Rick James’ T-shirt Hell

The Rick James Trust has filed a cease-and-desist order against Internet merchandise company Tshirthell.com for a shirt that reads “I’m Rick James’ Ghost, Bitch.” The company, however, has no intention of stopping sales, site creator Aaron Schwarz said.

“When you get a cease-and-desist order from someone who’s already dead, it’s not just freaky, it’s super freaky,” Schwarz told Pollstar, laughing. “We’re not going to stop selling it.”

The shirt’s phrase was inspired by a sketch from the Comedy Central program “Chappelle’s Show,” where comedian Dave Chappelle does comical impersonations of James. During the skit, Chappelle reenacts stories involving the singer’s life and spouts the line, “I’m Rick James, bitch.”

“Our shirt is about that Rick James parody; it’s a parody of a parody,” Schwarz said. “I mean, how much further removed from the real Rick James could it be?

“If you want to get technical about it, the shirt is really about Rick James’ ghost, not Rick James. These people can’t really believe they represent his ghost, do they?”

The shirt in question went up for sale immediately following the funk singer’s death last year and was moving very well, Schwarz said.

“Everyone was saying [the phrase] – college kids and stuff,” he explained. “We were like, ‘Well, they better stop going around saying [it] because he’s dead.’ So it’s more appropriate to be, ‘I’m Rick James’ ghost.'”

Schwarz added that the Rick James Trust and other T-shirt companies that own licensing rights to James’ name are involved in the cease-and-desist.

Lawyers for the Rick James Trust did not immediately return calls at press time.

This is not the first time the company has had trouble with angry celebrities. Recently, it sold apparel involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (“I f***ed the Olsen twins before they were famous”).

On the flip side, the company received an undisclosed settlement from Ozzy Osbourne last year over an accusation of copyright infringement. Apparently, the rocker’s label was selling shirts that closely resembled a Tshirthell design that said “F*** my family, I’m moving in with the Osbournes.”