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Sacha Jenkins tells Jalen Rose about the Rick James we don’t know

Rick James was a self-professed SuperFreak who received a second life in popular culture due to Dave Chappelle and his “I’m Rick James, bitch” sketches with Charlie Murphy. But he was additionally a nuanced man with a really distinctive journey who moved fluidly by means of genres to create his signature look and sound. My “Renaissance Man” visitor this week has managed to color the full image of James in his Showtime documentary, “Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James.“

“People have this perception of who he is, and some of that perception is probably true,” director Sacha Jenkins instructed me of his newest topic. “But, you know, people didn’t know that he went AWOL from the Navy and went to Canada and was in bands with Neil Young and played with Joni Mitchell and all these folks. His manager snitched on him, and he got fired. He had to serve time for deserting the military.”

Sacha stated James went again to Canada to flee the racism he felt in the US, however all of his contemporaries had gone to California. So he went to the West Coast.


“Rick, when he started out, he wanted to be a rock star. So when you look at the configuration, the full realization of the Rick James persona, he took a little from here and a little from there and a little from here, because he was authentic to rock and roll and authentic to soul and authentic to funk. He was able to create this persona that was contemporary to George Clinton and P Funk and all those groups, but very unique to himself,” Sacha instructed me. “And to be a brother at that time, who was able to move in so many different circles, that’s like being fluent in multiple languages. So he was a linguist on another level.”

Sacha can be fluent in lots of genres. He’s a journalist, filmmaker, musician and graffiti artist. He’s form of turn into the bard of hip-hop. And he has teamed up with the legendary rapper Nassir “Nas” Jones to create an epic Showtime project referred to as “Hip Hop 50,” which is able to mark a half century of an artwork kind that has outlasted its harshest critics and turn into a life-style and a heartbeat. It will debut later this year and run into 2023.

“It’s about three years of programing, various films and other projects that we and Mass Appeal are producing, directing. So ‘Hip Hop 50’ isn’t a film. It’s a program that is going to encompass lots of films that are inside of what people call the culture,” he stated. “So it’s not just break dancing or graffiti. It’s dancehall, reggae, it’s fashion. It’s all the things that encompass how we live and express ourselves.”

Sacha didn’t simply chronicle hip-hop. He lived it. He grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, the place his father was a filmmaker and taught at Howard University. But his dad and mom cut up up, and, in 1977, he and his mom moved to Queens. It was there when he first found the all encompassing motion of hip-hop, which his mom primarily deemed noise air pollution. She’d name the cops on the DJs taking part in loud music into the night time.

“And it turns out those DJs were called the Disco Twins, who are legendary. So I grew up being serenaded by hip-hop, but I also understood that my father was a documentary filmmaker. My mom is a painter,” he stated. “So I understand the value of culture. So this thing that became hip-hop when my mom told me to go outside and play in 1977, I had a Nerf football. Other people had magic markers … ‘I was like, what is this guy with a magic marker?’ He wrote his name on the slide. He’s like, ‘This is graffiti.’”

It was a revelation to Sacha. He grew to become a graffiti artist and chronicler of the artwork kind, which moved him exterior of his pure surroundings and helped develop his curiosity, his social group and his career. He stated it related him with children from totally different neighborhoods and financial statuses. He began a graffiti zine after which co-founded Beat Down Newspaper. He began writing for greater retailers, equivalent to Vibe and Spin, and co-authored “Big Book of Racism,” which grew to become a tv present. He began making documentaries.

Sacha Jenkins attends
Sacha Jenkins attends “Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James” Premiere at Tribeca Festival 2021 at Battery Park.
Getty Images for Tribeca Festiva

“Now I see myself as a shepherd, someone who is here to sort of make sure that our stories are told the right way from our perspective, because for so long they weren’t told by us. And it makes a huge difference,” he stated.

I really like graffiti. You see it throughout the Big Apple however you by no means see it in progress. These artists are acrobats climbing to overpasses, buildings, practice yards to tag underneath the cover of night time. So he spilled a bit extra about the means of tagging trains again in the day, and let’s simply say it was a contact sport with turf wars.

Sacha grew up throughout from the Astoria Houses and he stated hip-hop founding father Melle Mel recorded his first ever music in his constructing as a result of there was a jazz musician with a four-track who additionally lived there. He went to the similar junior faculty as Nas. They got here up collectively in the business and are kindred spirits.

“His dad was a musician. My dad was a filmmaker. I grew up with people better looking than me, smarter than me, more creative than me. But they didn’t have the cultural advantages that he had and I had,” Sacha stated.

Sacha — who’s in two bands, together with the White Mandingos with rapper Murs and a punk group referred to as the 1865 — has immersed himself in so many worlds together with the punk scene the place he stated white children would slam dance and stage dive. He additionally stated they’d toss White Castle hamburgers at reveals, which is disrespectful to the crave case. But he famous that music is a launch for everybody, no matter your background or race.

“I had the benefit of experiencing all of that with music and learning that bouncing from culture to culture … It’s all the same thing. It’s just a different expression. The white kid who likes heavy metal, likes his boombox and beer, girls, and the hip-hop kid is the same kid.”

But Sacha holds some robust opinions. Although some folks have referred to as the White Mandingos’ music “rap rock,” he stated he isn’t a fan of the style, calling it “garbage.” When I requested him for his prime 5 rappers of all time, he gave me an awesome checklist: Nas, Ghostface Killah, Queens native G Rap, Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan, which he chronicled in his “Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men” documentary.

While he didn’t put Jay Z on that checklist, he stated the mogul was certainly one of the most vital folks in the tradition. In reality, he stated Jay Z was accountable for him making his 2015 “Fresh Dressed” documentary about the historical past of vogue in hip-hop. The seed of the movie began out as a business for Rocawear, however Sacha satisfied the Roc Nation boss that it must be expanded right into a full movie.

“I’m very grateful for Jay Z because I might not be where I’m at if he didn’t give me an opportunity,” Sacha stated.

As for a musician’s biopic he’d prefer to direct, he didn’t hesitate to say Jimi Hendrix. But Sacha might be fairly busy proper now. And I’ll do the calculations in 2023 when “Hip Hop 50” finishes, however I can safely assume that 90 % of the documentaries I shall be consuming over the subsequent three years can have Sacha Jenkins’ identify splashed by means of the credit. And that’s one heck of a footprint.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the school hoops world in the early ’90s. He performed 13 seasons in the NBA, earlier than transitioning right into a media persona. Rose is at the moment an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He govt produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” collection, is the writer of the best-selling ebook, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a vogue tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public constitution faculty in his hometown.


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