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I'm Rick James: The Definitive DVD

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Much of Rick James' studio output isn't particularly memorable. His beats are often derivatives of P-Funk, and his lyrics tend toward unsubtle references to sex and drugs. (Two guesses what "Mary Jane" and "Love Gun" are about.) Yet as a performer he's wholly original, making his new collection of live performances and videos, I'm Rick James: The Definitive DVD, more essential than his actual albums. There's something oddly compelling about him, from his Evil Knievel-inspired duds, knee-high boots and glitter-splashed makeup to his crotch-thrusts and surprisingly reserved interview manner. (It's hard to reconcile the persona presented here with his portrayal on "Chappelle's Show," but it's nonetheless fun to try.) Unfortunately, most of the disc's concert footage is lip-synched, but the extra interviews make it worthwhile. Particularly spot-on is talk show host Dinah Shore's characterization of James: She calls him "either the funkiest punk, or the punkiest funker of them all." 4 out of 5 stars.

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