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August 11, 2004

Rick James (1948-2004)


Punk rock star, drug-addict, criminal, insane, obnoxious, and flat out hilarious… these are some of the many adjectives that I can think of when I hear the name Rick James. One adjective that does not come to mind, however, is anonymous. Rick was anything but that. With a prolific career that matched his hilarious personality, he left his impact on the music world forever.  Many will remember him for creating and pioneering the genre of punk rock that was popular in the 80’s… thank God I was too young to remember any of that, but apparently it was really cool back in the day. With hits like “Super Freak”, Rick James left his mark on the music world in many ways; that once popular washed-up excuse for an artist MC Hammer sampled “Super Freak” in his famous one-hit wonder “U Can’t Touch This”. Rick was also known for his notorious drug habit; his cocaine addiction was at pathological levels, at one time costing him $10-15,000 a week. And while toxicology reports are inconclusive as to the cause of death, I will simply state one of Rick’s most famous quotes to end this point: “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.” I think that’s what I’m gonna remember the most about Rick James: the fact that he was freakin hilarious. Every interview they have of him, every clip or news bite that I’ve read on him, he’s always given me something to laugh about. I had no idea who he was until the famous Dave Chappelle skit featuring Rick James (fyi: the tag line on the site in the upper right hand corner is from the skit, for those who are familiar with the show). The skit brought him back into the mainstream, as everyone began adopting lines from the skit (including myself) such as “Daaaaaaarkness” and “That was coooold blooded!”. His best known catch phrase, which has been reincarnated recently, is the hilarious “I’m Rick James, bit*h!” that everyone has either adopted or modified lately. 

Anyway, this isn’t why I’ve decided to allocate a post to the “legacy” of Rick James. No amount of remembrance (hah, or even prayer) can help him where he’s gone right now. The reason why I gotta give props to Rick James is he was probably the main reason for launching my man Dave Chappelle into the spotlight. Sure, Dave Chappelle was known before for his stand up and movies like “Half-Baked”. And sure, he had his show going solid for a year on Comedy Central. But no one can deny that after the Rick James skit appeared on the Chappelle Show, the show was taken to the next level. The Rick James skit not only MADE the Chappelle Show, it saved it. A thorough study of the sociological effects of the Rick James skit on the 18-34 demographic in the U.S. would be a worthy topic for a masters or PhD thesis project. But think about it, one skit that had Charlie Murphy narrating the antics of himself and Rick James created an overnight sensation and popularity of the Chappelle Show, taking it from an underground cult hit to a mainstream fascination amongst Americans, and establishing Chappelle as an American icon.

And why do I care so much about Dave Chappelle? Well, for those who don’t know, he’s Muslim, and a serious one too. I have it on the soundest authority from a person who actually met him in a Michigan masjid one day at Zuhr. He had finished praying sunnah and looked behind him to see a man looking like Dave praying sunnah as well. He couldn’t believe his eyes, and as curiosity got the better of him, he went up to him after Dave had finished and said, “as salaam ‘alaykum, are you Dave…” and Dave nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m Dave Chappelle.” This guy was dumb-founded and Dave continued, “You probably are wondering what I’m doing here. I want you to know that the person you see on TV isn’t really me. The guy you see doing comedy and skits, that isn’t me. Don’t watch my standups or my movie, Half-Baked, because that’s not me. A long time ago, before I discovered this beautiful deen, I signed some contracts and made some deals with people that I can’t get out of. Every day I pray to be able to clean up my comedy and send positive messages to people everywhere, and I’m waiting for that day to come.” He then saw some tableeghi brothers sitting in the back and he said, “Oh, its them tableeghi brothers, they good guys” and sat in on their reading of Fazaail Amaal. After they had finished, Dave then asked the guy if there’s any Muslim used car dealerships in the area, and the guy told him there’s one near the masjid and asked him why. Dave responded by telling him that he had a show up in Rochester, and rather than buying a plane ticket, he would rather buy a used car from a Muslim, drive it a couple thousand miles, and then donate it to the nearest masjid.

That’s the real Dave Chappelle. And for those who watch his show with a discerning eye, you’ll see his comedy has a message and a commentary on modern-day society. Many are turned away by the show’s language and whatnot, but if you look closer, you’ll learn a lot and realize what kind of commentary Dave is making about American society. It’s kind of like Rumi, in a way: there’s many Rumi poems that are seemingly lewd and offensive, but if you look closer, you’ll realize the wisdom Rumi is trying to impart, even through such offensive mediums.

And that’s why Rick James will be remembered in my mind. He helped launch Dave Chappelle and gave the show credibility and popularity to reach millions of people. Dave just signed a phat $50 million contract, and I can’t wait for the new season of the Chappelle Show to see where the show is going to go from here.


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  1. are you being SERIOUS??? DAVE CHAPELL is Muslim??????… wow. subhanAllah. cuz i really hate his show.which michigan masjid was this??

  2. im dead serious.
    how can you hate his show?!!!

  3. cuz its VULGAR? yea..that might be why.. crude humor isnt humor…its just…dumb. but then again, thats just me.
    my friend told me the same thing, he goes to the canton masjid, lol… well, subhanAllah. may Allah guide us all.

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