Slick Rick's Triumph Over Violence, Imprisonment, & The U.S. Government
By Peyton Blakemore
June 11, 2019
Slick Rick — a legendary MC, a hip hop icon, and a man with quite the "interesting" past.
You can't discuss Slick Rick's rise to fame or his heavy stamp on the culture without discussing his past issues with the law as it's his previous struggles that turned into some of his greatest triumphs.
In the latest episode of DISGRACELAND, Jake Brennan gives an in-depth look at Slick Rick's previous legal issues, detailing what led to the "La Di Da Di" rapper serving "hard time for attempted murder and an eventual second stint in prison for illegal immigration." (To note: Slick served six years behind bars for the attempted murder charge and fought for his U.S. citizenship for a whopping 23 years)
Setting the scene, Jake began by discussing Slick's 2002 incarceration for "illegal immigration". Slick, born Richard Martin Lloyd Walters, "arrived [to the U.S.] when he was 11 from Southwest London with his family, who were originally from Jamaica, who then decided to try their luck in America, the land of opportunity, as immigrants twice over. And like most immigrants in their adopted Bronx neighborhood, they struggled, but worked hard. So Rick, or Ricky as he was called, could deal."
It's his origin story that eventually led to his arrest in 2002, as immigration officers took him into custody while he was vacationing with his wife in Miami.
"When the bus finally brought them to the Bradenton Detention Center in West Florida, a filthy, underfunded prison reserved for immigration cases, it was the summer of 2002 and this would be Rick's home for the next year, as George W. Bush's shiny new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, built a fresh case against him. Prison sucked. It was way worse than he remembered," Jake detailed. "When he was processed at Bradenton, the blue prison jumpsuit they gave him has suspicious white stains on it that refused to come out. Over the months, his signature eye patch that he had been wearing when he was arrested, fell apart, while his full collection languished back home in New York, and that really pissed him off. And all around him, he was forced to bear the emotional sh*t-show of watching poor, seemingly helpless immigrants being kept away from their weeping families. In this fresh hell, Rick had plenty of time to think."
"Why him? Why now? The quick version, to paraphrase Rick: there lived a little boy that was misled by another little boy, and though Slick got an intent-to-murder charge on the person who misled him, it should have been labeled self-defense," Jake added. "But he'd one his time. More than his time. And the long arm of the law toyed with him. Tried to make an example of him all through the '90s, but he was too slick for that. Or at least he had enough money to hire the right lawyers to navigate the tangled joke that was the American legal system for him. And now, apparently, it was time to do it again. Slick Rick was a man with powerful friends. Sure, he was an immigrant, but in New York City, that made you a native. And in the Bronx, he was an adopted hometown hero. He was one of the very first artists signed to Def Jam Records and that put a shine on his name that would never fade."
He continued: "So when word got back to the Bronx that Rick was locked up for no good reason, the protests started. Free Slick Rick petitions began circulating and celebrity fans and friends began wielding their influence. Will Smith, Chris Rock, The Reverend Jessie Jackson, all wrote to the courts in Rick's defense. And a thousand miles away, in a New York City penthouse, as coverage of Rick's desperate circumstances played on a wall-mounted flat screen, Slick Rick's guardian angel watched and weighed his options, in Zen-like silence. Rick didn't deserve this, he thought. Straight up, this is some bullsh*t. It's time to free Slick Rick for real. So Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, looked away from his television and picked up the telephone."
Before Slick was a wrongfully imprisoned, high-profile immigrant, he was a rising New York City rapper. However success "changed things," for Slick as he "couldn't bop around the Bronx anymore. Not like the old days. His name was too big. He never knew which young-blood was going to step to him just to make their bones. His jeweled eye patches, his carefully layered chains, the chunky rings he wore as a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr." Jake shared. "They were meant to be proof-positive that his hustle had been rewarded. But now, all they did was make him an obvious target. Well, f**k it. Why hustle so hard if you can't enjoy it? So Rick stepped up. He filled out his collection of jewelry, cars, and real estate with a small armory: pistols, semi-automatics, shotguns. You name it. He carried a piece on him at all times. But he knew more than anyone that he only had one eye, so what he really needed was muscle. Bodyguards. An expense he's happily cover."
It was this revelation that led him to hire his cousin, "who had just arrived in the city from Jamaica."
"Mark Plummer. Rick didn't really know the guys, but keeping things in the family seemed like a good idea," Jake continued. "So Mark got the gig guarding Slick Rick. What Rick didn't know, couldn't know, about Mark is that he was a stone-cold psycho. By 1992, Mark would be dead. Gunned down during a home invasion by the father of a young boy he was attempting to rape. But here, in '89, when Rick hired him, Mark Plummer hadn't yet ruined his life. But he was threatening to ruin Slick Rick's, at least for the foreseeable future."
"It didn't take long after Mark's hiring for weird sh*t to start happening. Attempted B and E's on Rick's properties, home invasions, extortion attempts. At first, it seemed to prove Rick's paranoia right: they really were out to get him. His fame was a curse. But all of the threatening activity was easily traced back to Mark, who, as Rick's body man, was privy to lots of inside info he could then hand off to friends to try and set Rick up. Score money from him, drugs or bling, as if they were random burgles," Jake said. "The robberies were happening with too much frequency and Rick might have been paranoid, but he was no dummy. Soon it became obvious that he had a bad seed in his crew and Mark, family or not, was an unknown quantity. The betrayal, the inside job of it all. There was the same man he had hired for protection, who was in fact, the biggest threat to him. Ratched Rick's paranoia to new heights. He self-medicated with champagne and weed. Neither helped. Both made the situation worse."
"Rick was at a loss for what to do," he shared. "And with Mark, he couldn't just outright fire him. Who knew what this stud would do. So Rick tried paying him off. Letting him go with a severance of several thousand dollars and a van. But it was too late. Once Mark realized Rick had found him out, knew what he was up to, the menacing bastard that he was, decided to go full psycho on Rick. There was nothing to hide, so f**k Slick Rick. Take the greedy rap star for all he was worth. Mark was in the land of opportunity and here was the opportunity. His rich-a** cousin with all the cash, drugs and bling. Take him for all he was worth because who knew when another score would present itself."
After tormenting Slick for over a year — he had goons beat him up, threaten him and his family, he even sent men to try and kill Slick — the rapper found himself in his cousin's presence on a random day he was out shopping with his pregnant girlfriend for baby items in 1990.
"What dumb luck. Shopping for baby gear would have to wait. Rick sprang into action. He slammed the breaks , whipped the gun out from his pants. Two shots out of the gate, no warning. They whizzed by Mark, barely missing him," Jake detailed. "One of them caught the foot of an innocent bystander on the corner. He went down, screaming in pain, unlucky bastard. Mark had no idea what was happening. Rick had no time. Mark saw him now. They locked eyes, both knowing the score. Even, tied up. But today, winner take all. Three more shots. Rick cut them off before Mark could do anything besides stare with that stupid, f**king grin of his. This time, Rick's shots connected. Two in Mark's leg, one in his arm, but no kill shot. Just spray and pray. The adrenaline kicked in. Mark gripped his wounds to stem the bleeding and dove inside the nearest storefront to escape."
The shootout ultimately led to Slick being charged with two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons charges, all of which he pled guilty to, and subsequently served six years behind bars.
While he served his time, that didn't stop INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) from trying to "make an example of Rick and have him deported." Ultimately though, "judges based out of New York ended the score. The Feds were just playing red tape games while fishing for headlines for the hip hop star on the hook. Hoping to keep Rick locked up long enough so they could boot him out of the States. It wasn't on the level."
And while Slick spent nearly a year detained in a Florida detention center after being arrested in 2002, his famous friends and high-profile eventually helped him obtain to his freedom and citizenship (that took another 14 years as he didn't become a U.S. citizen until 2016). "The Free Slick Rick movement launched, and it worked. He was freed. He had a full pardon from New York governor and long-time Slick Rick fan, David Patterson. In the city of the blind, the one-eyed man is king or at least, the ruler. And after it all died down, Rick became a full U.S. citizen and was eventually inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame," Jake concluded.
Listen to the full episode below!
Photos: Getty Images