3 July, 2009@9:54 am
Sure, Michael Jackson’s legacy has been sampled to death, carving out a number of hit records for various artists including Jay-Z (“Izzo”), Kanye West (“Good Life”), Nas (“It Ain’t Hard To Tell”), and tons more. What you may not be aware of however is how many times Michael has tapped these same artists to appear on his own records. Here are MJ’s top collaborations with hip-hop artists of all time. No bootlegs or unofficial releases are included in this list.
10. “Jam” (feat. Heavy D) – “Jam” was 1992 single from Michael’s Dangerous album, an album produced with Teddy Riley, as he stepped into the 90′s with the era’s disposable New Jack Swing sound. While the single’s ambitious video featured MJ on the court with the other MJ (Michael Jordan), it also marked the first time he would share mic time with a rapper: Heavy D. Heavy was in his element here, at the time being looked at as the “safe rapper” to go to for projects like this, much different than Biggie’s mismatched appearance on “This Time Around”.
9. “HIStory (The Ummah Remix)” – Wha-huh? Just how far do the arms of J. Dilla reach? Yes, Jay Dee was commissioned to remix Michael Jackson in 1997 for “HIStory”, the lead single for MJ’s greatest hits album of the same name. Unfortunately, while the honor was great, “HIStory” was not a hit for MJ. Still, it’s interesting to hear Michael over a beat that could have essentially went on A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes, & Life, with Dilla’s trademark snapping drums and hollowed out basslines.
8. “2 Bad” (Refugee Camp Remix) / “Blood On The Dancefloor (Refugee Camp Remix)” – In 1997, The Fugees were just coming off of their success with The Score, and Michael Jackson tapped them for his remix album, Blood On The Dancefloor. While Lauryn was not involved with the project, Wyclef got busy on a pair of remixes, the highlight being the lead single and title track, where ‘Clef took it back to basics sampling classic breaks for Michael to rock over. One can also surmise that this was the highlight of John Forte’s career.
7. “This Time Around” (feat. Notorious B.I.G.) – On paper, this seems like a natural contender for the best Michael Jackson hip-hop collabo of all time, however the end result wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. This was recorded and finished when both artists were alive, back in 1995. The problem with it is the overly pop production of Maurice Joshua that didn’t mesh with the type of records we were used to hearing B.I.G. on. Listening to it now, it sounds incredibly dated, however Biggie comes nice with his, shouting out Mike at the end of the verse. Who wants to put money on Diddy remixing the song for 2010 remix single?
6. “Butterflies (Trackmasters Remix feat. Eve)” – After the success of “You Rock My World”, Mike stuck to the script with the hip-hop remixes, again employing the Trackmasters to reinvent his sound for Invincible. The duo cheekily jacks Redman’s “Tonites Da Night”, as Michael sings “I want to be with you toooniiiight”, with Eve backing him up. Typically we’d frown on this kind of thing, but Mike sounds so cool on this vibey, smoothed out track.
5. “Billie Jean (Kanye West Remix)” – Of course if you ask Kanye, he’ll tell you this is the number 1 Michael Jackson hip-hop collabo of all time, but hey. It’s kind of hard to improve upon perfection, so when word got out that Kanye was remixing “Billie Jean” for Thriller’s 25th Anniversary reissue, hopes got sky high, but the final product was a bit of a let down. ‘Ye got rid of the song’s trademark bassline, opting instead for the symphonic string section sound found on Late Registration, as well as some hard-hitting drums. We’d expected Kanye to drop a hot sixteen bars, but apparently this is one case where he kept his ego in check, and remained silent.
4. “I Want You Back” – Jackson 5 (Z-Trip Remix) – Z-Trip’s remix of Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back” for the 2005 Motown Remixed compilation is the ultimate love letter to the song, as he essentially breaks down and reconstructs the song, with different drum patterns, extended bridges, and a cut section. It’s hard to imagine that this song could sound as strong without the familar piano intro, but Z pulls it off with ease.
3. “The Girl Is Mine 2008 (feat. will.i.am)” – One of the other tracks from Thriller’s 2008 reissue showed the potential of what MJ could sound like with current production. Rather than simply remixing Mike’s old collabo with Paul McCartney, will crafted an entire new song with a new hook, new lyrics, and completely fresh sound for the king of pop, proving that the comeback that never happened may have been possible had he lived.
2. “Unbreakable (feat. Notorious B.I.G.)” – Taking a page from B.I.G.’s “Unbelievable”, this 2004 posthumous collabo almost recreates Biggie’s original beat, but flips the script on it so it’s not a complete bite (much like Diddy did in his early Bad Boy days). Big’s verse was reused from Shaq’s (!) debut album title track “You Can’t Stop The Reign”, however we predict in time it will be remembered for his verse here. This track was one of the lesser known selections from Invincible, as something else reigned supreme that year….
1. “You Rock My World (Trackmasters Remix feat. Jay-Z)” – This is easily Mike’s best collaboration with a rapper, hands down. The song dropped in 2001, two weeks after the September 11th attacks, and two weeks after Jay-Z dropped his classic, The Blueprint. This was the lead single to his Invincible LP, and was incredibly relevent at the time, getting major spins from just about every radio deejay in every market. Jay-Z’s opening verse sealed the deal.
Honorable Mention: Akon – “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough 2008″ – While we liked Akon’s treatment of the song for the 2008 reissue of Thriller, this was actually a cover of the song, not a collaboration.
Dishonorable Mention: Fergie – “Beat It 2008″ – Really, bitch? Get your ass off this song.
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