“Super Freak” by Rick James
The word “freak”, as used in this song, is still an extant in the mainstream lexicon some decades after this track’s release. Within such a context, it basically points to someone with a very-strong, uninhibited sexual appetite. And “Super Freak”, arguably more so than any other pop media ever, has contributed to this term’s widespread usage.
Indeed based on the title, we observe that the late Rick James is not only referring to someone who is a “freak” but even “super” in that regard. And for starters, said individual is a female. Moreover, there’s actually a lot revealed during the first verse, even though it’s pretty terse. For instance, this lady is obviously a “street” girl, whom Rick does the favor of taking out of such a setting.
And apparently he is doing so for his own personal reasons, that being sex. In fact it would appear that she is very talented in that particular field. Or more to the point she makes the vocalist happy in that regard, even though she isn’t the type of woman whom one would conventionally marry.
That is to say that the “girl is a super freak”, which is another way of saying that she is “pretty kinky”. The lyrics do not expound too much on what exactly these terms mean to the singer. But we’re familiar with Rick James and the word “freaky” enough to know that what he is implying is she being aroused and sexually adventurous. For instance in the second verse, it is revealed that she is down with having group bedroom fun.
More about this “Super Freak”
It also becomes more evident that her relationship with the vocalist is akin to her being his groupie. For example, she and her friends tend to meet up with the singer after his shows. And in terms of her physical appeal, he is obviously very attracted to her. In fact it wouldn’t be out of order to suggest that Rick may have written this song, even if it was largely in jest, about one of his actual romantic partners whom he was enamored with.
Whoever this lady may be, this “super freak”, she knows how to make Rick – quite a freak himself – happy in bed. And it’s like to him, that’s all that really matters (and the fact she looks good).
And going a bit out a limb here, it can also be put forth that James is perhaps advocating the idea of ‘getting a girl off the street’, taking her home (though not to mother) and perhaps letting her serve as a steady romantic/sexual partner. For after all, such individuals may prove ‘kinkier’ than your average lady. And judging by the pre-chorus, he’s not the type to judge a female based on her lifestyle. Rather what’s more important to him is her sex appeal.
But all of that noted, at the end of the day the purpose this song serves is biggin’ up this “super freak(y)” lady whom the singer feels fortunate to have in his life.
Facts about “Super Freak”
Rick James (1948-2004), a ‘funk rocker’ who was born in Buffalo, New York, had many notable hits during his day. But “Super Freak” is considered by many to be his signature song.
For instance, this single is derived from his most-successful studio album (out of 13 overall), 1981’s “Street Songs”. Also it is responsible for the only Grammy the King of Punk Funk ever earned during his lifetime. And that was due to the fact that he received songwriting credit for a track, “U Can’t Touch This” (1990) by MC Hammer, which heavily samples this one. And that particular tune took home the trophy for Best R&B Song in 1991.
But to note, “Super Freak” received a Grammy nomination of its own, in 1982. I was actually honored in the category of Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. However, that accolade was rather awarded to Rick Springfield’s hit song “Jessie’s Girl” (1981).
Super Freak was able to earn such mainstream rock notoriety despite the fact that it was banned from MTV, which at the time was pretty much solely a rock-music channel. A conventional understanding of history would dictate that this was due to the fact that, at its foundation, said network was racist, as in having a thing against playing videos by Black artists.
However Carolyn B. Baker, a high-level executive within the organization at the time, has rather asserted that it was her personal decision not to play the clip. And the reason why was because she did not want “the first Black video on MTV” to be one that objectified women, as she felt James had done with this particular visual.
“Super Freak” also topped Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play list. Additionally, it has been certified gold stateside.
Also in 2006, a Dutch act called Beatfreakz remixed this song. That version actually charted in more countries than the original, including the UK, though not necessarily in higher positions.
Rick James wrote this tune along with a songwriter named Alonzo Miller. According to Rick, the role Miller primarily served was in encouraging him to tone down the lyrical content. And James, himself having been a multi-instrumentalist, also produced the track.
The saxophonist playing in the outro, whom the vocalist verbally encourages, is one Danielle LeMelle.
This song features backup vocals performed by the classic Motown group The Temptations – specifically members Melvin Franklin (1942-1995), Dennis Edwards (1943-2018), Richard Street (1942-2013) and Otis Williams – whom Rick James gives a shoutout to in the bridge.