Rapper and entertainer Slick Rick celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick in November. The rap icon was the the third artist signed to the legendary rap label, Def Jam Recordings, and he is one of the most sampled artists of all time with what the “La Di Da Di” rapper estimates to be about 650 to 700 times.
Slick Rick made an appearance at the Music Biz conference in Nashville on Tuesday (May 7) to have a conversation with Wendy Day, founder of the Rap Coalition—a non-profit artists’ advocacy organization to educate, inform, and unify rap artists, producers, and DJs. Empty seats were few and far between.
“When did you start to really learn the business?” asked Day. “When I started gettin’ robbed,” quipped Rick. “You get your first royalty check and it says ‘Negative.’ I’m like ‘what?!'”
Rick quickly learned about recoupment and how to manage his financials as an artist. “Most of the money that I earned came from shows and touring. Shows, merchandising, things like that,” he said.
“You gotta be careful because the next thing you know you have people saying ‘What did you do with your money?’ and ‘You don’t know how to manage money.’ There’s a lot of criticism when things don’t work out that are designed not to. You’ve got to be careful. Take your show money, buy your little properties, set yourself up for retirement,” Rick said.
Rick talked about creating and knowing your lane as an artist, and making sure that your partners in business allow you to stay authentic to that lane. He also highlighted the importance of promoting yourself, specifically in the world of rap and hip-hop.
“You create your own lane, and you promote yourself,” Rick said. “You invest back into yourself. That’s why we have the jewelry and the cars. You’re investing back into yourself because you have an image to promote. Even though you’re not making much on royalties, you still need to give your community a celebrity—something that looks like a celebrity.
“When we first came out you would see the big rope chains and nice fancy cars and stuff like that,” he continued. “It was like, you’re promoting yourself. You’re promoting success in an urban community.”
Day bragged on Rick for his philanthropic efforts, including supporting fellow U.K.-born rapper 21 Savage in his recent entanglement with U.S. immigration, as well as giving back to his community in the Bronx of New York and entertaining at benefit concerts.
“Our lane is just to entertain and inspire and let the politicians do what they’re good at,” Rick said.
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