loved you since your birth?
Reward is a brainwashed kid goin wild
Young little girls already have a child
Bad company – hey, now you’ve been framed
Your parents are hurting, hurting and ashamed
You’re ruining yourself, and your mommy can’t cope
Hey, little kids don’t follow these dopes
Here’s a rule for the non cool: your life, don’t drool
Don’t be a fool like those that don’t go to school
Get ahead, and accomplish things
You’ll see the wonder and the joy life brings
Don’t admire thieves, hey they don’t admire you
Their time’s limited, hardrocks too
So listen, be strong, scream whoopee-doo
Go for yours, cause dreams come true
And you’ll make your mommy proud, so proud of you too
And this is a message that the Ruler Rick threw
And it’s true”

Rick the Ruler starts by letting the listener know that this verse won’t be of the usual sort. Despite this, he admonishes the listener to (gasp) listen. He proceeds to get right to the point, saying that love and happiness have both been corrupted by society.

He goes on to speak about fashion, saying that people find it socially acceptable to look like they don’t respect (or have any means to help) themselves, and sees this exterior change as indicative of the corresponding interior change: self-worth and value are deteriorating.

Rick continues about what has worked its way into society’s culture and norms by saying that it’s now cool to be a “dumb dummy.” While this description might sound juvenile at first, I think it deserves further analysis.

The word “dummy” describes  a person who lacks proper intelligence or is ignorant. Adding dumb to the description (via my interpretation) says that a person is ignorant about the fact that he or she is ignorant. It has become quite commonplace in our culture (especially in my particular generation) for people to shun knowledge and to boldly, proudly, and brazenly display their ignorance for the world to see. Don’t take my word for it, here are a few other artists who have chronicled the abandonment of information and intelligence.

Nas

(First of all, I know what you’re thinking: Yes, I did find a way to put my favorite rapper in this post.)

In “Let There Be Light,” Nas says:

“I can’t sound smart cuz ya’ll will run away
They say I ain’t hungry no more and I don’t talk about ‘yay…”

Lauryn Hill

The one and only Lauryn Hill famously said the following in the Fugees hit, “Zealots.”

“And even after all my logic and my theory
I add a motherf***** so you ig’nant n***** hear me.”

Lupe Fiasco

Did I mention Lupe‘s “Dumb It Down?” ‘Nuff said.

Now back to Slick Rick.

He talks about the growing trend of youths disrespecting their mothers. He questions this behavior, noting that mothers give their children life and therefore deserve respect. He talks about a mother’s love and asks the listener what type of reward for such love a disrespectful, disappointing child is – obviously expecting the listener to realize that such a child is no reward at all.

Rick continues his beat-laden lecture, making a passing reference to the phenomenon of “babies having babies.” He also mentions “guilt by association,” a doctrine by which a lot of innocent youths find their way to prison. Rick seems to suggest that these youngsters do happen to be guilty of choosing their friends unwisely, and remarks about the hurt and shame felt by the parents – especially the mother – in the wake of such events.

He advises his young listeners not to follow this negative example, and instead urges them on to education and accomplishment, which he says will lead them to life’s joys.

Rick also beseeches us not to admire thieves, who have no respect for anyone and are therefore willing to steal. He says that they will get what they deserve in the end, as will those who try to be tough guys.

He tells us to follow our dreams and that we could actually bring them to fruition and make our moms (as well as the rest of our families) proud of us.

While there may be an absence of complex lyrics or rhyme schemes in this verse, what you have just read is a wholesome message from a man who realizes that, as a rapper, he has a direct line of communication to the consciousness of the youth. The fact that he chooses to use it responsibly is, in and of itself, ingenious.

Your thoughts?

Main Image: Miami New Times

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