Producer Teddy Riley says he was “set up”, apologises for involvement in controversial 2010 MJ album!

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Teddy Riley has made the explosive claim that he was “set up” when The Michael Jackson Estate and Sony Music’s Epic Records brought him in to produce music for the King of Pop’s first posthumous album, apologising to a fan via Twitter for his involvement in the project.

Riley, who worked closely in the studio with Jackson throughout his career, has recently been venting his frustrations about the continued criticism he receives from fans via Twitter. Riley has, on a number of occasions, used the social networking platform to strike back at fans, defending himself for the work he did on the posthumous Jackson album.

However this time around Riley is expressing his displeasure with the way things went down in 2010, deflecting blame towards Eddie Cascio and The Michael Jackson Estate for having him work on what many allege to be fraudulent tracks featuring the voice of a Michael Jackson sound-alike.

For those of you not familiar with the controversy, Michael Jackson’s longtime friend Eddie “Angel” Cascio and his collaborative partner, singer/songwriter/engineer James Porte (aka “Bobby Ewing”), claim that Jackson secretly co-wrote and recorded twelve songs, now infamously known as the “Cascio tracks”, in Eddie’s New Jersey basement back in late-2007.

The tracks were completely unheard of until eleven months after Jackson’s tragic death, in May 2010, when Roger Friedman, a tabloid journalist who spent years criticising Jackson’s personal life and business affairs, announced the existence of the twelve songs.

“Bombshell exclusive,” Friedman wrote on his Showbiz411 website on May 2, 2010. “Michael Jackson recorded a whole new album of material in the fall of 2007.”

To the surprise of Jackson’s fans he was very positive in his report, claiming that according to one of his sources who’d heard the songs; Jackson’s vocals on the Cascio tracks were “perfect.”

With the assistance of seasoned entertainment attorney Donald Passman, Cascio and Porte quickly struck up a deal with Sony and handed over the tracks.

A few months later Teddy Riley, who says Jackson called him “The Finisher” regard his music, was asked to lend his production skills to a number of tracks being considered by Sony for release – including a handful of Cascio tracks.

Between September and November 2010 Riley worked tirelessly on the music in several Los Angeles-based studios including Marvin’s Room, Encore and The Boom Boom Room, bringing in the likes of 50 Cent to rap on a track and the Benjamin Wright Orchestra for string arrangements. Even Jackson’s “This Is It” guitarist Orianthi was invited to contribute.

During the production sessions Riley, along with members of the Jackson family including Riley’s close friend Taryll Jackson (Tito’s son and Michael’s nephew), raised concerns about the authenticity of the vocals on a number of tracks – those provided by Eddie Cascio and James Porte. In fact most people who heard the tracks, other than Cascio and Porte themselves, did not believe the vocals belonged to Jackson at all.

Once the concerns were brought to the attention of The Estate an investigation was launched.

The attorney of The Estate, Howard Weitzman, gathered a number of Jackson’s previous collaborators, including Teddy Riley, to listen to the Cascio tracks and give their thoughts on the vocals. The general consensus after that meeting was that the songs should not be released. Estate co-executor John McClain expressed that he was against their release also, as were Jackson’s children and siblings. Even Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson, was steadfast in her opinion that the songs should not be released. This news started to seep into the public domain thanks to reporters and media outlets including Roger Friedman and TMZ.

However, despite everything that was going on around him, and despite himself acknowledging the vocal inconsistencies, Teddy Riley continued to work on the Cascio tracks – something he now seemingly regrets doing.

“I was [given] a problem that involved my best friend and sign[ed] a contract to remix what I had,” explained Riley by Twitter yesterday – September 2, 2013. “It was too late for me to turn back so I finished out the project. Now if you want me to apologize for that, yes, I’m funkin sorry I did it.”

In the end, one of the Riley-produced Cascio tracks, “Breaking News”, was chosen by Sony and The Estate as the teaser for the entire album. It was announced that a short snippet of “Breaking News” would stream at for two days, starting November 6, 2010 before premiering in full at midnight New York time on November 8, 2010.

