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Slick Rick is officially an American. Following a lengthy, 23-year legal battle to obtain citizenship, the British-born hip-hop titan was sworn into the country at a ceremony Friday.

“I am so proud of this moment – and so honored to finally become an American citizen,” the 51-year-old rapper said in a statement. “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.”

His protracted journey to citizenship began back in 1976, when an 11-year-old Rick moved from southwest London to the Bronx and became a legal U.S. resident. His music career bloomed only a few years later when he joined Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew. After linking up with Russell Simmons and Def Jam, he released his chart-topping solo debut, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, in 1988.

Two years later, however, he hit a snag. In 1990, he was sentenced to prison for the shooting of his cousin and then-bodyguard Mark Plummer and a bystander. He eventually pled guilty, claiming self-defense, and spent five years in prison before receiving a rare pardon in 2008 from then-New York Governor David A. Paterson. Rick managed to put out three more albums throughout the ’90s, including Behind Bars, which debuted while he was still incarcerated.

Following his release, Rick was repeatedly threatened with deportation and spent additional years in a deportation lock up. His new citizenship will now allow him to remain in the country with his family.