Born on January 14, 1965, Richard Martin Lloyd Walters, AKA Slick Rick, unequivocally holds the title of hip-hop’s greatest storyteller. Unlike any MCs before or after him, Slick Rick was a new breed of rapper. With his humorous narratives, melodic flows, trademark eyepatch, and distinctive British accent, the best Slick Rick songs will be forever synonymous with hip-hop’s first golden era.
After dropping his classic debut album, The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick , in 1988, the British-born, Bronx-bred artist followed it up with The Ruler’s Back (1991), Behind Bars (1994), and The Art Of Storytelling (1999). Along with providing numerous guest features and being one of the most sampled artists in hip-hop history, Slick Rick is one of the true innovators of hip-hop culture. He’s influenced Snoop Dogg, Nas, Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, OutKast, Ghostface Killah, and a host of others – all of whom have paid tribute to The Ruler.
20: Girls, Girls, Girls (Jay-Z, featuring Q-Tip, Slick Rick, and Biz Markie)
Slick Rick’s influence can be seen and heard throughout the history of hip-hop, so it was fitting that Jay-Z enlisted The Ruler to perform the hook on his classic ode to the ladies, “Girls, Girls, Girls,” from The Blueprint. Along with Q-Tip and Biz Markie, Rick brought his smooth flow and supplied the chorus on one of Jay-Z’s most famous hits, helping it peak at No.17 on the Billboard 100.
19: Let’s All Get Down (featuring Nice & Smooth)
A match made in hip-hop heaven, Slick Rick collaborated with the legendary duo Nice & Smooth on “Let’s All Get Down,” an underrated gem from his third album, Behind Bars. The trio sound incredible together over a minimalist, gritty drum track produced by Greg Nice. It represents 90s New York hip-hop at its finest and remains one of the best Slick Rick songs.
18: Sittin’ In My Car (featuring Doug E Fresh)
Also from Behind Bars, “Sittin’ In My Car” was the first collaboration between Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh since 1985’s classic “The Show”/“La-Di-Da-Di.” Remaking Billy Stewart’s “Sitting In The Park,” Rick sings the chorus and rhymes on another brilliant story, with Doug E Fresh assisting on beatbox.
17: Just Another Case (Cru, featuring Slick Rick)
South Bronx trio and one-album wonder Cru not only paid homage by sampling Slick Rick’s lyrics for the chorus of “Just Another Case,” but they enlisted The Ruler for a guest verse on the track. Borrowing the hook from “Children’s Story,” “Just Another Case” helped to introduce the hip-hop icon to a new generation of fans after the single went to No.68 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.8 on the Hot Rap Singles chart.
16: Behind Bars (Dum Ditty Dum Remix)
While the album version of “Behind Bars” was exemplary, featuring production by the one and only Prince Paul, the remix, produced by fellow Def Jam labelmate Warren G, is a slept-on banger as well. An early example of East and West Coast collaborations, the track found Rick and Warren G fusing the California G-Funk and New York boom-bap sounds.
15: We’re Unified (Track Masters Remix) (Kid Capri, featuring Snoop Dogg and Slick Rick)
Without question, Snoop Dogg’s laidback, melodic flows were inspired by the best Slick Rick songs – The Ruler influenced Snoop so much that the latter covered the classic “La-Di-Da-Di” on his debut album, Doggystyle. When the two finally connected for a duet, the results were historic. From Kid Capri’s Soundtrack To The Streets compilation, Slick Rick and Snoop Dogg trade bars on “We’re Unified (Track Masters Remix).” The chemistry between the two is undeniable, as the teacher and his star pupil create a classic.
14: The Moment I Feared
With so many gems on The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, each of the album’s 12 tracks could have featured on this list of the best Slick Rick songs. “The Moment I Feared” is another example of Rick giving a masterclass in storytelling. From confrontations in the streets, to hanging out in the legendary Latin Quarter and all the drama that inevitably goes down, it’s all here in vivid detail.
13: Auditorium (Mos Def, featuring Slick Rick)
What do you get when you combine two of hip-hop’s most revered, enigmatic MCs on one track? A jewel of a collaboration, that’s what. Produced by the master himself, Madlib, “Auditorium” features two of the best in the game trading verses over some exquisite beats. The combination of Yasiin Bey and Rick produced one of the best hip-hop collaborations of the 00s and one of the best Slick Rick songs of all time.
12: Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Pt.1) (OutKast, featuring Slick Rick)
On OutKast’s classic Aquemini album, André 3000 and Big Boi already had an incredible track, but they summoned Slick Rick to contribute a guest verse after the song was remixed and released as a single. “Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Pt 1)” sees the MCs detail personal relationships, each one offering a new narrative perspective and displaying the throughline that connected these two generations of rappers.
11: I Own America, Part 1
“I Own America” floated around on mixtapes before eventually winding up on The Art Of Storytelling album. Exhibiting infinite amounts of hubris in true Slick Rick fashion, it features some of his most conceited rhymes. He even addresses his deportation issues when he raps, “And even if I got deported, I own America.” The Ruler was back again.
