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My blog is my space to highlight academic work outside of my formal publications. Posts vary from short essays to album reviews to exemplary student work to small sample-digs that I use as warm-ups for my courses. This blog also contains the burgeoning archive of artist interviews that I am collecting for my dissertation, "Writing in the Break."

  • Writer's pictureTyler Bunzey

Digging the Digital Crates: 2018's Rebirth of Slick Rick

2018 has been a big year for the work of Slick Rick. The British-born American rapper's work has been sampled and signified upon by artists like Kanye West, Nas, and Lil Wayne throughout 2018, rebirthing the storytelling genre of hip-hop that Slick Rick was known for in the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of his most famous records was "Children's Story" (1988), a cautionary tale about what happens when young people get on the wrong path.

One of the lines, "cops shot the kid," became the inspiration and sonic background for Nas's Kanye West-produced joint "Cops Shot the Kid" (2018):


Slick Rick's "Hey Young World" (1988) @2:36...

...was also sampled by Kanye in his own track "No Mistakes" (2018).


Slick Rick's "Mona Lisa" (1988)--a tale of Slick Rick falling in love with a "lowlife" woman in a pizza parlor before being pulled away by his friend to associate with more "respectable" people--was signified upon by Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar in their 2018 collaboration "Mona Lisa" on Tha Carter V.

(See Spotify for Lil Wayne's "Mona Lisa")

These few examples aren't even comprehensive of this year's sampling of Slick Rick in mainstream hip-hop, and they don't touch on his extensively sampled legacy throughout hip-hop's history. The pillars of 21st century hip-hop culture like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne all recognize what their 20th century founding fathers like Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Snoop Dog, Nas, Biggie, and Tupac all recognized (and sampled): Slick Rick's music is poignant and foundational to hip-hop's sound and style. We shouldn't listen to Kanye about a lot of things; we should, however, listen to his implicit suggestion that The Great Adventures of Slick Rick is as cutting, brilliant, and beautiful as it was thirty years ago. "The Ruler's Back," indeed.

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