I was raised in the projects, and when you're around violence and people dying and going to prison, the only thing you have for an escape is music. Michael Jackson was the spaceship that launched me to a different place – I'd listen to Off the Wall and Thriller and zone out.
Around 2005, he called me out of the blue and said, "We should work together." For six months, we talked on the phone at least once a week. We recorded new vocals for "P.Y.T." and "The Girl Is Mine." He vocal-trained for three hours to record a 20-minute session in my living room! I know he was depressed and sad about how the world looked at him, but to still be excited about doing music – going to countless rehearsals, flying around the world, knowing that people were going to judge him and criticize him . . . the dude was superhuman.
Around the same time I was working with Michael, I had the pleasure of working with James Brown. I told Michael how it was: I asked James to take a picture, he clapped his hands two times, and a lady jumped out of the corner and started combing his hair. Michael said, "Isn't show business amazing?"