Rick James: 10 Essential Tracks

The punk-funk king gets freaky on everything from a 1966 Neil Young collaboration to a groundbreaking 1988 rap duet

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Rick James feat. Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire" (1981)

James not only mentored Marie, the two had a torrid affair during a debauched era when the star bought a Hollywood mansion and an immense ranch near his Buffalo hometown, which became a crash pad for his band, back-up singers and anyone else who got sucked into their orbit. In other words, it was complicated. By 1981, the couple had broken up, but this seven-minute slow jam – meandering, rousing, awkwardly intimate, painfully honest, in dire need of Auto-Tune, 100 percent autobiographical and 100 percent full of shit – forever entwined the duo. James talked mad game, Marie wailed like a banshee and they both unspooled a narrative whereby love changed their cold-blooded ways. Of course, this was post-game positive spin of the highest order, but it's probably better that way.

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