My earliest memory of “Children’s Story” was on a yellow school bus: a crew of kids were reciting the lyrics and my head cocked like, WTF. It was the first joint by Slick Rick, a rising star out of our native Bronx, whose ill lyricism, smooth flow, and suave British accent set him apart from the crowd. “Children’s Story” was just our speed: an all-too relatable morality tale in the late 1980s.
Now, 29 years later, Slick Rick returns with The Great Adventures of…Children’s Book (Get On Down), a puffy-covered, illustrated board book of the classic hit, officially launching on Saturday, April 22, 2017, for Record Store Day. The book is accompanied by a CD of the full album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Def Jam) along with a 45 of “Children’s Story” and “The Moment I Featured,” featuring artwork taken from original 12-inch.
Slick Rick (born Richard Martin Lloyd Walters, London, 1965) was blinded in the right eye by broken glass as an infant, and took to wearing an eye path that was as distinctive as his accent. His family moved to the Bronx in 1976, and he went on to attend The High School of Music and Art, where he met Brooklyn MC Dana Dane.
Together, the two formed The Kangol Crew and started hitting the park, high schools, and local clubs. In 1984, Rick met Harlem’s own Doug E. Fresh, and soon became a member of the upcoming Get Fresh Crew. When the two dropped “The Show” and “La Di Da Di,” it was a wrap. A new day had arrived in Hip Hop.
“Point blank: Slick Rick’s voice was the most beautiful thing to happen to hip-hop culture […] Rick is full of punchlines, wit, melody, cool cadence, confidence and style. He is the blueprint,” Roots drummer and Tonight Show bandleader Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson told Rolling Stone.
“Children’s Story” officially released on April 4, 1989, opening with a little skit. A couple of kids coo, “Uncle Ricky, would you please read up a bedtime story? Please huh please?”
Rick is happy to oblige, and launches the song with the immortal lines, “Once upon a time not long ago / When people wore pajamas and lives life slow…” From this promising beginning, things soon go south as two boys team up to rob old folks, and one of them gets hooked on pulling easy cash. From there it’s a downward spiral, as Rick narrates the tale of a cops and robbers shoot out that includes a visit to Dave the dope fiend, a car chase in a stolen Nova, an a hostage stand off with a pregnant woman before the 17 year old boy Is captured and taken into custody.
“This ain’t funny s don’t you dare laugh / Just another case about the wrong path,” Rick warns the kids as they fall asleep—an eerie foreshadowing of turns in the emcee’s own life that would happen just a year later, when his cousin Mark Plummer turned from bodyguard to extortionist, resulting in Rick pleading guilty to two counts of attempted murder, among other charges, and serving 5 years in prison (2 for the charges, and an additional three when the INS sought to challenge his residency).
Even though the law had him hemmed up, Rick was undeterred, releasing The Ruler’s Back in 1991, while out on bail, and then Behind Bars in 1994, while incarcerated. Rick’s talents made his talents look effortless; he deftly weaved stories like Charlotte wove spider webs.
Children’s Book celebrates the genius of Slick Rick. Once upon a time, they used to tell stories of little boys and girls put in ovens or threatened by wolves, but how many of us can relate to such tales? “Children’s Story” speaks to the times—and now adults who were kids back in the days can put their progeny on to the work of a master of the form with both a picture book and the album, which includes classics like “Hey Young World,” “Mona Lisa,” and my fave, “The Ruler’s Back.”
All artwork: Courtesy of Get On Down.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.