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$7.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1994 | Def Jam Recordings

Within hip-hop, Slick Rick is arguably the most acclaimed MC of them all. Snoop Doggy Dogg, for one, owes a huge debt to his detached, effortless delivery on the microphone. At his best, Slick Rick was always coolness personified. The London-born artist's troubles, however, have been well-documented. They are further addressed by the man himself on the title track to this recording, completed during a work release program with the help of veteran hip-hop producer Prince Paul (Rick was in jail for the 1990 shooting of an innocent bystander while attempting to chase down a bodyguard). Before Ol' Dirty Bastard cornered the market, Slick Rick was rap's bad boy-in-chief. On this uneven record, he pays witness to the events that shaped him, rather than detailing his current incarceration. Regardless, there are times when the listener might wish for a more reflective and less violently female-baiting narrator; absolution and regret aren't particularly high on his agenda when he proclaims "bitches ain't no good." ~ Alex Ogg
$17.99

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1999 | RAL (Rush Associated Label)

If there's one thing Slick Rick has mastered, it is The Art of Storytelling. Ever since his debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, he has been known for his literate, winding narratives, but his career was marred by legal troubles that kept him in prison for much of the '90s. Consequently, The Art of Storytelling is only his fourth album, but it's the first to rank as a worthy sequel to his classic debut. The Ruler's Back came close to capturing the feel of The Great Adventures, but The Art has a continually stunning set of stories and tales, and the presence of guest artists -- even rappers as talented as OutKast, Nas, Raekwon, and Snoop Dogg -- only emphasizes what a singular talent Rick is. The smooth production may be a little bit mired in contemporary rap clichés, but it's all enjoyable. Besides, Rick is about the lyrics, not the music, and he has written a stellar set of songs here, songs that are continually surprising and thought-provoking. It's a masterful set from one of the true lyrical masters of hip-hop. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$10.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1988 | Def Jam Recordings

Slick Rick's reputation as hip-hop's greatest storyteller hangs on his classic debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, one of the most influential rap records of the late '80s -- for better and worse. Most of the production is standard early Def Jam, but Rick's style on the mic is like no one else's. His half-British accent and odd, singsong cadences often overshadow the smoothness of his delivery, but there's no overlooking the cleverness of his lyrics. His carefully constructed narratives are filled with vivid detail and witty asides, and his cartoonish sense of humor influenced countless other rappers. He'll adopt a high voice for his female characters, and even duets with his old alter ego MC Ricky D on "Mona Lisa." But there's also a dark side to The Great Adventures -- namely its vulgarity and off-handed misogyny. No MC had ever dared go as far on record as Rick, and the tracks in question haven't really lost much of their power to offend, or at least raise eyebrows. The notorious "Treat Her Like a Prostitute" is the prime suspect, undermining well-intentioned advice (don't trust too quickly) with cynical, often degrading portrayals of women. "Indian Girl (Adult Story)," meanwhile, is an X-rated yarn with a barely comprehensible payoff. Yet this material is as much a part of Rick's legacy as his more admirable traits, and he was far from the last MC to put seemingly contradictory sides of his personality on the same record. And it's worth noting that most of his Great Adventures, no matter how dubious, end up as cautionary tales with definite consequences. That's especially true on the tragic "Children's Story," in which a teenage robber's increasingly desperate blunders lead to his destruction. In the end, The Great Adventures is simply too good not to deserve the countless samples and homages by everyone from Snoop Dogg to Black Star. ~ Steve Huey
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released August 7, 2000 | Def Jam Recordings

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released May 27, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

$7.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1991 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

It was easy to dismiss The Ruler's Back before it was even released, or to assume that there was no way it could live up to The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Of course, it did not attain the same level of artistic success as that debut, and it certainly did not equal that album's commercial success, in fact seemingly passing beneath the radar of the whole hip-hop community, for the most part. At the time of its release, the album received mixed reviews and indifferent reactions even from fans of Slick Rick. That's another unfortunate, ill-fated aspect of The Ruler's Back, because, in truth, it is a strong, albeit uneven, progression from the debut and occasionally strikes a flawless note. To think of the album as anything other than a confused, transitional effort would be inaccurate, but it does not follow that it isn't an intriguing record. The messiness of its execution perfectly encapsulates the sort of turmoil Slick Rick was experiencing in his life at the time, and the music pulls the listener into that sort of tangled experience. Both Vance Wright's production and Slick Rick's rapping sound pressed for time, and they rush through the songs with a whip-lashing intensity. It can be a disorienting listen, but it is also a pure adrenaline rush. Slick Rick was going through a time of hurtling change, and the hurried breathlessness of the music captures that. The Ruler's Back is all over the map, lacking the thematic focus that held the first album together, but its frayed-threads, seams-showing immediacy is part of what makes it such an underrated album in the hip-hop canon. ~ Stanton Swihart
$11.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1999 | Island Def Jam

If there's one thing Slick Rick has mastered, it is The Art of Storytelling. Ever since his debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, he has been known for his literate, winding narratives, but his career was marred by legal troubles that kept him in prison for much of the '90s. Consequently, The Art of Storytelling is only his fourth album, but it's the first to rank as a worthy sequel to his classic debut. The Ruler's Back came close to capturing the feel of The Great Adventures, but The Art has a continually stunning set of stories and tales, and the presence of guest artists -- even rappers as talented as OutKast, Nas, Raekwon, and Snoop Dogg -- only emphasizes what a singular talent Rick is. The smooth production may be a little bit mired in contemporary rap clichés, but it's all enjoyable. Besides, Rick is about the lyrics, not the music, and he has written a stellar set of songs here, songs that are continually surprising and thought-provoking. It's a masterful set from one of the true lyrical masters of hip-hop. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$1.49

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 2, 2018 | Def Jam Recordings