Showtime has released a trailer for “Bitchin’: the Sound and Fury of Rick James,” a new documentary directed by Emmy-nominee and hip-hop journalist Sacha Jenkins (“Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men”). Judging by the trailer the doc aims to present an accurate look at one of the most controversial and confrontational figures in the history of R&B and popular music.
James, who died in 2004, is known for his 1980s hits like “Super Freak” and “Give It to Me”; his prison term for a sexual misconduct; and of course Dave Chappelle’s famous parody. Yet as documented in the trailer, his confrontational nature — he was very upfront about his sexual and drug habits, among many other things — have clouded the perspective on his music and his importance, particularly in advancing Black music into the video age. His videos for “Super Freak” and other hits were, along with Michael Jackson’s, among the first Black videos to receive heavy airplay on the then-new — and extremely white-music centric — MTV.
The film, which screened at the Tribeca Festival in June, will premiere on Friday, September 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
During the 1960s, he was in a band with Neil Young called the Mynah Birds that recorded and album for Motown. In the 1970s, he utilized many of the sexually upfront aspects of a stage show that Prince later coopted — and Prince even opened a tour for him in 1980.
As a songwriter, performer and producer, he also collaborated with Joni Mitchell, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Nile Rodgers, Eddie Murphy, Teena Marie, The Mary Jane Girls and M.C. Hammer.
In the trailer, Ice Cube, Bootsy Collins and many others give testimonials about James’ influence and importance, but the man and his actions — good and bad — speak for themselves.
“Bitchin’: the Sound and Fury of Rick James,” is a Mass Appeal production for SHOWTIME, directed by Jenkins, produced by Steve Rivo, and written by Jenkins, Rivo and Jason Pollard. The film is executive produced by Peter Bittenbender and Jenkins for Mass Appeal, and Douglas Banker and Ty James.
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