Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Mawazine 2019: Will.i.am questions motives of Michael Jackson critics

The rapper and producer describes his friendship with the controversial pop star as one of joy

The musician Will.i.am spoke about the tech-industry's collection of personal data at the 2019 World Government Summit in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The musician Will.i.am spoke about the tech-industry's collection of personal data at the 2019 World Government Summit in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Will.i.am has defended his friendship with the late Michael Jackson.

When meeting press before a Black Eyed Peas performance at Morocco’s Mawazine Festival on June 25, the rapper and producer was asked about his relationship with the controversial pop star.

Jackson’s career and legacy is presently going through a critical reappraisal in light of the recently aired television documentary Leaving Neverland, which detailed allegations of sexual impropriety against minors.

Such was the graphic details of the accusations, made by the programme’s two central characters and alleged survivors, that numerous radio stations across Europe, North America and Australia dropped Jackson’s songs from their respective playlists. The producers of the series The Simpsons also removed a 1991 episode that featured his voice.

When it comes to reactions from musicians, Drake dropped the song Don't Matter to Me, which features Jackson's vocals, from his live shows. Meanwhile, Aussie singer Sia tweeted her support for the documentary's protagonists.

With Will.i.am reportedly being the last person to work with Jackson in the studio before he passed away in 2009, he said he can shed light on the inspiration the Thriller singer provided him as an artist.

“When it comes to facts, truths, opinions and manipulations, I don’t know where things stand. All I know is what that man was for me in my life and the joy I felt when listening to his music,” he said.

“I am not a politician, a judge or jury. I am just a friend. It’s no different than if you had a family member who did something, you are still going to love them. You don’t stop your love, you don’t take the pictures down from the wall. I am not saying he did something because I don’t know.”

Will.i.am went on to question the effectiveness and motivations of people and organisations boycotting Jackson’s work

“All I know is I go to the supermarket and I buy medicine and shoes from people who did horrific things to human beings. Do we takes shoes off the stores for certain things companies did to bring harm to people in the past? There are medicine companies that provided chemicals for the gas chambers. Do you take the medicine down now in 2019? There are so many reparations that have to be done, so why choose music and black people?”

Will.i.am's and Jackson's studio session reportedly resulted in songs which are yet to be released. In a 2016 interview with the British music website Digital Spy, he said they are part of stacks of tracks taken from recording sessions over the years.

“I got a hard drive full of songs that just sit there and we could go through them,” he said. “There’s Michael Jackson folders, there’s Whitney Houston folders, there’s a Mariah Carey folder.”

The Black Eyes Peas Moroccan stop is part of a world tour that, according to band member Taboo, is set to also stop in the UAE.

Speaking exclusively to The National before his solo gig at the Singapore Formula 1 after-party last October, he said a UAE show is in the works as part of the group’s latest global jaunt in support of the new album Masters of the Sun.

“I always have a fun time there and we want to bring our shows to either Abu Dhabi or Dubai. We have a lot of fans there and we love performing there,” he said.

“We will do that as part of our run of shows around Asia. We will do Australia and then Asia for some shows and then head your way.”

Updated: June 25, 2019 08:56 PM

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