Rick James

Super Freak

Composed by Alonzo Miller / Rick James

Song Review by

Many music critics sneered when Rick James dubbed his sound "punk-funk" but there was an element of truth in it: like Prince and George Clinton, James showed no hesitating at adding edgy rock and new wave elements into his stew of funk and jazz stylings. His most successful cross-breeding experiment was "Super Freak," a new wave-tinged funk classic that became his biggest and most influential hit. Like many a Rick James song, the lyrics of "Super Freak" are obsessed with amorous concerns as they pay tribute to the kind of girl most mothers warn their sons about: "She’s a very kinky girl/The kind you don’t take home to mother/And she will never let your spirits down/Once you get her off the street." The music is surprisingly complex for what is essentially a soul-tinged pop song, combining a swinging verse melody with a lengthy bridge that builds from staccato call-and-response chants to gospel-inflected heights and a stomping, thoroughly exuberant chorus. Rick James’ recording of "Super Freak" keeps this complicated tune on course with a punchy arrangement that maintains maximum drive: the rhythm section punches out an infectious groove that bounces high and low while James engages in dueling vocals with a group of backup vocalists that includes the Temptations. This arrangement also throws in plenty of extra hooks that add color without distracting from the song’s flow, including Devo-styled synth drones and the dynamic saxophone solo from Daniel LeMelle that finishes the song on a high note. All these elements added up to a song that had funky grooves to spare but had an edgy sense of humor and electronic edge that made it as new wave as it was R&B. As a result, "Super Freak" became a major crossover hit that went top-five on the soul charts and top-20 on the pop charts. It has become a favorite oldie on both soul and rock radio and also gained a new lease on life when M.C. Hammer sampled a large portion of the song’s backing track for his monolithic hit "U Can’t Touch This."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Street Songs 1981 Motown 3:25
No Image 1984
Various Artists
Motown
No Image 1986 Motown
Rick & Friends 1992 Priority Records / Priority 3:28
No Image 1992
Various Artists
Alex 3:20
Hitsville USA, Vol. 2: The Motown Singles Collection 1972-1992 1993
Various Artists
Motown 3:21
Dance Expolsion, Vol. 2 1993
Various Artists
Polydor 3:26
Bustin' Out: The Very Best of Rick James 1994 Island/Def Jam / Motown / Universal Music 3:28
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Polystar (Japan) 3:26
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Priority
Funk Classics: The 80's 1995
Various Artists
Rebound Records 3:26
Art Laboe Killer Oldies 2 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 3:20
Art Laboe's Dedicated to You, Vol. 6 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 3:20
The Pallbearer 1996
Original Soundtrack
Hollywood 3:26
Old School, Vols. 1-5 1996
Various Artists
Thump Records
Strip Jointz: Hot Songs for Sexy Dancers 1996
Various Artists
Robbins Entertainment 3:27
The  Ultimate Collection 1997 Motown / Universal Music 3:24
Funky Milestones 1997
Various Artists
ZYX Music 3:25
Motown 40 Forever 1998
Various Artists
Motown 3:24
Party Time, Vol. 3 1998
Various Artists
SPG 3:14
Pure Funk 1998
Various Artists
Island/Def Jam / PolyGram 3:23
Chart Toppers: Dance Hits of the 80s 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records / Priority 3:28
Super Freaks 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:26
Shape Fitness Music: Cardio, Vol.3 2000
Various Artists
The Right Stuff / Capitol 3:09
Motown History, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Polygram 3:25
Party Time [SPG] 2000
Various Artists
SPG 3:14
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Rick James 2000 Motown / Universal / Uptown/Universal 3:25
Funky Grooves [Medalist] 2000
Various Artists
Medalist Entertainment 3:26
Jammin' Gold 2000
Various Artists
Q Records / Atlantic 3:26
Get Funky: Dance Hits Of The 70's 2000
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Solid Gold Soul: 80's Rhythm & Grooves 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:22
Funk Soul USA 2001
Various Artists
Goldenlane / Cleopatra 3:25
Old School Jams, Vol. 3 2001
Various Artists
SPG 7:07
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Rebound Records
Hit Me With Your 80's Box 2002
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:23
Anthology 2002 Motown / Universal Distribution 3:25
Disco Triple Set 2002
Various Artists
Time Music 3:19
100% Motown '80s 2002
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:24
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Motown '80s, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Motown / Universal Distribution 3:24
Funky Breaks & Sampled Soul 2002
Various Artists
Music Club Records 7:07
Gold Funk and Soul 2003
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:25
Atomic Funk 2003
