Everybody has a reason to love Rick James. Whether it’s his celebrated musical legacy or his outspoken nature. Hell, if you are media, his ability to generate headlines for living a defiant rock star lifestyle is reason enough to praise him. Rick’s life is one massive canvas that’s still being painted. In his past, he’s blessed us with hits like “Super Freak (Part 1),” which does not begin to quantify his legacy. He also served two years in prison after being convicted of assaulting and kidnapping a woman. Similarly, his time behind bars does not mark the totality of his legacy.
Recently, Rick has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP and spoofed by comic Dave Chappelle, a different sort of tribute. AllHipHop.com talked and talked and talked and talked with Rick. The interview will be presented in an ongoing series, because frankly, its one of the most interesting dialogues to be featured on this site. Remember: HE'S RICK JAMES, B***H!!!!
AllHipHop.com: I would like to congratulate you, because it seems as though you are making a comeback and you are all over the place now.
Rick James: Yeah, I am definitely resurfacing in the world of entertainment. Back into the “bump and grind.” I am very happy about that, it feels good. I am learning a lot and I have matured a lot. I have a son, I have a family and I am taking life a lot more serious now.
AllHipHop.com: What are your plans? I know you have the movie coming out…
Rick James: Well I have the movie we’re working on that’s coming out and the book Memoirs of a Super Freak which is an autobiographical book. It was a great thing for me to do the writing, and that happened when I was locked down so it was very introspective, as far as my life is concerned. It gave me insight on musicians, a business aspect, as well knowledge on drug addiction and all that stuff.
AllHipHop.com: So you wrote it while you were incarcerated?
Rick: Yes I did, I wrote it while I was in prison, got a chance to look introspectively at myself and it was like therapy.
AllHipHop.com: I want to speak a little bit about Dave Chappelle, because he has infamously parodied you…
Rick: He is making a lot of money off of me, that son-of-a-b***h…
AllHipHipHop.com: He just resigned with Comedy Central for quite a bit of money [reports say $50,000,000]…
Rick: I know.
AllHipHop.com: What did you think of the skit, I mean obviously you were part of it but…
Rick: I laughed, I think it was funny, it was satire, and it was fun. You know people are too serious about things nowadays. A lot of people were expecting me to get offended, f**k no! Dave is a good friend of mine. So is Charlie Murphy, and I actually lived that life and to look at myself now, and to look back on my life and see how insane I was, is pretty funny to me. I used to do things like “I’m Rick James b***h!” and kinds of stuff.
AllHipHop.com: Oh you really used to say that?
Rick: Of course I used to. “Show my your t*ts b***h” and all that stuff, it was my world and I was the king of it. So if you lived in it, and you didn’t do what I said, then get the f**k out! When I look back on it, the insanity of it all; the drugs- when I made the statement about “Cocaine is one hell of a drug”- cocaine - that was the foundation of our party atmosphere, it was about that.
AllHipHop.com: What about the whole drug scene, some rappers are experiencing those kinds of problems…
Rick: One thing about rappers that I have noticed is that most of them smoke blunts, and that’s their big thing. But they smoke a blunt and they can’t remember their rap. So that could probably be worse than cocaine. You don’t really see a lot of rappers using cocaine; it is kind of a phased-out drug for them. Maybe because they saw their mother and fathers go under or there is some kind of psychological ramifications that they’re dealing with, but not lot of rappers use cocaine.
AllHipHop.com: Did you ever do crack or anything like that?
Rick: Crack is for poor people.
AllHipHop.com: There are some rumors that DMX is having problems with crack.
Rick: Well, I hope that DMX is all right and I hope that it is just rumors. Basically, cocaine is cocaine, and a drug is a drug. But people don’t realize that the biggest drug in the world is alcohol, that’s worst than cocaine. This drug that eats up 5-6,000-brain cells every time you take a drink, that do not replenish themselves. There is a lot of money in that too. And tobacco, now those are serious drugs.
AllHipHop.com: Yes, but you are talking business now.
Rick: Yes, but cocaine is business too…but if you want to talk about a serious drug, alcohol that is the number one drug.
AllHipHop.com: Right, I feel you on that. Business rules America.