10: I Shouldn’t Have Done It
“I Shouldn’t Have Done It” was the first single released from Slick Rick’s sophomore album, The Ruler’s Back. With production from Vance Wright, Rick’s confident, nonchalant style merged extremely well with the New Jack Swing sound that was taking over the clubs and the charts during the early 90s. A dance favorite utilizing multiple James Brown samples, “I Shouldn’t Have Done It” tells the story of Slick Rick regretting an affair that leads to a tragic conclusion.
9: Lick The Balls
In spite of its provocative title, this Great Adventures… track captures Rick hosting a clinic on MCing. Produced by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad, the single remains a favorite of die-hard Slick Rick fans. While much of Rick’s legacy centers on his tales of wisdom (“Children’s Story”), his debut album still had a few cruder cuts.
8: The Ruler’s Back
“The Ruler’s Back” was both an introduction to and coronation of his royal highness to the throne of hip-hop – its jazzy horns were the perfect complement for Rick’s smooth flow about his plans to reign over the competition. The track was so influential that Jay-Z remade it on his classic Blueprint album. From one king to another.
7: Street Talkin’ (with Big Boi)
After Rick guested on OutKast’s “Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Pt.1),” Big Boi returned the favor by jumping on the first single from Rick’s The Art Of Storytelling. Rick’s laidback style combined with Big Boi’s rapid-fire delivery was a continuation of the chemistry they shared on their previous collaboration. Sounding reinvigorated on what was his first single in over five years, “Street Talkin’” is one of the best Slick Rick songs.
6: Teenage Love
As the first single from The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, “Teenage Love” was a reflective track about the ups and downs of relationships. Tapping into the burgeoning rap ballads subgenre, “Teenage Love” became a hit, making it to No.8 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. Rick even sings the chorus of Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know?)” on the track, creating an early prototype of today’s sung-rap vocal style. “Teenage Love” also goes down in hip-hop history thanks to two cameos in the video: Brooklynites Big Daddy Kane and a then-unknown Lil’ Kim.
5: Hey Young World
The third single from The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, and produced by Rick himself, “Hey Young World” is an aspirational song on which The Ruler shares his wisdom with the youth of America. Never preachy, it’s a street-savvy anthem that advises the next generation on making better choices, respecting their parents, and not “following the dopes,” in the suave way that only Rick could pull off. One of the best Slick Rick songs, “Hey Young World” has been remade and sampled several times over.
4: Mona Lisa
What many consider to be one of the best tracks from The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, “Mona Lisa” was never released as a single, but it could be heard blasting out of every car stereo, club speaker, and block-party boombox when the album dropped in 1988. In true Slick Rick narrative fashion, he chronicles his encounter with a young lady at a pizza shop while referencing Nat “King” Cole’s famous tune, turning it into a standard of his own.
3: The Show (Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew)
When it comes to the best Slick Rick songs of all time, “The Show” definitely earns its spot. With an unforgettable sample of the theme tune to the 80s cartoon Inspector Gadget, Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick released a classic that changed the face of hip-hop culture. Their back-and-forth banter brought the live performance element of hip-hop to radio, all while putting the two MCs on the map. If you notice some elements of New Jack Swing in the production, it’s because a 15-year old producing genius named Teddy Riley crafted the track’s sound.
2: Children’s Story
“Dave, the dope fiend shootin’ dope/Who don’t know the meaning of water nor soap” are some of the most recognizable lyrics in hip-hop history, and “Children’s Story” is the blueprint for narrative storytelling in hip-hop. A cautionary tale of cops, robbers, and dope boys, Rick masterfully raps about the consequences of succumbing to the temptations of street life. “Children’s Story” went on to be a Top 5 hit on both the Hot R&B Singles and the Hot Rap Tracks charts, and remains one of the best Slick Rick songs of all time. Capturing Rick at a creative peak, it’s also one of the most sampled hip-hop songs in history.
Slick is one of the rare artists whose first recorded song became an instant classic. Arguably the greatest B-side in hip-hop, “La-Di-Da-Di” is Slick Rick’s first solo track – and he knocked it out of the park. After Doug E Fresh recruited him for The Get Fresh Crew’s “The Show,” the dynamic duo traded verses to create hip-hop gold. On “La-Di-Da-Di,” however, MC Ricky D rhymes solo over Fresh’s famous beatboxing. The rest is history.
Slick has so many quotable one-liners in “La-Di-Da-Di” – it’s one of the most-referenced songs in hip-hop, and just a hint of the greatness that would come. From Biggie to Beyoncé, Kanye West to Miley Cyrus, hundreds of musicians have referenced his rallying cry: “To the tick tock, you don’t stop.” Acknowledging the song’s lasting impact, Rock and Doug E Fresh reunited for a live version that was included as a bonus track on Rick’ 1999 album, The Art Of Storytelling.
Think we’ve missed one of the Best Slick Rick songs? Let us know in the comments section below. Looking for more? Read our exclusive interview with Slick Rick.