Musicians’ drug problems are often rich sources of satire for comedians, but no one has ever been sent up as thoroughly and hysterically as Rick James. A 2004 episode of Chappelle’s Show saw Eddie Murphy’s older brother Charlie describing James’ antics during their long friendship as Dave Chappelle reenacted all this dressed as James. He’s depicted cavorting with loose women, licking their faces and rejecting their breasts; fucking up a couch; and punching and slapping Murphy in the face and in turn getting beat up repeatedly. Murphy terms James “a habitual line stepper,” and all the while the real Rick James appears intermittently to offer little more explanation for his behavior than “cocaine’s a hell of a drug.”
Of course in reality, James’ drug tales were much darker. In 1992, James and his girlfriend were accused of holding a woman hostage for a week, binding her, forcing her to perform sex acts and burning her with a crack pipe. In 1993, while out on bail for all this, the two did the same thing to a female music executive and were arrested again. James was found guilty of both offenses and sentenced to two years in prison; released in 1996. He later lost $2 million in a civil suit related to the case.
The same year the Chappelle’s Show episode dedicated to him aired, James died of heart failure. An autopsy found nine different drugs in his bloodstream when he died; a mixture of prescription and illegal drugs. Cocaine was one of them.
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