Rick: The THC content in marijuana eats away your endorphins; it trains your endorphins to act totally different. So that is like not a good thing, alcohol kills thousands of brain cells in a single drink, I mean we have billions, but still. Cigarettes destroy your lungs. So if you think about it, you walking down the road and the guy on the bus is smoking a pack of cigarettes, then what can you really do that is healthy? I mean everybody is an addict for something, few of us will admit it. I am not in denial about my addiction. I live it everyday.
AllHipHop.com: As corny as this sounds, I am addicted to candy, personally. I drink juice to get my sugar now.
Rick: Candy is a horrible thing. Because of the sugar content there is a risk of diabetes and all that you know.
AllHipHop.com: Are you touring or anything? I know that you and Teena were going to tour…
Rick: Me and Teena been on tour since November…
AllHipHop.com: I thought it was a great thing when she got signed to Cash Money Records…
Rick: I don’t know how great a thing that was. I think it gave Cash Money legitimacy that I don’t think they had because Teena is a legitimate talent. But she is very old school, she isn’t Missy Elliot or Beyonce and I don’t know if Cash Money can necessarily produce her.
AllHipHop.com: Her album in its first week sold more than Ghost Face Killah’s album did.
Rick: But her whole album has not sold more than 180,000 records, so something is wrong somewhere.
AllHipHop.com: It is very hard to get somebody over 30 on these music video channels.
Rick: Let me tell you something, old school stations are the largest stations in the country. There is a bigger window. When the Temptations put out an album it goes double platinum, this shows you that people in their 30’s 40’s and 50’s don’t give a f**k about rap. I mean do you think people in there 40’s and 50’s go out and buy a Snoop Dogg album? Think about it. They are buying Temptations, Miles Davis, and on and on. They are not going to go out and buy f**king Eminem or Britney Spears. So there is a very large window out there starting at 30 to about 60. That’s millions and millions of records. If there wasn’t, I would give up and I wouldn’t be releasing this double album. The album has a chance because young kids don’t run it, old school stations do.
AllHipHop.com: New Edition was on the radio and the program director came on the radio to say why they wouldn’t be playing much New Edition, because their demographic stops at 25.
Rick: New Edition, I don’t consider New Edition an old school group. I mean New Edition opened up for me. But I don’t consider them your quintessential old school group, like the Commodores or the Ohio Players or Frankie Beverly. They come between a very strange line. They never had giant record sales that could compete with us. I mean we were selling stadiums out with this stuff, and that’s a big difference. Bobby broke out for them, Bel Biv Devoe and on and on. The demographic for New Edition would be very hard to assess. With Rick James it’s simple if you like music.vI make millions of dollars a year with not even recording.
AllHipHop.com: Where does your money come from?
Rick: Mary J. Blige, had a number one record last year with Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez, Old Dirty Bastard, Will Smith, LL Cool J. That’s where it comes from.
AllHipHop.com: How much money did you get off of Hammer “Can’t Touch This”?
Rick: I don’t know $30-40 million dollars. It was an 80/20 deal; it ‘s the largest selling Rap record of all time. We sold like 100 million records.
AllHipHop.com: That’s crazy…
Rick: Yea, but it isn’t anymore crazy than opening a magazine and seeing Puffy Combs or Master P are the richest young guys in the country. That’s insane and these guys don’t know anything about music. Master P told me, “Ricky if I had a fingertip of your talent,” I said, “N***er, you already have 700 million dollars!” Puffy is sitting there not doing a thing, putting his face on everything making $800/900 million. In our day, we couldn’t release our record, and distribute them, we had to deal with the Mafia or major companies. If we made $1.75 we were doing great, that’s why I charged Motown one million dollars an hour. I was one of the first blacks to get a million an hour. But that’s because I know that if they steal five copies, they are going to charge you for such and then be part of RIAA. So I said if they are going to f**k me, then I am going to make sure that I get paid. But it’s a big difference now; these kids are sitting on 600/700 million dollars for records that will never get recorded again. You think anybody is going to re-record 50 Cent? You think there is going to be a standard or something for Eminem? Frank Sinatra has been here since I was 3 years old, he has to be about 80 years old and he is still going strong [sales wise].