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 3:24
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Universal / USM 3:18
Greatest Hits [Universal International] 2004 Motown 3:26
Old School Jams [SPG Box Set] 2004
Various Artists
SPG 7:07
Funk Explosion 2004
Various Artists
Koch 3:26
Ultimate Funk [Madacy] 2004
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:26
Best Hits 2004
Various Artists
WEA
Complete 80's Soul Weekender 2005
Various Artists
Warner Special Marketing 3:17
Super Freak Live 1982 2005 Eagle Vision
Gold Seal Presents 80s Funk Classics, Vol. 2 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Ultimate 16: Ultimate Funk 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:26
12"/80s: Pop 2006
Various Artists
UMVD 7:03
Motown Story [2006] 2006
Various Artists
Motown 3:18
The Definitive Collection 2006 Motown / Uni / Universal 3:24
Best of the 80's [Universal] 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
'80s Soul Gold 2006
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:24
Motown: The Ultimate Collection 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Essential Playlist: 20 Non-Stop Hits! Funk 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 3:23
Clubland, Vol. 10 2006
Various Artists
UMVD / Universal Distribution 3:37
Clubmix 2007 2006
Various Artists
UMVD / Universal Distribution
The Greatest Funk Hits of All Time 2006
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:27
Gold: Old School Jams 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 7:05
Number 1's: Dance 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:27
Best of Funk [Madacy] 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 3:23
Prime 17: The Greatest Funk Songs of All Time 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:27
Old School, Vol. 9 2007
Various Artists
Thump Records 3:24
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 7:05
Music for Dancing 2007
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:19
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Total Fitness 3:28
Best of Motown, Vol. 1 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins 2008
Original Soundtrack
Kedar 3:23
Motown 50 Fanthology 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Strategic Marketing 3:25
Motown: The Complete No. 1's 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Island/Def Jam / Universal Music 3:27
Now That's What I Call Motown! 2009
Various Artists
Motown 3:24
Don't Quit Music: '80s Flashback Dance Fitness (Exercise, Fitness, Workout, Aerobics, Running, Walking, Weight Lifting, Cardio, Weight Loss, Abs) 2009
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:55
Floorfillers: 80s Club Classics 2009
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:25
Dance Flick [Soundtrack] 2009
Original Soundtrack
Lakeshore Records 3:25
To Dad From Motown 2009
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:23
Motown 50 Fanthology 2009
Various Artists
Motown 3:25
The Firm [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2009
Original Soundtrack
Universal Distribution 3:24
Push It! Classic Party & Dance Tracks 2010
Various Artists
UMTV / Universal Music 3:24
Total Motown 2010
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:25
Icon 2010 Motown 3:24
Icon Celebrates Black History 2011
Various Artists
Hip-O
Funky Grooves 2011
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:19
Essential R&B, Vol. 1 2011
Various Artists
Real Talk Entertainment
Motown Anthems 2012
Various Artists
Universal Music TV
Motown the Musical: Originals – The Classic Songs That Inspired the Broadway Show 2013
Various Artists
Universal
Super Freak: Halloween Dance Party 2013
Various Artists
Universal 3:24
The  Complete Motown Albums 2014 Motown 3:24
From Motown With Love 2015
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:23
Suicide Squad: The Album 2016
Original Soundtrack
Atlantic 3:26
20 #1's: Party Hits
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:24
202 Motown Songs: The Complete #1's
Various Artists
Island/Def Jam / Universal Music 3:27
Best 1200 Disco
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 3:25
Best of Disco, Vol. 4
Various Artists
PolyGram
Body By Jake: 80s Flashback Dance Fitness
Various Artists
Body By Jake 2:55
Bone Shakers
Various Artists
Spectrum Music
Downtown Funk
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:25
No Image
Various Artists
3:27
Funk [UMTV]
Various Artists
Universal 3:24
Greatest Ever Halloween
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
Old School Gold Box Set
Various Artists
Thump Records 3:24
Party Time
Various Artists
SPG
Roller Rink Rewind
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / Universal Music / Warner Music 3:22
Soul Man
Various Artists
UMOD
That's Disco: 60 All-Time Classics
Various Artists
Polygram TV
The Best of Disco & Funk
Various Artists
Universal 3:22
The Motown Story
Various Artists
Universal 3:23
This Is the Sound Of...80s
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:24
blue highlight denotes editor's pick