MARK RONSON PRESENTS RHYMEFEST: MAN IN THE MIRROR
A bunch of commercial pop stars like Will.I.Am and Fergie are covering Michael Jackson hits on the 25th-anniversary edition of "Thriller." But elsewhere in the universe, the King of Pop is being honored with more high art.
Rhymefest's loving mix-tape dedication to Jackson is one of the best hip-hop albums out now and you don't even have to buy it. It's a free download on Rhymefest.com.
The Chicago rapper won a Grammy for co-writing "Jesus Walks" with Kanye West. And yet Rhymefest remains woefully obscure. "I'm big in the 'hood, but you're big in Germany," he raps on "The Cipher" over Jackson's syncopated beatbox. Which is too bad because Rhymefest is a funnier, less grandiose and more politically astute West.
Ronson and Rhymefest, who are better known in the United Kingdom, reach for esoteric references, nimbly sequencing long-forgotten Jackson 5 album cuts and Michael-tinged mid-'90s hip-hop on "Breakadawn" and "All That I've Got.''
Hilarity ensues when Jackson's old studio outtakes are patched together with more recent Rhymefest quips. "I love you very much," says Jackson tenderly. Fest responds: "Uh, I like you, too."
Jackson inspires Rhymefest to look in his own "mirror," spawning such street poetry as "Look at my bruises, beautiful because of how I got 'em." The depth of his lyricism goes well with the aching, yearning vocals that originally made Jackson famous.
-- Serena Kim
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