More than six weeks after the Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested Slick Rick aboard a docked Caribbean cruise ship, the hip-hop legend remains behind bars and faces deportation.
The British-born rapper (born Rick Walters) was denied bail in a hearing Friday in Bradenton, Florida, with the INS, which claims his felony record prevents him from living in America.
Rick, who was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame earlier this year (see "Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Other Hip-Hop Legends Turn Out For Hall Of Fame Induction"), was convicted of attempted second-degree murder in 1991 after shooting his cousin. He served 5 years and 12 days in prison, and U.S. law states that any non-citizen who serves more than 5 years in prison must be deported.
Six months of Rick's time, however, was due to immigration issues, so he won the right in court to stay in America in 1995. The INS lost an appeal of that decision that year, won two years later, and the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered him to be deported.
Rick was never informed of the appeal, according to his spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the rapper has been recording and performing and scheduled a concert on the Tom Joyner Morning Show cruise ship in May, along with Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, the Baha Men and others. When the ship docked in Miami on June 1, he was arrested for attempting to return to the States and has been refused bail since.
In the hearing last week, Immigration Judge Kevin R. McHugh said only the INS, not he, has jurisdiction to grant bail.
So Rick remains held at the Bradenton County Jail near Tampa while his situation is adjudicated by the INS, who claim he is a "flight risk," according to his spokesperson. A spokesperson for the INS did not return calls. A second deportation hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Several of Rick's celebrity peers have stepped up in support of the rapper, including Will Smith, Russell Simmons and Chris Rock, who invited Rick to open for him in 1999 (see "Chris Rock Gets In Eddie Murphy Mood With Slick Rick").
"I respectfully ask that he be allowed to stay in this country and released to his family as soon as possible," Smith wrote in a letter to the INS, according to Rick's spokesperson. "I have known Rick for over 15 years, not just as an artist, but as a friend. He has always been professional, reliable and trustworthy."
Rick, who is 37, moved to the U.S. when he was 11 and has been a legal resident since 1976, although he never became a naturalized citizen. He has a wife and two kids and a home in the Bronx, New York, and no longer has family in England.
With his trademark eye patch and gold teeth, Rick has been a fixture in hip-hop since the mid-'80s, when he debuted with Doug E. Fresh on the landmark singles "La-Di-Da-Di" and "The Show." His first album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, was released in 1988 and went platinum the following year thanks to classic tracks such as "Children's Story."
Rick's legal problems slowed the sales of his next two releases, 1991's The Ruler's Back and 1994's Behind Bars, although he staged an impressive comeback with 1999's The Art of Storytelling, which featured Outkast, Redman and other guests (see "Slick Rick's Comeback A Work Of 'Art' ").