Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Great Lessons of Slick Rick

As some of you may recall, a couple weeks back right after Labor Day, as the new school year was beginning for students all across America, the President decided to give a little back to school pep talk to all the young students out there. Of course there was some notable controversy over this seemingly harmless gesture; some considered it a worthwhile gesture to give kids an encouraging and uplifting message to start the school year, others considered it straight up brainwashing and the diabolical early steps of the gradual cultivation of Stalinesque cult of personality.

There were some protests here, some boycotts there, some counter protests here, kids were pulled out of school to miss it, kids were pulled out of school to catch it somewhere else. Eventually nothing much came of it and people moved on to other substantial controversies (like taking back America one tea bag at a time). As for me, my verdict on the speech was through the perspective of if I was still high school student: it was a harmless presentation to kill some time off the school day with a fairly pretty generic PSA message I'd forget by lunch.

I had all but forgotten about this mildly current event, until I found myself listen to Slick Rick's all time classic 1988 debut album "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick", the album that established Slick Rick as the greatest storyteller in the history of hip-hop. Within all the elaborate, outrageous, arrogant, vulgar, hilarious, raunchy, irreverent, genius, stories spun by Rick over the album's 12 tracks, there emerges more than a few important lessons to be taken away from the Ruler's tales. Through some of the most well known and sampled classic old school hip hop beats and Rick's distinctive British accented delivery one comes away from the album with such valuable life lessons like: the folly of a life of crime ("Children's Story"), the dangers of getting caught up with the wrong crowd ("The Moment I Feared"), the importance of Native American cultural sensitivity ("Indian Girl (An Adult Story)"), maintaining healthy relationships ("Treat Her Like a Prostitute"), and of course properly acknowledging Slick Rick's superior rapping prowess ("The Ruler's Back").

However the track most relevant and helpful to the youth of today and the one that reminded me of the President's speech was "Hey Young World". Stripping away the usual braggadocio and lurid misogyny of his other songs, the Ruler takes a moment aside to directly address the kids (although I can't imagine that many kids buying Slick Rick albums at the time) and sings with the genuine, eye patch wearing "real talk" wisdom of a guy who would eventually be deported for attempted murder. The song is both a great motivational challenge and heartfelt plea to the young people of the country as Slick Rick drops some common sense truth bombs about the perils that are holding back the generation and pushes everyone to realize their full potential as the future of the world.

So in the end I think perhaps the President could have just gone with broadcasting a little MC Ricky D at the start of the day and maybe have avoided the accusations of indoctrination and socialist brainwashing (I mean really who's going to challenge the Ruler?). After all if you boil down the meat of the President's flowery speech he's just saying it's not "cool to look bummy and be a dumb dummy and disrespect your mummy" (in addition to avoiding teenage pregnancy, crack, crime, and being a drop out). Essentially the same.

...and kids do you chores.

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