Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Return of The King

From a blog post in the LA Times about the possible appearance of The King of Pop, Michael Jackson at the Grammys

"But here's hoping he's not in the Staples Center next weekend. For one, if he is, every other artist and performance will be overshadowed by talk of what Jackson will/or won't do, and what he will look like. And besides, the Grammys should honor the past year in music, not help sell a re-issue for Sony.

But more important, Jackson has already received a better tribute than the Grammys can provide. It came by way of Chicago rapper Rhymefest, who, along with Grammy-nominated producer Mark Ronson (Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse), has crafted a Jackson "dedication album," which takes inspiration from Jackson's work to create compelling new songs. I first learned about the project, dubbed "Man in the Mirror," via the blog of the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, and I haven't been able to stop listening since I downloaded it on Friday."

Yeah it’s really good, but since I really feel like I can’t write about music (dancing about architecture and all) I’ll leave it up to a professional (and just copy and paste)

"But Rhmyefest is able to do what major label marketing firms have failed at doing, and that's trim Jackson of the tabloid drama and bring the focus back to his music. Rhymefest sets out right away to humanize Jackson, and bring him down to earth, portraying him as a simple man from Gary, Ind., one who still has the power to unite a desperate community (see "Mike the Mentor"). He also inter-splices the album with brief, but always humorous, "conversations" with Jackson, in which Rhymefest's inserts himself into dialogue from Jackson interviews.

It's a tribute to a hero, but also a call to action. The 25th anniversary of "Thriller" comes bloated with extra tracks and remixes from, Kanye West, Akon and Fergie, a disjointed smattering of superstars rather than a cohesive collection (as Rhymefest writes on his MySpace page, "As a fan, I expected a bit more"). By contrast, Rhymefest and Ronson have created a seamless offering, in which the rapper and the King of Pop play give-and-take with Jackson's songs of yore.

"Can't Make It" opens with a sample of "You Can't Win," and swipes and spices funk sounds over bombastic beats, mixing hip-hop dreams with a working-class reality. Rhymefest re-imagines "Dancing Machine" as a sparse club tune, and Rhymefest dramatically dances around a young Jackson covering "Ain't No Sunshine," re-crafting it as a song about tortured aspirations.

Rhymefest has more fun with Jackson's "Break of Dawn," turning it into the sly and soulful "Breakadawn," in which he wonders what Jackson's share of the Beatles catalog is worth. "Don't Let Your Baby Catch You" becomes the playful "Foolin' Around," and the title track brings it to a show-stopping close, with Rhymefest asking what he's done to lose the trust of his own mother.

After listening to "Man in the Mirror," it's clear there's only one Jackson Grammy pairing worth hearing: Jackson & Rhymefest, a duo that would probably make CBS suits cringe."

Doesn’t Rhymefest sound like a Lyricsist Lounge type event plus with a birth name like Che I wouldn't even bother with a street name

Anyway by any name he’s nice “He co-wrote "Jesus Walks and in 1997, he famously beat rapper Eminem in a freestyle battle at the Scribble Jam”

The Ronson/Rhymefest Man in The Mirror seems to be about half skits, but they’re pretty entertaining, though I don’t think Michael actually came into the studio to record them (but their impersonator is really really good)
You can download it here as a .zip

Yeah there’s some hottness there

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