Slick Rick The Art of Storytelling

Acknowledged as one of rap’s legendary raconteurs, Slick Rick returns with his first proper album in about a decade. After being incarcerated for an act that was ironically foreshadowed on earlier material like “Children’s Story” and “The Moment I Feared,” he issued two rushed, unremarkable projects while on work release from prison. Now, he finds himself in the unenviable position of fitting into a radically altered and expanded rap game. The strategy, perhaps not surprisingly, seeks to merge Slick Rick’s eye patch, mild English accent and iconic status with current market trends. An overabundance of samples from the era of Slick Rick’s heyday — some from his own back catalogue — are thrown over top a crop of hit-or-miss beats. It’s a shortcoming that doesn’t even escape the MC. “Even this so-so beat I make monstrous,” he admits on “Frozen” featuring Raekwon. The Wu-Tang MC is joined by Outkast, Nas and Q-Tip, who all drop by to acknowledge their lineage and stylistic debt to MC Ricky D. Unfortunately Rick’s renowned narratives are in short supply. But he proves his humour, charm and rhyme skills are definitely still present, especially shining on “I Sparkle,” “Memories” & “Street Talkin’,” buoyed by some of the album’s best music. With the combination of high expectations and a lengthy absence, Slick Rick’s admirable return is not bad, but could have been much better. (Def Jam)