Interview with Slick Rick at the Knitting Factory show

Interview with Slick Rick at the Knitting Factory show

Your career as a rapper began in the 80s. The Hip Hop audience is quite different now. How do you feel that ‘old school Hip Hop’ fit into the new world of rap music?

I think that old school made such an entry mark, it’s not afraid of the new school, it’s the young generation, we’re happy for them. We would like to see them make the same [significant] mark that we made. Today’s music is extremely commercial, you hear the same repetitions on the radio. It’s not like the days of the Beatles when people were inspired by the records made. We’re not hearing too much inspirational music like we used to, words and grit. I don’t mind sampling and such. I just did lyrics on the Jermaine Dupri album.

You have made songs based on average living and having fun. Now rap music has gone either superficially commercial or violence and drug theme based. Do you think that your specific art of music is not represented enough?

I think a lot of people are following a blueprint that works but it only works up to a certain point. If you’re a new artist and no one has heard of you, at one point it just becomes repetitious. Hip Hop is at least 30 years old, noone wants to hear the ‘Ra-Ras’ especially if it doesn’t match the today’s society. There’s not as much of all that going on as it used to back in the day. I mean all the drug dealers are locked up, it’s not the same type of atmosphere. Even when there were big jewels and all it was a different time.

You are rumored to be working on a new album, “The Adventure Continues”, but are waiting for a better time to release it. What conditions do you believe would be better for you to go forth with this album?

I guess I’m waiting for a few things. Right now I have the immigration situation that I got to work out plus I’m waiting for the right time to assemble the tracks and you know, the market is so crazy right now. Nobody is selling the numbers and the industry is not really catering to the older rappers, like me. They are just worried about their 2 million sales. That’s not gonna happen anymore if the top celebrities, and no disrespect to top celebrities, but people like Jay Z or Nas isn’t selling 2 million anymore, barely going to 1 million, than it’s a different world. So until everyone has adjusted to the new annual or quarterly sales and the value of what the public really wants, then this is tough to come by.

Who are you distributing through nowadays?

I’m not distributing through anyone now. I was with DefJam and now I’m not with anyone. It’s like I talked about. They dropped me.

Are you going to do what Ice Cube did? Put out an album on your own and just use some label for distribution?

Probably something like that. I have to speak to a couple of wise advisors, like Wendy Davis, something like that and I’ll make my adjustments from there.

You have worked with artists like Doug E Fresh, Nas, Kid Capri and such, who all come from that ‘old school” of Hip Hop. Are there any new artists that interest you?

I like Missy Elliott, I like Busta Rhymes, I know Timberland can do it. New school? Kanye West is OK. There is not a lot. It’s really not the artists it’s the tracks. I really can’t say, that’s all I can think of.

You had problems with INS similar to Charlie Chaplin. When Hoover disagreed with his Chaplin’s political views, his citizenship was revoked. Was your situation influenced mostly by your views or do you think it is entirely based on your criminal record?

I wouldn’t say that it was based on the views because I didn’t put out any records like that. Normally it’s cause we came before September 11th, you know what I’m saying? I think it might have gotten caught in the whole security thing. They are trying to figure it out and a lot of good people are getting caught up in that stuff. I really can’t tell you. I’ve been here for 16 years. I’ve been in this country since 1976. I mean that just speak for itself. If the government is picking up crimes that are over 6 years old and deport you on those grounds… We are not robots, we are not machines, you have to have common sense. Somebody has to have common sense and make sense of these situations. As a result of this immigration issue I spent 2 years in one time and a year and a half after that.

Do you feel that Hip Hop as a movement and rap music specifically is being treated differently by the US government then any other music genre and if yes, how so?

I think it’s become too commercial. I think that corporations, a certain team of people, have taken over the radio and video and are only allowing their takes. And that’s not feeding the general Hip Hop audience. Now they got satellite radio and that’s all about just making more money. It’s getting ugly. Folks wanna hear Hip Hop out of the cheap radio. I mean, you go to work you want to hear music. You don’t need no satellite radio. You don’t want to start paying bills just to hear genuine music. One time a couple of years ago a station popped out of nowhere, 105.1. What they were playing was genuine Hip Hop. Old school, new school… They just had a good record playing. Then they took over from 2 other radio stations that were catering to certain corporation as I was talking about. And then we lost them too. They may be catering just like the other ones. I don’t know what happened. They just caught in the corporation greed, I guess, the corporate manipulation. The Hip Hop audience is not that.

Where do you think New York Hip Hop is now and what do you think it needs the most now?

It needs a stronger grit. Like James Brown had a grit. It was the grit in the 70s that would never die. Hip Hop had a grit in the 80s that would never die. Then there was a little bit of grit in the 90s with Wu-Tang. But now in 2007 it doesn’t have that same grit. Musically, not rappers, but the music itself. And then the lyrics is just the stuff that has been said a thousand times already. It gets monotonous. Even the kids of today that are 19 or 20, even they want to hear something refreshing too. If you watch America’s Top Models for 15 years, in the 16th year you wouldn’t want to watch it anymore, no matter what age you are.

Do you stay in touch with your British roots and British Hip Hop music? Are there any acts there that interest you?

It’s already embedded in me. If I need to listen to old school stuff I just go to Light FM or oldies stations. I still like The Beatles, I know all the old jazz joints, Take 5. I don’t necessarily need to be in the country to know it.

So, not only Hip Hop, but just good music then?

Genuine good music that moves people.

What do you think is the future of Hip Hop?

I think it will be the return to the grit. I say grit, cause I can’t think of another word. Return to the grit when we were not making music to make money, we were just doing it for fun. Doing what we wanted. I mean, when you go home are you gonna put on a record that you don’t like? No. you’re at your own leisure, you gonna play something that you would enjoy. So why play what you don’t want? Why [tailor] to the corporations? A lot of times I would hear and track and know it wasn’t there. And they wouldn’t listen. You could have a stable full of cows, but if you can’t the milk from them, it’s not me. There is something wrong with your outlook on something.

What should people expect from you in the near future in terms of your upcoming music and shows?

Spot shows for now. No rush. Public is not going anywhere, believe me.

You don’t plan on retiring anytime soon, do you?

Nah. I gotta watch some things, like they don’t want you talking about politics or religion. So you gotta stay away from those or find somewhere where you can play it. A lot of singers, like Smokey Robinson, James Brown, they were not 19 years old when they were big stars. Even Gladys Knight. Everybody is trying to keep it at the baby age when it’s not a baby thing. Public Enemy was not babies when they came out. And their message is still strong today. They may have been political but they had a certain level of intelligence and grit.

Where do we go for good music? Do we listen to Temptations or what, we gotta listen to Chicken Noodle Soup? You see what I’m saying? We’re stuck in the middle somewhere.

Who is your favorite type of a fan?

Somewhere near my own age group. Somewhere between 25 and 40. under that I can play to it, but then it becomes too much like you are trying to get in some young girl’s drawers or some shit. You don’t wanna mess up your own manhood looking silly. Let the kids entertain the kids. Let adults entertain adults. And the kids who are ahead of their time will come to a mature audience.