Hipgnosis Songs Acquires 50% Stake in Rick James Catalog, Including Masters

Rick James
Mark Weiss/WireImage

Rick James

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has snapped up yet another iconic collection today (Nov. 13), acquiring a share of the music catalog of the late "Super Freak" singer-songwriter and producer Rick James.

The deal with the James estate gives Hipgnosis 50% of the funk star's publishing interests, writers’ share, neighboring rights and recorded masters (from Universal Music Group) share of income in his catalog of 97 songs.

"Rick James was a true innovator. His 'Punk Funk' philosophy and style paved the way and influenced everyone from Prince to Michael Jackson to Jay-Z and the biggest names in hip hop," says Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis. "We are delighted to welcome his iconic work to the Hipgnosis Family and look forward to working closely with his daughter Ty James and his estate to ensure his legacy shines."

Born James Ambrose Johnson Jr. in Buffalo, N.Y., James is best known for his 1981 album Street Songs, which spent an unprecedented 20 weeks atop Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and included hit singles "Give It to Me" and "Super Freak." The predominant riff of "Super Freak" was memorably sampled on MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," and James' music has also been sampled  and interpolated by artists including Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky and Jay-Z.

James is also known for ballads like Teena Marie duet "Fire & Desire" and "Ebony Eyes," recorded with Smokey Robinson, and has produced records for artists like Eddie Murphy, The Temptations and Mary Jane Girls. He died after heart attack in 2004 at age 56.

"We are excited about our new venture with Hipgnosis, and pleased to establish this epic partnership with a company that truly appreciates the dynamic diversity of my dad’s music," said Ty James. "Music that transcends through decades. Our goal is for my dad’s music to not only live, but to stay forever young and in the hearts of our families, friends, fans. We are elated for what’s to come from the union of our powerful musical entities working together. More greatness to come."

Recent high-profile purchases by Hipgnosis have included the catalogs (outright or a stake in) of Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, Blondie, Barry Manilow, Dion "No I.D." Wilson and more. Earlier this month, Hipgnosis acquired the Kobalt Music Copyrights Fund 1, including 33,000 songs, for $323 million.