Richard "Slick Rick" Walters is a London-born rapper who got his start in Doug E. Fresh's Get Fresh Crew in the mid-'80s, most notably on the 1985 single "The Show" (backed with "La-Di-Da-Di"). The following year, Rick signed with Def Jam Records and began work on his solo debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. His ability to weave a compelling narrative into a rap song, a talent that earned him the reputation as the genre's greatest storyteller, is apparent on the album's second single, "Children's Story." The hip-hop nursery rhyme tells the tale of a young boy who is drawn into a life of crime and is ultimately gunned down by the police. The song peaked at #5 on the R&B chart and #2 on the Rap chart.
When asked by Rolling Stone if the song – which features the teen getting shot after dropping his weapon – is a statement on police brutality, Rick replied: "Nah, not really, it was just making it a story like that. I wasn't concentrating on police brutality. That wasn't the direction I was going in. The basis of the story was just to be entertaining, gritty ... It's like we trying to intrigue your peers with a story that should draw them in."
This borrows the bassline from Bob James "Nautilus." Rather than sample the 1974 recording, Rick re-created it on the keyboard. The rapper explained why he was attracted to the song: "When you're going up in the hip-hop environment you know what songs have that oomph, that connection to the hood, the connection to the environment, the soul and stuff. ['Nautilus'] was big in urban communities before rap records, right? When they used to have street concerts, picnics, barbecues, whatever when they play outside and stuff like that - like the Cold Crush Brothers, like Grandmaster Flash and them before they made records. I just reconstructed the same melody 'cause it has like a gritty city edge to it."
Several hip-hop artists have sampled this, including Montell Jordan on 1995's "This Is How We Do It
," Missy Elliott (feat. Ludacris) on 2002's "Gossip Folks," Eminem on 2003's "Can-I-Bitch," and Nas (feat. Kanye West) on 2018's "Cops Shot The Kid." It was also covered by Tricky for the 1996 album Nearly God
, Black Star for the 1998 album Black Star
, and Everlast for the 2000 album Eat At Whitey's
The music video features Rick reciting the bedtime story in front of the Alice in Wonderland sculpture in New York City's Central Park. Borrowing from the silent film era's slapstick comedies, the action unfolds in black-and-white, with bumbling cops in pursuit of equally inept criminals. Rick wasn't a fan of the comic clip. "That was the record label's idea to go that route," he explained. "My route was more like the story, but their route was probably, at that time - I'm just assuming - maybe they didn't want to go the route of too gritty. Clean it up for like a broader audience."
In 2017, the Boston-based record label Get It Down turned the song into an actual illustrated children's book, featuring a 7" copy of the single and the whole album on CD.
This was used in several movies, including the 1997 comedy How To Be A Player, the 2008 action-comedy The Brothers Bloom, and the 2009 biopic Notorious (about the life and death of Notorious B.I.G.), the 2011 comedy The Sitter, and the 2016 comedy-drama Almost Christmas. It was also featured in the TV show Entourage in the 2008 episode "Pie."
This was used in the video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), True Crime: New York City (2005), and Tony Hawk's Proving Ground (2007).