The trailer for director Sacha Jenkins’ upcoming Showtime documentary Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James teases a portrait of a singular artist with a complicated legacy. The first look at the film from the Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men Emmy nominee and hip-hop journalist is slated to premiere on Sept. 3 and promises to focus on James’ iconic funky sound and legendarily brash public persona, while also hinting at the “demon” of drug use that dogged his personal life.
James, who died in 2004 of cardiac failure at age 56, was best known for such indelible funk jams as “Super Freak” and “Give It To Me Baby,” as well as for his fecund run as a songwriter and producer for everyone from Eddie Murphy to the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie and Smokey Robinson.
“There are Black people here. And we make music. I mean, don’t we exist?” James asks in voiceover at the top of the nearly two-minute trailer that quick-cuts footage of the singer/bassist railing against the stereotyping of Black artists in a narrow doo-wop/R&B lane and insisting that he wants to be able to write about and wear whatever he feels like amid a montage of some of his legendarily sparkly, outrageous stage get-ups.
“I wanna be nasty, I wanna be raw,” he says as such fans as Ice Cube and Bootsy Collins attest to his greatness, even as others nod to James’ struggle with drugs and prison stint for assault and kidnapping in the 1990s. The trailer ends with James at an awards show intoning the classic tagline made famous by comedian Dave Chappelle, “I’m Rick James B—h!”
There is also a UCP limited series in the works focusing on James’ 1990 trial that derailed his attempted comeback.
Watch the trailer for Bitchin’ below.