The Ruler’s Back: Slick Rick Returns Home To The Bronx

By Jason Gonzalez

 In a year in which natural disasters, wildfiresmass shootings and a divisive political climate have dominated headlines; it is truly inspiring to see some of our favorite celebrities contributing their time and financial resources for the purposes of spreading cheer among fans and their community. Over the weekend, hip-hop legend Slick Rick returned to his old stomping grounds in the Edenwald section of the northeast Bronx to host a food drive at the local community center named after the neighborhood.  


Partnering for the first time with FreshDirect Vice President of Public Relations Larry Scott Blackmon, Edenwald Community Center Director Joi Richardson, Edenwald Housing Authority President Walter McNeill, as well as volunteers that came to support from various parts of New York City, Slick Rick alongside his wife and manager Mandy Aragones distributed food products that consisted of mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar glazed roasted vegetables, creamed spinach, sliced turkey, whole turkeys, pork tenderloins, pork chops, apple pies, and fruit juices to the residents of the community. Collectively, when cooked and served together, it is enough food to feed a family of six to eight people. 


“It’s always good to come back to where you started, like your roots, and mingle with the people and show you how far a tree branch can grow, and still represent the root of where we come from,” Slick Rick said, sporting his trademark jewelry. “I am representing the root of the Edenwald projects, Bronx New York, I am happy to be with the people and still mingle.”      

Credit: Jason Gonzalez

Thirty years ago, rap icon and pioneer Slick Rick positively impacted the hip-hop genre when he released his debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Commonly referred to as the “Ruler”, Slick Rick’s rule of thumb is that there is more than one way to make a difference. He does so by utilizing his status for the betterment of community.    


“This is common practice for Rick,” Aragones said. “He is always doing charity work, you don’t really hear about it because he doesn’t like to talk about it. But Rick is always giving back. Over the years Rick has done charitable work at Rikers Island, he has worked with foster children, and the homeless. This is our first time working with FreshDirect and were very excited about it.” 


FreshDirect is an online grocer that delivers to residences and businesses throughout the northeast United States. FreshDirect recently built a distribution hub as well as corporate headquarters at Harlem River Yards in the Bronx. The new facility has allowed the company to expand their operations capacity and helped to create at least 1,000 additional jobs within the community.  

Credit: Jason Gonzalez

“FreshDirect moved here to the Bronx officially earlier this year, and we’re really happy and excited to be here in the Bronx,” Blackmon said. “Part of what we are doing here today, partnering with hip hop legend Slick Rick, is we’re giving back to the community. So, we are here in the Edenwald Houses, up here in the northeast Bronx spreading some holiday cheer to the residents of Edenwald.” 


This marked the first major event at the community center that the newly appointed director is a part of. 


“I was recently promoted to director in September,” Richardson said. “Prior to that, I had been an assistant director for nine years. This is my first giveaway that I am a part of, and it’s just so exciting. When Mandy [Aragones] contacted me and explained her and [Slick] Rick’s vision, my answer was yes! I am just so happy and thankful to be in a position to give back and working alongside a legend like Slick Rick is pretty cool too.” 


The Edenwald Houses have a negative reputation. It is an area of concentrated poverty in which violent crimes are prevalent. But not all is bad, and unfortunately, the general public rarely hears of anything positive happening or taking place in the community. 


“Edenwald is the largest [housing] development in the Bronx and we are proud of that,” McNeill said. “We want to thank FreshDirect, Slick Rick and his family and his crew for coming out and doing what they are doing for the affair that they are having today. We really appreciate it. A lot of people don’t come out because the development is so large. But as you can see by the turnout it has been a huge success.” 


With this being an inaugural event, prior to its conclusion, the question on everyone’s mind was will FreshDirect and Slick Rick make this an annual tradition?  


“FreshDirect is very much active and involved in the Bronx community, so the short answer is you will definitely see us again,” Blackmon said. We [FreshDirect] are he, we will be here, we are not going anywhere. And we know that we have an obligation to the community given that we are here.” 


There have been many instances in which people that have made it out of the “hood” and have become successful  make promises to those around them that they would return and give back. Often these statements become broken covenants. Slick Rick has kept his word, refusing to forget where he came from. 


“It’s always good to stay in touch where you come from, it’s good for the soul,” Slick Rick said. “I like to mingle with my people and the people that’s responsible for the community I come from. So, we can show that it’s not always about publicity…Like where hip hop came from and how it turned into a billion-dollar industry.” 


So, will the Ruler return next year? 


Slick Rick initially smiled, while showing off his iced-out platinum grill. He then said, “More than likely, yeah.”



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