Icon. Legend. Visionary. All of these words describe this generation’s number one show stopper – none other than Michael Jackson. As the world mourns his death and the courts sift through his estate, we are left to savor all that MJ left behind. In witnessing the marathon of tributes to his songs on the radio and his videos on MTV, we finally realize the true impact that Michael had across decades. His half-century of life was filled with intrigue and turmoil, but he never left us hanging. There was always a hot MJ tune to shake my body down to the ground to. We are all indebted to Michael for his musical genius. As a friend stated, he gave up his childhood so that we could be entertained throughout ours. He was a true entertainer as he dazzled us with his performances, leaving us in awe.
The songs that comprise Michael Jackson’s catalogue of music are for the most part all classics. With his portfolio of winners, questions are surfacing as to why we no longer have artists who are true performers in every sense of the word. Who is our next Michael Jackson? How will anyone ever match the star power of the number one selling artist of all time? Will we ever have another album to play all the way from the first song to the last? Can any music video in this day and age ever match the creative cinematography of Thriller? All of these questions have us asking, where is the real music? The unknown leaves us suffering from our loss. As I reminisce about the moonwalk and the white glove, I’m holding back the tears. He was magical, our very own Peter Pan.
It is undeniable that Michael changed the world, but he had a particularly strong impact on hip hop artists, music, and culture. From the “ABC” Jackson 5 sample that Naughty by Nature used for “You Down Wit OPP” to the “Human Nature” sample used by Nas in “It Aint Hard to Tell,” Michael Jackson had a direct and indirect influence on hip hop. Michael was the first to bring edgy, street-inspired dance moves to MTV as the only Black artist to be in heavy rotation during the early eighties on the network. Like hip hop music and culture, Michael broke through racial and economic barriers as people from all walks of life listened to and enjoyed his music. Michael was international, just like hip hop. At his concerts, there were faces of all hues, much like a Jay-Z concert in middle America.
Like a hip hop artist at heart, Michael Jackson was not afraid to be vocal about oppression and the need for equality in tunes such as “Black or White” and “Man in the Mirror.” Michael was about peace and love. He was compassionate and giving. Michael made a “better place for you and for me” along with the entire human race while toppling racial stereotypes. We could all come together to enjoy great music – every race and ethnicity. Michael Jackson was a visionary. He was before his time as he seamlessly reinvented himself with every album. We were glued to the television for his video premiers as he stayed relevant throughout time. He was always fresh and ground-breaking. He was a leader, not a follower. In other words, he was and still is a trend setter. His originality was priceless and he always gave back. A true humanitarian, he never forgot where he came from. Michael Jackson is hip hop. Microphone check 1-2, 1-2…is this thing on?
- Kamille Wolff