Bitchin'-Rick James documentary review
By JayQuan 9/5/2021
I'll start by saying that music docs rarely impress me. Music was such a part of my upbringing and I got so deep into it and all of the details surrounding it and the musicians that created it that surface level info doesn't do much for me. With that being said Bitchin' was a very well put together piece. Excellent archival footage (some of it came from me, but they wanted it without my logo and I couldn't get to the original VHS tapes in a timely manner - so they zoomed in to avoid my logo) and excellent interviews/interviewees.
There's really nothing bad to say. There was a narrative in the film that Rick didn't like Hip Hop which I'd say is false. He didn't like sampling, and he didn't like what Hammer did with Super Freak on his smash hit Cant Touch This. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5 were the opening act for Rick for an extended period and they were very close. Scorpio got his entire "show no shame" persona from Rick. Rick even collaborated with the group on his Cold Blooded album on P.I.M.P The S.I.M.P.
I wish that the film would have mentioned the songs 17 and Cold Blooded but that's a small gripe. My only real gripe is that they didn't mention at all the period of '85 when he had his very public "clean" period and released the song and album Glow. He gained weight, dyed his hair and took his braids out. The Glow video contained a reenactment of Rick collapsing on stage from drug abuse and the band threatening to quit. That was an important period that I wish was covered.
The interviews and archival footage were excellent and although we knew somewhat the tales of debauchery, it was interesting to hear them detailed from the people who were there. I was hoping that they would include the explanation of the braids being influenced by African warriors and to my delight they did include a detailed explanation. I have a few good interviews where Rick explained exactly what the "Punk Funk" genre was and I wish that the doc included that. It was skimmed over, but the concept much like Rick was brilliant and deserved a little more shine in my opinion.
Lastly I was very pleased that much time was allotted to keyboardist Levi Ruffin of the Stone City Band. Watching Soul Train, Band Stand etc as a kid I always looked at the band as larger than life and Levi was a standout. He said something that I've contemplated saying on social media for the last 3 or so years. His exact words were "I didn't like the I'm Rick James bitch bit from Dave Chappelle. I thought that it made him into a caricature".
I wholeheartedly agree. As funny as it was, there are scores of people young and old who didn't ever see Rick James the person. For the young especially, the Chappelle bit defined Rick for them and like all comedy it was an exaggeration. I've posted a few classic interviews of Rick online and overwhelmingly the comments were "wow, he is so intelligent", "I'm Rick James bitch" and "cocaine is a hell of a drug". There was so much more to Rick than those comedy bits from Chappelle and yes he was highly intelligent. Many people also saw interviews of Rick after his stroke when his mouth was contorted and he didn't enunciate well. I'm glad that this doc contained so much footage of him speaking so the world can see and hear the fact that Rick was a brilliant musician, writer, bandleader, visionary and human. 9/10.