Slick Rick "Behind Bars" (1994)
Producer: Prince Paul
Album: Behind Bars
Label: Def Jam/PolyGram
Two years after the release of his classic 1988 debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Ricky Walters got caught up in a tragic misadventure reminiscent of his cautionary tale "Children's Story." Rick the Ruler hired a cousin to be his bodyguard, then came to suspect that his "security" was the biggest threat of all. Following an attempt on his own life, Rick became paranoid, eventually shooting his cousin and an innocent bystander, then fleeing in a high-speed chase with police. After crashing his car, he began serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder.
He eventually qualified for a work release furlough and began recording his third album, Behind Bars. The title cut distills years' worth of experience, a master storyteller observing the minutiae of prison life—phone-call disputes, mice running in and out of cells, and simmering resentments that erupt into violence. By all accounts Rick was a model prisoner, so his tale of "accumulating cuts and scars" is a work of fiction. Still there's plenty of power behind these bars, and really it's the simplest details that pack the biggest punch: "Miss outdoors, never know what you have until it's tooken." —Rob Kenner