On the 10 year-anniversary of Rick James' death, VIBE remembers how our favorite Super Freak went out with a bang.

Gone But Not Forgotten: Exploring Rick James' Unpredictable Second Life

On the 10 year-anniversary of Rick James' death, VIBE remembers how our favorite Super Freak went out with a bang.

For years, the name Rick James was synonymous with self-implosion, a cautionary tale about the dangers of excess. He was a superb musician who created hits with everyone from The Temptations to Eddie Murphy, introduced Teena Marie and the Mary Jane Girls to the public, and kept Motown records afloat with little push from MTV. However, his lust for life occasionally outshined his aptitude for music, derailing his success and eventually landing him in prison. To James, life was a never-ending party. Sadly, the celebration ended on this day in 2004 when the legend was found dead in his Los Angeles home, the victim of a heart attack. Various ailments associated with his hedonistic lifestyle finally caught up with him at the age of 56. But prior to his death, James enjoyed a six-month return to pop culture pertinence, thanks to a moment forever inscribed in the minds of both longtime fans and those previously unaware of his existence. The power of a catch phrase is like that of an appealing chorus, sticking to the mind like some sort of artistic adhesive. In February 2004, James’ resurrection was launched by a verbal open-hand slap orchestrated by Dave Chappelle. During the fourth episode of Chappelle Show’s brilliant second season, the ingenious comedian introduced the Charlie Murphy’s “True Hollywood Stories” skits, where Eddie Murphy’s gravel-voiced brother spun riotous tales of early 1980s encounters with James. The scenes, which played up the eccentric star’s vice-fueled self-aggrandizing, reached peak hilarity when the expression of the year was uttered. "I’m Rick James, bitch!" Chappelle exclaimed, donning the extensions and flamboyant wardrobe that James famously wore more than two decades prior. With that statement, the viral sensation was born, Chappelle became a superstar, and Rick James’s faded star was illuminated once again. By that point in 2004, Rick James’ legacy was being carried by his catalog. He had more than 25 years worth of hits, many of which echoed his tendency to overindulge. "Mary Jane," from 1978’s Come and Get It!, was his marijuana love song. His 1981 breakthrough, Street Songs, featured a shamelessly intoxicated James trying to coax his lover of the moment into sex on "Give It to Me Baby." "Super Freak," his signature record, is loaded with references to threesomes, groupie trysts, and a covert reference to quaaludes. What’s more, James was living his music. Its eccentricity defined the era, and his defiant charisma somehow allowed him to get away with the sticky sexuality of "She Blew My Mind (69 Times)" and the downright inappropriate "17." But as his popularity soared, James’ dependency on drugs grew as rapidly as his addiction to life’s thrills. He was drowning in 'ludes and pussy long before they nearly submerged the wolf of Wall Street himself, Jordan Belfort. The toxic decadence eventually caught up with James. "I’ve smoked half of Paris and most of Russia. And I’ve shot up Puerto Rico and drank up Mexico," he told KING Magazine in one of his final interviews. "I [went through] five yachts, three planes, 17 cars, four mansions, any bitch I wanted, and had $30 million in the bank. People were disgusted with how I lived. Let’s talk real. I was a dumb motherfucker." The gross superfluity boiled over during the early 1990s, when James and a female friend were convicted for assaulting two women during cocaine benders. James was eventually released from prison in 1996, but his comeback album, 1997’s Urban Rapsody, was a resonant brick. By the time the millennium arrived, he had essentially become a joke. Remarkably, it was Chappelle’s stream of jokes that revived him. In the wake of the post-Chappelle’s Show resuscitation of his career, the final six months of Rick James’ life served as an unanticipated comeback tour. Aside from being the focal point of a slogan that spread like an inextinguishable wildfire, he began penning an autobiography, The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Super Freak. He also toured with Marie, his protégé, in support of her first album in a decade, La Doña. The album included "I Got You," a duet between the two that was more on par with the playful "I’m Just a Sucker For Your Love" than soaring previous collaborations like "Happy" and "Fire and Desire." Though less significant, it struck a sentimental chord with fans who never expected to hear the two on a song again. James’ resurgence reached its pinnacle in June 2004 when he and Marie brought everyone in Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater to their feet with an over the top performance of "Fire and Desire." His obvious loss of a step or three and Marie resorting to flat-out screaming at one point reinforced the fact that 1981 was many, many years ago, but those in the building and viewers at home alike were high on nostalgia as pure as the cocaine James snorted like a vacuum. The masterpiece of a ballad is about the resounding explosion of passion triggered by the collision of rival forces, and James and Marie turned it into an eruption of extravagance. James was the reigning king of doing too much, and he brought the same out of Marie throughout their 25-year relationship. After the two presented an award together, James seized the spotlight with the obnoxious assertion that had rekindled public interest in him. In what would be his last performance, he stole the show one final time. A little over a month later, he was gone.

Rick James was never truly irrelevant. His influence on pop culture remained strong, even after his fame waned. Prior to his own plummet from grace, MC Hammer built a hit on the backbone of "Super Freak." "Fire and Desire" soundtracked one of the many great moments in Martin’s history. "Mary Jane" appeared during a pivotal montage in the cult classic, Friday. Both "Ghetto Life" (which was revamped for Busta Rhymes' The Big Bang album in 2006) and the Mary Jane Girls’ "All Night Long" were included on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, proving that James’ sound helped define a decade. The Chappelle’s Show skit gave James an entertaining last hurrah, though he joked to KING that it "ruined [his] life." "I plan on moving out of L.A.," he admitted wearily. "Somewhere I can be at peace." Hopefully over the past 10 years, his soul has found the peace he could never attain in life. But with his final moment of glory, Rick James went out on top, living life with a vigor that only he could sustain. —Julian Kimble Julian Kimble still has Rick James’ catalog in regular rotation. Follow him on Twitter here.

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The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

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Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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