Rick James Essentials
Rick James redefined funk in the late '70s and '80s. After signing to Motown in 1978, a string of increasingly rock-influenced funk LPs led to 1981's breakthrough Street Songs. Its mix of funk bass lines and new wave synths was hugely influential. The hits he wrote and produced for artists like Teena Marie, The Mary Jane Girls, and Eddie Murphy helped keep James on top until legal issues and drug addiction derailed his career, leading to a two-year jail sentence in the '90s. Just before his 2004 death, a legendary episode of Chappelle's Show made him a star to a new generation.