Saturday, June 27, 2009

Micheal Jackson's Rappers

I was going to stay out of the whole MJ thing, just because I figured you were all already suffering from media overload. And also, I was assuming another rap blog would field this topic, but it seems nobody has. Heck, I don't think anyone's even thrown up a zshare of T-Ski Valley's "Billie Jean" yet. And so it falls to me. 8-)

You couldn't call yourself the king of pop during the 80's and 90's without at least briefly crossing path with hip-hop. Michael Jackson did so, though less often than you might've expected. Here's a look at each of them.

Vincent Price: This one might feel like a bit of a stretch, but Vincent Price's contribution to "Thriller" are labeled as a rap in the album's liner notes, and I guess technically they are. And, considering "Thriller" predates "Haunted House of Rock" by a good year, you could make a pretty solid case that Vincent Price started horrorcore (lol)! Every DJ in the land also owes a debt of gratitude for that maniacal laugh, which has possibly appeared on more records than Jackson himself.

Heavy D: Janet Jackson and Heavy D already scored a hit with their collaboration "Alright" in 1989. And just in case you'd forgot, he brags about it in his verse for "Jam," his first collaboration with Michael, in 1991. He worked with Michael again in 1995, appearing on the Masters At Work remix of "Rock With You."

Nancy Cartwright: Also in 1991, Michael wrote and produced (uncredited) the Bart Simpson (voiced as always by Nancy Cartwright) rap single, "Do the Bartman," which became a huge hit. It spawned the sequel, "Deep, Deep Trouble," which didn't have Micheal's involvement, but was produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Aqil Davidson: Still in 1991, Teddy Riley produced the Dangerous album track "She Drives Me Wild." So unsurprisingly, he put his Wrecks-N-Effect boy Aqil on for a quick verse in the middle of the song. He raps to the girl whose look is driving Michael wild ("far from Medusa"), and says, "you've got me lookin' like Buckwheat." Whatever that means.

L.T.B.: Most people remember the rap verse from "Black Or White" as it was lip-synced by Macaulay Culkin in the video. But anyone with ears could tell it was a grown man doing the actual rapping. That man is credited as L.T.B. in the album's liner notes. I don't know anything else about him; that name may well be an alias.

Naughty By Nature: In 1995, the second version of the "Scream" single dropped, featuring two remixes, including one by Naughty By Nature on the "Street" side, with raps by Treach, and a couple vocal drops by Vinnie. The bulk of the remix sounds like a clumsy, half-assed mess; but the part where Treach drops his verse sounds alright.

Notorious B.I.G.: On the HIStory compilation album, The Notorious B.I.G. is featured on "This Time Around," one of the new songs recorded for this largely "greatest hits" release. Oddly, his verse is about his friend who he thinks is stealing from him... I wonder if Michael realized what Biggie was gonna rap about on his record: "I'ma kill a nigga; I ain't jokin'. Endo smoke got me chokin'; I'm hopin' the fool comes slippin' so I can blow him open." Still, the working relationship must've been good, because Biggie returned to drop a verse on "Unbreakable" off of his Invincible album in 2001. ...Despite dying in 1997. That's a little ghoulish of whoever decided to assemble that, isn't it?

Shaq: When you look at Mike's list of chosen hip-hop collaborators, I think one word will spring to mind before all others: "integrity." And when you're all about the art, putting aside the publicity and the image to only work with the most talented, best of the best, there's one man you go to before all others. If you're organizing a basketball game. But for some reason, Mike got confused and asked Shaquille O'Neal ("the man of steel organism") to rap for him instead. So he kicks a little verse at the end of "2 Bad" from HIStory, including his signature fake laugh.

Will.i.Am: Recently, on his 25th anniversary album (there was also a single), he remade "The Girl Is Mine" (off the Thriller album) with Will.i.Am in Paul McCartney's role. Or, more accurately, I think they just remixed Paul out, because Micheal's vocals sound the same as the original. In any case, they called it "The Girl Is Mine 2008," and it was a bad idea. He also did the same thing with "Pretty Young Thing," calling it "(P.Y.T.) Pretty Young Thing 2008."

Kanye West: Kanye West did the same as Will.I.Am, producing a remix, featuring a verse from himself, called "Billie Jean 2008 (Kanye West Mix)." I could be wrong, but I don't think Michael was involved in recording these cash-ins.

...And unless I missed someone (hit me up in the comments, but remember, unofficial mash-ups don't count), that's it. Of course, that's not to say that more producers won't take more old Jackson vocal tracks, and edit together more collaborations in the future. We'll just have to wait and see.

Update 7/1/09: I KNEW I'd forget a couple! Here are three more of MJ's rappers:

Eve: The Trackmasters remixed Jackson's 2001 single "Butterflies," featuring a some traditional old school samples, giving it laid-back, soulful feel. It also features two verses from Eve, who manages not to disrupt the mood.

Jay-Z: "You Rock My World" was the debut single off of Invincible. A separate single was later issued featuring the Trackmasters' remix containing a lot of Biz Markie vocal samples and two verses from Jay-Z.

John Forte: In 1997, Micheal's people put out a remix EP called Blood On The Dance Floor - HIStory In The Mix. One of the featured tracks was the Refugee Camp Remix of "2 Bad" (which was on the original version of HIStory), which now included vocals by John Forte.

Update 12/4/15: Hey, I noticed this post is riding up the "Most Popular Posts," column, and I thought I should update it with what came out since this was written back in 2009. They've put out more posthumous releases, with guest appearances by guys like Akon and Justin Beiber. But just one more with a rapper...

50 Cent: The album Michael, released in 2010, featured all unheard Jackson songs including one called "Monster," with raps by 50 Cent. It's clearly an unfinished song and filled with vocals from other Jackson songs to flesh it out, and there are rumors that other parts were sung by an impersonator. But nobody had to fake the verse from 50, who comes in with an odd mishmash of bragging about how hard he is, scary monster movie imagery to stay on theme, and just generally heralding the return of MJ. There was even a single for "Monster" in 2011 with a terrible house remix.


  1. hey, you missed "you rock my world" with jay-z and "butterflies rmx" with eve

    and I read in an old "Bad"-era article, that there was a plan for a Run DMC feature on "Bad"


  2. Oh yeah... I remember that Eve remix now that you say it, but totally didn't know about the Jay-Z one. Had to look it up online. Gonna check that one out then update this post. Thanks!

  3. P.s. - I wish that Run DMC collab happened... would've been dope.

  4. interesting post, props

    Dope Hip-Hop books –

    Check The Technique
    Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
    How To Rap
    Classic Material

  5. what? did that say that Vinnie produced? I had no idea he had any hand in Naughty production, and much less so on a Michael Jackson remix!! Learn new shit everyday!

  6. that biggie verse on invincible was an old verse taken from shaq's album. & naughty by nature produced that Scream remix didn't they? aka DJ Kay Gee. Not Vinnie.

    1. Oh wow, never noticed that it was the same verse... Guess that's because I listened to the MJ song like... twice when it came out.

      And you're right about the Naughty Remix.

      Two good calls - thanks for posting!