Five years ago, one of the greatest and most controversial entertainers in a generation died. Rick James, who helped bring R&B and funk to the masses and inspired an early wave of hip-hop with songs like “Super Freak” and “Give It to Me Baby,” died of heart failure August 6, 2004. Following his struggle with drugs and a stint in jail, James received a second wave of popularity when he appeared on an episode of “Chappelle’s Show” and Chappelle turned the phrase “I’m Rick James, bitch!” into a household phrase.
But his real legacy is being carried on by daughter Ty. In the five years since her father’s passing, she has been working on a number of projects that will pay tribute to her dad’s life and career, including a feature film and a stage musical. Though she remains tight-lipped about many of the projects, she admits that “the exact person that needs to play him has pretty much agreed to do it.” She wouldn’t say who that actor is, but she did bring up the fact that Eddie Murphy is a good friend of the family.
She is also launching a musical career of her own, though for a long time that went against Rick’s wishes.
“For a number of years, he wasn’t even aware of me going into the studio, because he was trying to keep me sheltered,” she said. “He always told me, ‘I don’t want you going into the industry! It’s dangerous!’ But I’m his only daughter, so he was just trying to protect me from the lifestyle that he led.”
Her dad’s lessons didn’t fall on deaf ears. “As far as drugs are concerned, I don’t do anything white because of him,” she said. “I’ve never had the urge to do cocaine. For him, it was the lifestyle. He was somewhat miserable, and that’s why he resorted to those types of things.”
Time has given her perspective on her father’s drug abuse. “I’ve been able to deal with it, because he accomplished so much in his life. If that’s the outlet that he chose to escape the world, what can I say about that? He gave so much of himself.”
Growing up with her father, Ty got to see a side of him that the public never saw. “My dad was an excellent father, but he taught me by example,” she recalled. “He taught me by his actions. ‘Do this or don’t do this, because I’m doing it’ — that was how he worked. My dad was a character who knew how to command a room. But there were a lot of things that saddened me as well. But those were the ups and downs in the life of a drug addict. We had a studio in the house, so I would sneak in with my producers, and we would be recording during moments where he was not with us. I don’t know if you know anything about a true drug abuser, but he would just not be with us for days at a time.”
Ty knows that her father’s work hasn’t been forgotten, as she sees his influence every day. “All of my peers have so much respect for my dad,” she explained. “Busta Rhymes is a really good friend of mine, and he did a tribute record for him. Everybody from Snoop to Kanye — they are totally aware of the effect that he had on the game. That gives me chills, the fact that all these guys know and respect my father.”