Slick Rick brings old school hip hop to a new generation at the Foundation

Categories: Concert Review

It was fairly dark inside the Foundation, and I don't entirely trust my judgement in this particular department, but if I were to hazard a guess at the median age of the attendees at Thursday night's Slick Rick show at the Foundation, I would have to aim for roughly 30. You could be half the headliner's age and still get in to the 21+ show, and most of the people there who knew all the lyrics to "Children's Story" (more on that shortly) were closer to the kid's age than Uncle Ricky when the song first dropped in 1988.

So the overall vibe for the show was aimed in a general "old school" direction, though the specific delineation of said oldness (and schoolness) grew a bit confused over the night. A psychedelically distorted print of 1982 hip hop cinema classic Wild Style was projected on the makeshift bedsheet screens flanking the stage, but the between-sets DJ stuck to the typical '89-'96 timeframe, and Slick Rick's warmup DJ presented a chronologically-jumbled succession of '80s hits—including "King of Rock," the track where Run-DMC declare that they're "never ever old school."

Most baffling was Rick's digression near the end of his set to some sort of "old school vs. new school" beat battle, wherein 15-second snippets of hip hop tracks were played and sort of rapped along with. The new school was Unk's "Walk It Out" and Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's"; the old school was Redman's "Time 4 Sum Aksion" and House of Pain's "Jump Around" (introduced as "when Irish people met Black people"). Hearing 1992 described as "old school" is a little sobering; getting that description from a man who cut his first hit single in 1985 nearly broke my brain.

But generational confusion and the various chronological hierarchy of schools took a backseat to the show—and "The Show," and "Mona Lisa," "La Di Da Di,""Hey Young World" and a self-aware segue from "Lick the Balls" into "Teenage Love". His '90s material was touched on slightly—both tracks, interestingly enough, being OutKast-connected, via "Street Talkin'" (from 1999's comeback The Art of Storytelling) and his verse from the single version of Aquemini centerpiece "Da Art of Storytellin'" (seriously, the man's storytelling has some artistry to it). But otherwise it was mostly a referendum on his Get Fresh Crew days and The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, which is just about as good as 19-year-old (or more recent) rap albums get.

His set was quick and businesslike, and he showed his age at a couple points: when he finally came around to "Children's Story," there were a couple points where he sounded like he wasn't quite catching up to the beat. But while letting the crowd fill in half the lyrics could've wound up looking like a cop-out, it's still cool hearing those onetime children reading the story back.

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