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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Slick Rick sticks to old school

The rapper's timeless classics give the crowd an energy boost at the House of Blues.

July 22, 2006|Ben Quinones | Special to The Times

"I came out of jail and the place goes bananas," said Slick Rick, with a hint of a British accent as the celebrated U.K.-born, Bronx-raised rapper finished up his classic "Children's Story" on Thursday at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

That's his rap about a kid who runs afoul with the law and leads the cops on a high-speed chase that ends in a car crash. In a twisted case of life imitating art, Rick was pursued by police after he tried to shoot his cousin in a 1990 "beef." That resulted in a five-year prison term for attempted murder, and a career put on hold after his 1988 album, "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick," went platinum.

Slick Rick (born Richard Walters) took the stage Thursday in relaxed style, wearing a white Havana-style straw hat, a white collared shirt, white pants, a pair of fresh old-school, Smurf-blue shell-toed Adidas with the fat white laces and his signature eye patch (broken glass in his eye rendered him blind as a kid).

Although the street storyteller did perform some newer stuff -- including "Street Talkin'," from his 1999 album "The Art of Storytelling" -- it was his classics that elicited the most energy from the crowd. A couple of drunk guys got on stage during "Mona Lisa" just as Slick Rick sang the Dionne Warwick line in the song "Walk on By."

"We old school. I'm 41, I can't get that out of me," Rick said and then went into his 1985 Doug E. Fresh humorous tag-team classics, "La, Di, Da, Di" and "The Show": "Tonight on this very mic/You're about to hear/We swear, the best star rappers of the year ..."

In a time when rap is being dominated by more bling in teeth, rims, videos, etc., than lyrical content, Slick Rick displayed a remarkable talent for wit-filled narratives, like some lyrical crossbreed of Richard Pryor and Bob Dylan, even singing, "Times have changed," from "Hey Young World." Perhaps, but Rick and that old-school style are timeless.

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