The Ruler's Back

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The impending release of Slick Rick’s first album in six years called for preparation. It meant diggin’ in the crates and reviewing dusty cassette copies of The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, The Ruler’s Back and even Behind Bars. It was remedial Rick – "Slick 101," if you will.

In an age when rap music outgrosses pop and country, and more rap albums are released in a year than any other form of music, a new release by one of the greatest MCs of all time should not be taken lightly. It’s not just that Slick Rick puts words together well or that he has a dope voice. It’s not even that he tells some of the wittiest stories on record. It’s a combination of all this and then some. He’s one of the only MCs who can rightfully: "make memories sealed in almanacs," "bring that lovin’ feelin’ back to rap," "own America" and "throw that other rapper to the lions."

Quips like these make The Art of Storytelling feel as good as it sounds. The 1999 MC Ricky D is unapologetically older (34), married, mature and clever as ever. Not many MCs can get away with cramming a song about fidelity ("Two Way Street") and another about the joys of rough anal sex ("Adults Only") onto one album. But that’s why fans love him, because for years he’s made these extreme sides of himself seem abnormally normal. The guest rappers on the album – Nas, Big Boi, Snoop Dogg, Raekwon, Canibus – all sound like the students they are next to Rick. And Doug E. Fresh’s appearance on the album’s final three songs – two of which are live versions of "La Di Da Di" and "The Show" – is simply kismet.

Sound the trumpets. The ruler’s back.

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