NEW YORK (AP) — When Michael Jackson’s record label released his first posthumous album in 2010, a year after the King of Pop’s sudden death, producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins was asked to work on the project.
“I was asked to be on that album and to produce like five songs, but I turned it down,” he said. “I just felt like it wasn’t time.”
Years later, the hitmaker for Destiny’s Child and Whitney Houston — who worked heavily on Jackson’s 2001 comeback album, “Invincible” — says he now feels comfortable producing Jackson’s music again. He produced the title track from the upcoming album, “Xscape,” out May 13.
“For me it wasn’t about the label, it wasn’t about the estate’s approval; it wasn’t about all of that,” he said. “I had a personal relationship with Michael, (so) it was about, ‘What would he want from this? What would he want it to sound like now?'”
“Xscape” was executive produced by Timbaland and includes songs Jackson recorded in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the tracks are taken from early recording sessions for successful albums such as “Bad” and “Dangerous.”
The first single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” was written with Paul Anka and premiered at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday night when Usher danced to the song. A bonus version of the track features Justin Timberlake.
Jerkins said he and Jackson originally started work on the song “Xscape” in 1999 when they recorded the “Invincible” album. He revisited the track in 2003 and retouched it this year for the new eight-track album.
“Even when Michael was alive, we never stopped working on the song ‘Xscape,'” he said. “It was one of those songs where he specifically said to me, ‘It has to see the light of day one day.'”
Jerkins said he visited Jackson in 2007 in Ireland where they were “vibing out,” but didn’t focus on creating music exclusively.
“And I then I spoke to him — I would say 2008, 2009, something like that — and he was telling me, ‘I’m getting ready to do another album. You gotta get to work. Start working on ideas,'” he recalled. “And then he passed away.”
Jerkins, who has produced hits for Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and Brandy, is working on new music with Rihanna and Ariana Grande. He said he was initially nervous about including “Xscape” on the Jackson album, which also includes a song produced by StarGate, whom Jackson initially wanted to collaborate with in 2007 because of the Swedish team’s work with Ne-Yo.
“I was like, ‘What’s the other stuff going to sound like?’ I don’t even know if I want my song to be on there if the other stuff ain’t right,” Jerkins said.
But after the hearing the full record, he relaxed.
“Everyone did a really great job on this project,” he said.