February 1981: Rick James Releases "Give It to Me Baby"

Rick James Give It to Me Baby cover art
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(Motown)

Rick James would change the game of R&B/soul music with the release of fifth studio album, Street Songs. The album's bold, brash on the realities of "street life" would resonate with black America, influencing many young artists along for the ride.

"Street Songs is kind of like the first gangster record," rapper Ice Cube told Wax Poetics. "I felt like he was talking to me. It was the most hard-core record you could get at the time. There wasn’t anything else that I could remember—maybe a couple of rap records was out—but as far as R&B, this was about as hard and on the edge as you could get."

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James would precede Street Songs with the album's first single, "Give It to Me Baby." Released on February 20, 1981, it was an immediate hit, spending more than a month at #1 on the R&B chart. The track peaked at #40 on the Hot 100 the week of July 18, 1981. The #1 song in America that week: Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes."

"I wrote it because I had come home one night and my old lady was in bed and I wanted to mess around, but I was too drunk," James admitted in an interview (via Songfacts). "So I sat at the piano and wrote the song."

James was the first to admit that it's not the deepest or most meaningful of songs: "'Give It To Me Baby' was another silly song," he told Musician magazine. "Matter of fact, most of my songs that are hit records are silly. Most of my serious stuff is stuck on albums."

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