VIBE digs into the archives for a candid 2001 interview with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson
Interview by: Regina Jones
VIBE: How does it feel to be re-entering the market and competing in sales with likes of ‘N Sync and Britney, kids who were being born at the height of your fame?
Michael Jackson: It’s a rarity I think/ I had #1 records in 1967 and 69 and still entered the charts in 2001 in #1. I don’t think any other artist has that range. It’s a great honor, I’m happy. I don’t what else to say. I’m glad people accept what I do.
What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?
I don’t categorize music. Music is Music. They change the word R&B to rock and roll. It’s always been, from Fats Domino to Little Richard, to Chuck Berry. How can we discriminate, it is what it is, it’s great music, you know.
What are your feelings about Hip-Hop?
I like a lot of it, a lot of it. I like the music. I don’t like the dancing that much. It looks like you’re doing aerobics.
What made you put Biggie on your album?
We were looking for a rap part and it wasn’t my idea, actually it was Rodney Jerkins, one of the writer producers working on the album. It was my idea to put a rap part on the song. And he said, I know just the perfect one – Biggie Smalls. He put it in and it worked perfectly. It was a rap that was never heard before.
Why did you choose Jay-Z on the remix of the first single?
Because he’s hip, he’s with kids today. They like his work. He tapped into the nerve of popular culture. He’s the new thing, the kids like him. It just made good sense.
What was it like for you to appear at New York’s hip hop concert Summer Jam as Jay Z’s guest?
I just showed up and gave him a hug. It was tumultuous explosion of applause and stomping, it was a lovely, lovely welcome and I was happy about that. It was a great feeling – the love, the love.
What are your thoughts on artists who emulate you such as Usher, Sisqo, Ginuwine, Destiny’s Child?
I don’t mind at all. Because, these are artists who grew up on my music. When you grow up listening to somebody you admire you tend to become them. You emulate them, to look like them, to dress like them. When I was little I was James Brown, I was Sammy Davis Jr., so I understand it, it’s a compliment.
Did you know that you were creating classics while recording Thriller and Off The Wall, both classics that hold up today?
Yes, not to be arrogant, but yes. Because I knew great material when I hear it and it just melodically and sonically and musically is so moving. It keeps the promise. That’s a special piece.
Do you feel that there is a larger acceptance of black artists?
Of course, I think people have always admired black music since the beginning of time if you want to go back to singing Negro spirituals. Today the market is just accepting the fact that that’s the sound, international, from Britney to ‘N Sync, they are all doing the R&B thing. Even Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, he always tell me, “Man we do R&B.” I said Barry, I don’t categorize it but it’s great music. I understand where he’s coming from. I love great music, it has no color, it has no boundaries, it’s all wonderful music. I love from the Beatles, to the Bee Gee’s, to the Mama’s and the Papa’s, to the Temptations, to Diana Ross and the Supremes, I love all of it. I love Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s a killer, I love it.
What’s life like as a single parent?
I never had so much fun in all my life. That’s the truth. Because I’m this big kid and now I get to see the world from the eyes of the really young ones. I learn more from them then they learn from me. It’s almost like hypothesis, because I’m constantly trying things and testing things on them to see what works and what doesn’t work. Children are always the best judges to monitor something, especially in my field or any other field. If you can get the kids, you’ve got it. That’s why Harry Potter is successful, it’s just a family oriented movie. You can’t go wrong there, you just can’t. That’s why I write lyrics when I write a song I try not to say things that offend parents because we want a wide demographic. I don’t want to be like that. We weren’t raised to be like that. No way, you know Mother and Joseph wouldn’t say stuff like that. You know them well enough.
Are the pressures of your celebrity status on your children?
Yes, absolutely, from the day that they were born.
What music do Prince and Paris listen to?
They listen to all my music and they love classical that plays all around the ranch. They like any good dance music.
How would you feel about your children becoming pop icons at 13 and 14 based upon your experience?
I don’t know how they would handle that it would be tough. I really don’t know. It’s hard because most celebrity children end up becoming self-destructive because they can’t live up to the talent of the parent. It’s hard. Fred Astair Jr., people used to say o him all the time, “Can you dance?” And he couldn’t dance. He didn’t have any rhythm. But his father as this genius dancer. It doesn’t mean that it has to be passed on. The competition is hard, it’s hard. I always tell them, you don’t have to sing, you don’t have to dance, be who you want to be as long as you are not hurting anybody. That’s the main thing. Don’t you think?
Tell me about how your creativity normally comes to you?
You don’t force it. Let nature take its course. I don’t at the piano and think, “I’m going to write the greatest song of all time.” It doesn’t happen. It has to be given to you. I believe it’s already up there before you are born and then it drops right into your lap, I it really does. It’s the most spiritual thing in the world. If people could witness what it feel like. When it comes it comes with all of the accompaniments, the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics and you’re just the source through which it comes, the channel, really, honestly. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my name on the songs written by Michael Jackson because it’s as if the heavens have done it already, I mean it. Like Michaelangelo would have this huge piece of marble from the quarries of Italy and he’d say, “Inside is a sleeping form. And he takes hammer and chisel and he’s just freeing it. It’s already in there. It’s already there.
What do you collect?
I like anything Shirley Temple, babies, children, Shirley Temple, Shirley Temple, lots of Shirley Temple. Little Rascals, Three Stooges, a lot of Three Stooges. I love Curly, he kills me. I my brothers we love Curly, we just love him. I love Curly so much that I did a book on Curly. I got his daughter and she and I wrote a book on him. Women have a hard time with all the slapping and poking and stuff, guys love that stuff. My mother loved Abbott and Costello, but we would say, “We want the Three Stooges.”
Tell me about your fashion selections.
It wasn’t conscious, it happens that way.
Is there anything that you would like to say to VIBE readers?
I love Quincy. I mean, I really do. I think he is wonderful soul and a beautiful person. And I think you should tell the readers, don’t judge a person by what they hear or even what they read unless they heard from the person. There is so much tabloid, sensationalism going on that’s totally false. Don’t fall prey to it, it’s ugly. I hate the tabloids. I’d like to take them all and burn them. I want you to print it, don’t believe tabloid press, tell them that. Don’t believe tabloid press. Some of them try to disguise themselves but they are still tabloid press.