Rhymfest’s Jackson Tribute Draws Praise

All this comes to mind because of Rhymefest. On his amazing “Man in the Mirror,” a free “dedication album” that at press time was available at www.rhymefeststore.com, the Chicago rapper tells lucky downloaders that “labels is falling in the streets.” But that attitude is probably the least remarkable element of “Man in the Mirror.” Chiefly, this is art made purely for art’s sake, a sly tribute to Michael Jackson that derives its energy from the sheer joy of creation, unsullied by red tape and market concerns.

"Man in the Mirror” could not be more unauthorized. {tag Rhymefest}, producer Mark Ronson and guests including Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah and singer Daniel Merriwether crafted a touching, hilarious and refreshingly rebellious album built around classic Jackson songs, recorded interviews with the singer and bootlegged outtakes from the "Thriller” sessions. Getting clearance for these samples would take years, if they happened at all, and the clock is ticking — authorities could shut down this joint like a Chicago speakeasy at any moment.

The magically carefree tone is set with the opening track, "Cipher,” featuring Jackson beat-boxing on a static-filled recording with Rhymefest, complete with "hee-hees” and rhythmic glottal stops. The "Thriller Skit,” featuring obscure recordings of Jackson recording voiceovers for his biggest album, segues into some hot mid-’70s Jackson 5 grooves rapped over by ‘Fest and worked over by Ronson, the producer behind Lily Allen‘s "Alright, Still” and Amy Winehouse‘s "Back to Black.”

It’s anyone’s guess where Rhyme-fest and Ronson got some of these dialogue snippets and loose tracks — archivists who hear this tribute must be salivating. But "Man in the Mirror” is important because it could be the shape of things to come.

Rhymefest‘s 2006 disc "Blue Collar” only moved modest numbers, so what is a rapper to do when his completed second disc, "El Che,” gets delayed by J Records and, as he raps on "Breakadawn,” it’s not going to be available until "spring or summer, or whenever J Records gets that thing together”? Simple — you go renegade and release your own thing.

The most obvious historical predecessor is Danger Mouse‘s "The Grey Album,” a disc that took samples from The Beatles "White Album” and mixed them with raps from Jay-Z‘s "Black Album.” Cease-and-desist letters shut down the collection, but not before it was downloaded millions of times and established Danger Mouse as a superstar producer.

With those kinds of stories in the pop music history books, Rhymefest‘s move makes solid sense. Not only could he put rocket boosters under his career, but he’s also created a stone-cold underground classic. If "Man in the Mirror” represents a lawless future for music, well, viva anarchy.

Source: http://newsok.com/article/3196611/1201227275 

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