Slick Rick’s majestic stool, emblazoned in gemstones that spelled out his name, sat centerstage sparkling under a larger-than-life portrait. It was pocket change compared to his diamond-encrusted microphone, and the heavy chains he was draped in when he strolled into the building. The Ruler was looking appropriately regal for his Victory Celebration at Brooklyn Bowl, held this past weekend in honor of his 52nd birthday. But with all his contributions to the rap genre, it was truly a modest display of riches.
The illustrious rapper, whose music has been sampled and interpolated over 600 times, has a lot more to show for his success than material wealth alone. That was clear when we saw just how many talented guest artists, tastemakers, and longtime fans came out to celebrate with him on Friday night. The excitement was well-built by opener Stro the MC and DJ Anna Collecta, who got the crowd simmering before the legend appeared. The 20-year-old rapper, remembered for his impressive run on Season 1 of The X Factor back in 2011, has been working hard since his teen years and brought a smooth set – culminating in some first-rate freestyle with the whole crowd as his muse. “I’m a fan of Slick Rick,” Stro told them, then quickly reconsidered. “No, fuck ‘fan’, I’m a product of Slick Rick.”
It took just one more warm welcome, this time from fast Chicago-based rapper Intelligenz, to persuade Ricky Dee to start the party. The birthday boy came out in all-pastel-blue, eyepatch to match, with a smile and aura that was completely contagious. Slick Rick launched right into “I Shouldn’t Have Done It,” throwing the crowd into a frenzy, just before his quick delivery exploded in the aptly-titled “It’s a Boy.” The party was in full swing, and the legend seemed happy to share the stage, backed by live drums and his constantly-grooving backup singers. The performance was next-level good with the support of DJ Kaos, who served up not only his old-school scratching and beatboxing, but the formidable Doug E. Fresh verse on “La-Di-Da-Di” – which, as you’d expect, set the whole room on fire.
“Everybody good?” Slick Rick checked in between songs, with gentle affection that seemed to reach all the fans in the packed room. Then he was right back in it, never missing a syllable; laughing slyly at his own contrasting verse on hits like “Lick the Balls,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Teenage Love.” Soon, a few more surprises made it a birthday to remember as some legendary ladies of hip-hop took the stage for the occasion – none other than Yo-Yo, Rah Digga, and Le’Shaun all wishing Rick a good one with slick breakdowns of their own. The loving crowd was battered in bass and strobes, happily hurling back call-and-responses with guests like Lil Mama; most often, “GO Slick Rick GO Slick Rick GO.”
You’d think that massive, gold-flecked birthday cake, which looked like a slice out of the Sistine Chapel, would be the most memorable part of the night – or maybe seeing The Ruler grinning as he blew out all the candles. But the part that really stuck was the way he spoke about the next generation of rap. “Nothing wrong with supporting the new school if they’re making good records,” said Slick Rick with a big smile. “They’re our kids! We gotta support them! You just can’t forget the old school.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley