Around the same time that social media was awash with commentary and clips of the in memoriam tributes that went down at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, another tribute montage—far more humble but arguably more emotionally charged—was being played on screen at The Get Down.
The occasion was the return to Portland of Slick Rick, the embattled and beloved rapper known best for narratively dense tunes like “Children’s Story” and “Sittin’ in My Car.” The short video that included photos of lost icons like Tupac, Aaliyah, Left Eye of TLC, and Nipsey Hussle may have served as a quick set break to allow Rick to slip backstage to switch from a pair of shades to a bejeweled eye patch, but it carried far more weight than that.
Slick Rick is one of the few members of hip-hop’s first great wave of talent still with us, having arrived on the scene as part of Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew and later carving out a celebrated solo career. Even a five-year stint in prison couldn’t dim his shine or drive. If anything, his legend has only grown larger over the last 30 years, which allowed him to pack The Get Down with fans representing a wide age range.
Rick took it all in stride, sashaying onstage in an oversized lavender T-shirt and what looked like a diamond-encrusted cheese board dangling from a fat chain around his neck. Fan favorites like “Teenage Love” spilled out in his signature laidback flow, all synced up with music videos playing behind him and spiked with humorous asides and snippets of ‘60s hits like “Walk On By” and “These Eyes.” It may not have had the glitz of “music’s biggest night” but it sure felt huge to have a 59-year-old survivor of the rap game retying the threads to pop’s not-so-distant past.