Free Download: Mark Ronson, Rhymefest and Michael Jackson 'Man in the Mirror'
Mixtape Name: Man in the Mirror
Created By: Mark Ronson and Rhymefest
Overall Rating: 10 out of 10
Reviewed by: G.D
In 2006 Danger Mouse had production credits on some of the most popular albums of the year including Gnarls Barkley’s St Elsewhere and Gorillaz Demon Days, quite rightly earning himself the plaudit of producer of the year. In 2007 however that title belonged to Mark Ronson, an honour that was confirmed at the Grammy’s earlier this year where he triumphed over heavyweight producer (no pun intended) Timbaland. Ronson’s critical acclaim stems from his double platinum sophomore album Version and the majority of production credits on the multi-Grammy award winning record Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. How though does this darling of the music industry follow up these commercial successes? By teaming up with semi-conscious Chicago emcee Rhymefest to produce an underground mixtape tribute to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, that’s how! Never let it be said that the man sold out and forgot his affiliation with hip-hop.
Man in the Mirror is clearly a labour of love for both the emcee and producer, given Ronson’s admission to having shared a bedroom with Jackson at the age of nine and with Rhymefest openly admitting that he is the ‘the number one Michael Jackson fan in the world’. This affection is quite apparent in the skits that appear at regular intervals throughout the tape. These ingeniously allow Rhymefest through archived audio interviews to converse, seek advice and just plain chill with Jackson. The genuine nature of this tribute is also evident in the choice of samples, covers and remixes that make up the remainder of this mixtape. None of these apart from the final track ‘Man in the Mirror’ utilise any songs from the more ‘recent’ commercially successful Jackson albums such as Thriller, Bad or Dangerous. Instead Ronson focuses on the early catalogue, ensuring tracks by the Jackson 5 and from debut solo album Off the Wall feature heavily.
Lyrically Rhymefest continues to prove that he is one Chicago’s finest and confirms this writer’s belief that Chi-Town emcees are by far superior when it comes to conscious style hip-hop. Rhymefest’s ability to clearly annunciate every word and not compromise on his smooth flow whether the track is a banger such as ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ or a mellow cautionary tale such as ‘No Sunshine’ makes him a captivating emcee that can sustain an audiences’ attention. The high quality of lyricism is continued into the collaborations, with Talib Kweli on the aforementioned ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ which samples the Jackson 5 song of the same name and upcoming DC emcee Wale on ‘Get Up’. There is also a brief surprise cameo from Dres of Black Sheep on the Mark Ronson produced ‘Foolin’ Around’ which sees Rhymefest recounting his tales of cheating over a sample of the Jackson 5’s ‘Don’t Let Your Baby Catch You’. Despite all this it is producer Best Kept Secret that steals the show with two brilliant beats, the previously mentioned ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and the opening track ‘Can’t Make It’ in which Rhymefest spits over a horn intro and into a drum beat reminiscent of Rich Harrison that affirms Best Kept Secret lives up to his name.
Whilst the mixtape is packed full of high quality skits, tracks, and lyricism, Ronson and Rhymefest ensure that the object of their tribute has his time to shine. Jackson’s ‘I Can’t Help It’ acts as the introduction to the track that utilises it as a sample, ‘Breakadawn’, whilst ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ showcases the talent of the child star. In doing this the chief protagonists succeed in creating more that just a mixtape, Mark Ronson and Rhymefest have produced a fitting dedication to a once great artist whose influence on the music industry as a whole cannot be underestimated. Producer of the year? Ask the man in the mirror, one thinks the answer will come back a resounding yes
Download the tape here