RIP FunkMaster. It is weird but right that as Rick James' body was being wept over by his family, I was dancing around Jeff's apartment to 'Shake It Up'. I wrote the following for PlayLouder:
RICK JAMES RIP The Superfreak Sleeps tonight 09 Aug 2004
Funk punk pioneer, king of soul, slept-on Super Freak and Man Of The People Rick "motherfuckin'" James is dead. Long live Rick James.
He died in his sleep sometime on the morning of Friday, August 6th, around the same time I was dancing around an apartment in Bleecker Street, New York, to a CD of Greatest Hits. Midway trough the collection, it occurred to me how fresh those records sound now, compared to all the rap songs in the nineties that ripped them off, and and all these "new" punkfunk records that have been coming out over the past few years. None of them are fit to sniff Rick's crotch, even 'U can't Touch This'. The only Rick-ripping piece of music fit to share a glass with the mass-ter of The Funk is Ol' Dirty Bastard's cover of 'Cold Blooded', which Rick is said to believe better than the original. It wasn't - it was another side of it. The ugly side.
Rick James had a fucked up childhood and a fucked up life, but he made some of the most joyful, and the funkiest music of all time… and he wrote, produced, and performed it all himself, because he was a genius. His bass lines will never be beat, his primal scream never equaled. He made truly universal, genre redefining and defying music, that will live forever.
To me, his single greatest piece if work was 1982's 'Throwin' Down', which not only has the greatest record cover of all time, but the finest record back too. It is awesome from start to finish. It sounds like the biggest party ever. It is a perfect record.
But then, it's not like he ever got wack. His last album was amazing. Everything he did, pretty much, even at the height of his coke lunacy, was dope. The tragedy of Rick James is that this should not have been the end. The last fifteen years of his life might have been as nightmarish as the first, but we were about to enter a new golden age of Rick James - he was just about to take over again. A new album in the can, a recently completed autobiography, a movie, tribute album, tour… "I'm Rick James, Bitch!" T-Shirts pepper the landscape, his bass lines squelch out of car windows, kids all over were just starting to realise who their heroes had been stealing from…
Ah, but fuck it. Rick James will, in death, achieve the respect and stature he never got in life. And at least we won't have to see him sell himself short on reality TV. We can just enjoy what he left us - a legacy of amazing music for us all to enjoy for ever. Ol' Dirty said it best in '95 - Rick James was fresh to death.
Adam Alphabet (I'm Rick James' bitch)
A public memorial service and viewing will be held from 5-8 PM on Wednesday, August 11, 2004, at Forest Lawn Mortuary, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068. Check RickJames.com for Rick James radio, a video interview, songs, love, and a lot more.