Sunday, July 29, 2007

Songs You Should Know: Hey Young World

In 1988 Slick Rick dropped his legendary debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Universally acclaimed, the platinum LP immediately catapulted Richard Walters into the pantheon of esteemed emcees who established the foundation of hip hop's future. One of the most unique, dynamic, and refreshing voices to grace the hip hop landscape, Slick Rick is without question one of rap's founding fathers.

Of course the first thing hip hop heads talk about with Rick (apart from the British accent), is his trademark storytelling. After all, the songs that cemented his legacy -- La Di Da Di, Children's Story, Treat Her Like A Prostitute, Indian Girl, Mona Lisa -- were all fun, flirty, and often fantastical lyrical narratives. But the single that broke this mold was "Hey Young World."

So many of Slick Rick's other songs are party/club staples, but "Hey Young World" is the classic that is sometimes forgotten. Yet when it comes on, like acid flashbacks for a nation of assimilated negroes, schoolyard memories flood the brain, and all forms of pretense and posturing must fade to the background. Produced by Rick himself; the smooth string loop, dinky-dinky-dink toy-piano riff, and bouncy back-and-forth flow with what can now only be described as his "gay voice" essentially captures the carefree spirit of a hip hop nursery rhyme. An adorably irresistible encapsulation of hip hop's essence; it basically gets everyone within listening range in the mood for a game of freeze-tag or hide-and-go-seek.

And the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics. Honestly, on paper, this might be the corniest song ever penned in hip hop history. If you read it, you'd think an old white grandmother from the midwest wrote it. We're talking two verses of the most earnest and unabashedly didactic lyrics ever; complete with directions to "scream whoopy-doo," "do your chores," and "get a suit for a job" ... If you tell a head on the street to scream whoopy-doo and get a suit for a job, you're gonna get smacked. At the least. But if you throw on "Hey Young World" and let Slick Rick tell 'em, it's all good. Even positive b-boys like Common and Mos Def don't bring it this raw, always couching their consciousness in the cool neo-soul slang of the day. Rick just tells the kids to "make your mama proud" and "go for yours cause dreams come true."

Anyrick, I wanted to post the video here, but Universal Music Group has the video on lockdown. So I can only link it. But here's a live rendition of the first verse that captures the spirit. Go ahead and sing along, you should know this one:

7 comments:

  1. Love the blog along with everything else you write. I'm a new regular for sure.

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  2. One of the cool things about Rick is that unlike rappers of today; he went to school every day and was a "good kid". At least while he was in High School. He was a year ahead of me in HS, and I used to watch him and his HS crew make beats on the wooden auditorium seats and spit rhymes (Only they didn't call it spittin' back then... or did they? Sheesh. Seniliity.)

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  3. Slick Rick is awesome and I agree "Hey Young World" is one of my faves!

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  4. Don't go insulting old white Midwestern grandmothers. I know a couple who are cooler than many young whippersnappers-ahem- could ever hope to be . . .

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  5. Hey Young World is without question one of the top 5 hip hop songs ever recorded. You'll like never hear a rapper get this real and this raw about a topic that doesn't involve clapping another negro. Mad props to Ricky Dee.

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  6. Anonymous7/31/2007

    Jay Wilson, I have love for Ricky, but come on. Top five? It's late and you're tripping. Eric B. and Rakim have at least five songs better than "Hey Young World."

    It's a great song by a groundbreaking artist, but...

    Sheeeit, "Children's Story" is better, not to mention "Lick the Balls," and "La-Di-Da-Di..."

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  7. legallee7/31/2007

    O.k., anonymous, I was with you on your critique of the top 5 songs. La Di Da Di top 10, Children's Story Top 50, Hey Young World Top 100, but Lick the Balls?????

    In the immortal words of 50 Cent, "Come on man?!?!?!"

    Eric B. & Rakim have 3 songs better in my estimation: My Melody, Paid in Full, and Microphone Fiend. Yes, love Hey Young. The brother actually told the truth, as he did on "A Teenage Love."

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