After a 23-year legal battle London, England-born rapper Slick Rick has finally been granted his U.S. citizenship. Born Ricky Martin Lloyd Walters, he was a legal resident when his family emigrated from the U.K. to The Bronx when he was 11. He was sworn in as an American citizen Friday at an official ceremony in New York with other new U.S. citizens.
In a statement, the English-born lyricist said, “I am so proud of this moment – and so honored to finally become an American citizen. This has been a long time coming for me, and I am relieved to finally put this long chapter behind me. I want to thank everyone – my family, friends and fans – who have supported me and stuck by me over these 23 years. I am truly blessed – and stay tuned, I will have more to announce soon.”
Slick Rick released his debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, in 1988. The album was wildly popular and established him as one of the best storytellers of the rap genre. Unfortunately he was jailed before he was able to release his second LP, The Ruler’s Back.
The rapper ran afoul of the law 26 years ago when he shot his cousin Mark Plummer and an innocent bystander in New York. Plummer served as a bodyguard for the rapper’s mother until he was fired for allegedly attempting to extort Walters. Plummer was also accused of threatening the lives of Walters and his family.
It all came to a head in July 1990. The rapper opened fire after seeing Plummer near his home. The shots hit Plummer once and wounded another person in the foot. Both of the injured parties survived. The rapper has always maintained that the shots were fired in self-defense.
In 1991, Walters pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons charges stemming from the incident. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half to 10 years for the shooting and was released from prison after six years. He completed his parole in 2000, leading a judge to cancel deportation proceedings against him and grant him a waiver of admissibility.
The conviction put his quest for American citizenship in jeopardy and he faced several issues over his status in the States. After performing for passengers on a Caribbean cruise, he was detained in Florida and threatened with deportation due to his prior prison sentence. He ended up spending 17 months in jail before ultimately being released.
In 2008, then-New York Governor David Paterson officially pardoned the rapper on the attempted murder charge. In his statement, Paterson spoke about how Walters had become “a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people,” and stated, “Given these demonstrated rehabilitative efforts, I urge federal immigration officials to once again grant Mr. Walters relief from deportation, so that he is not separated from his many family members who are United States citizens, including his two teenage children.”
The rapper’s U.S. citizenship will now allow for him to travel to and from the country in order to perform overseas. Walters will maintain a dual citizenship with the United Kingdom.