Most people are familiar with Rick James as a recording artist of the 70’s with such hits as “SuperFreak”. However, in Dave Chappelle’s “Chappelle’s Show”, a segment titles Charlie Murphy’s Hollywood stories put him back on the public radar again. Even though the sketch was a story about Rick James, those of us who have seen it remember Dave Chappelle’s portrayal more than we do the short cutaways to James himself.
This Halloween, a great recognizable and fun costume is Rick James from then Chappelle’s Show skit. The premise of the skit was that Charlie Murphy, brother of the famous Eddie Murphy, was retelling stories of events when Eddie began to rise to fame. Eddie’s brother, Charlie was a part of his entourage and spent a lot of time going out to clubs and partying with many other celebrities. It was during this volatile time in the 1980’s that most of Charlie’s stories take place. One of the most popular involves an interaction with Rick James in which a younger Charlie Murphy is pushed around by Rick James, and even punched in the forehead so hard that the imprint of James’ “unity” ring is left there for a week. During the sketch Rick James, played by Dave Chappelle struts around the club declaring, ” I’m Rick James!” which has now become a popular catchphrase among fans of the show.
To put together a Rick James costume you’ll need to start with a good wig. James wore his hair in many long braids with beads on the end of each. The hairstyle is vaguely reminiscent of Cleopatra, in that it is dark hair that falls to about the shoulder, and includes braided bangs across the forehead. When you’re choosing a wig, make sure that the shorter braids in front have beads on the end of them as well. This will help the effect of when you swing your hair to one side or the other, proclaiming your Rick James identity on Halloween night. There are good online sources for Rick James Wigs. Now that you have the hair all set, you’ll need to take a look at what clothing would be best. The first time we see Rick James in that skit he is wearing a classic suit from the 80’s. The cut is wide through the shoulders with angular shoulder pads, and narrow through the waist. The button is placed low and contributes to the triangular shape of the suit jacket. The pants worn at that time were styled very loosely and had pleats in the front by each hip. They were also slightly tapered and showed a lot of movement. To complete the look, you’ll need a pair of well shined men’s dress shoes and perhaps a gold chain or other jewelry as an accessory.
The only thing missing now, is the self-important, potentially-enebreated persona that Dave Chappelle perfected. If you don’t feel like buying the recorded Chappelle’s Show, you can find clips of the popular sketch at many different websites online.