As the full “Breaking News” track went live on, members of the Jackson family took to Twitter to raise their voice against the track.

“I am shocked that things have gotten this far. This is ridiculous,” said Taryll Jackson in a statement. “I tried so hard to prevent this craziness, but they wouldn’t listen. I KNOW my Uncle’s voice and something’s seriously wrong when you have immediate FAMILY saying it’s not him … They can’t give me answers, yet continue to move forward with lies and deception. Sounding like Michael Jackson and BEING Michael Jackson are two different things.”

“There’s many MJ vocal impersonators. Some better than others. But there is only ONE Michael Jackson,” added Taryll’s brother TJ Jackson. “Why they would ignore the obvious, look the other way and rush a suspicious track that was NEVER on my Uncle’s radar is beyond me. I’m disgusted, disappointed and saddened … We know how much he valued his legacy and his fans. And cheating either is unacceptable. ‘Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.’”

When fans finally heard “Breaking News”, all hell broke loose. And because of his easy-access social media presence Teddy Riley became the target of the MJ fan community’s frustrations – copping a bombardment of insults and scrutiny from fans all over the world.

Riley repeatedly stated that he had absolute confidence in the authenticity of the vocals and believed them to be Michael’s. This echoed a statement that was swiftly released by Epic Records / Sony Music regarding the controversial songs, insisting that sufficient research had been done and that the label was satisfied with their findings:

“We have complete confidence in the results of our extensive research as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael that the vocals on the new album are his own.” – November 9, 2010.

Basically; the record company was taking Eddie Cascio and James Porte’s word for it, over the opinion of Jackson’s family and fans. Not even the requests of Michael’s mother and children – who are the beneficiaries of his estate – were taken seriously.

Following the onslaught of tweets received from furious Jackson fans Riley, for the first time, admitted that he could not guarantee that the vocals on “Breaking News”, and the other Cascio tracks which he worked on, belonged to Jackson:

“The truth of this of it all [is that] no one knows [but] MJ and God knows. I have nothing more to say and I can’t prove anything. I did not original produce his vocals nor these songs. I’ve answered all that I can answer for MJ fans. The Cascios have a [Twitter] page. They have your answers.” – Teddy Riley on November 9, 2010

Surprisingly Riley’s admission, which came just one day after the “Breaking News” premier, went largely unnoticed by fans and the media alike. But Sony and The Estate noticed it, putting pressure on the producer to make a series of radio and television appearances where he would argue in favour of the vocals.

In addition to Riley’s media appearances, his name was included in a statement released by The Michael Jackson Estate through attorney Howard Weitzman – referencing, among other things, the listening session held where the Cascio vocals were scrutinised:

“Six of Michael’s former producers and engineers who had worked with Michael over the past 30 years – Bruce Swedien, Matt Forger, Stewart Brawley, Michael Prince, Dr. Freeze and Teddy Riley – were all invited to a listening session to hear the raw vocals of the Cascio tracks in question. All of these persons listened to the a cappella versions of the vocals on the Cascio tracks being considered for inclusion on the album, so they could give an opinion as to whether or not the lead vocals were sung by Michael. They all confirmed that the vocal was definitely Michael.”

However, this statement was vigorously contested by Taryll Jackson and Cory Rooney – both of whom were also in that listening session.

“I have read the statement from the MJ estate and I have to say that it’s just more bullshit!” said Cory Rooney. “I was in that room, and the majority of the people mentioned did NOT agree that it was MJ! Some felt it sounded like him but all agree that there was nothing there that was consistent with any MJ habits like finger snaps, headphone bleeding, foot stomping or just simple things like his voice asking for another take. Both Dr. Freeze and Teddy Riley sat with Taryll Jackson and myself and stated that they felt what we felt.”

“There are many inaccuracies and omissions in that statement,” added Taryll. “For one, I was also in that meeting and that was not the outcome. You will hear my story because this is way too important for my Uncle’s legacy. The truth will prevail.”

As the release of the album approached Riley was billed to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s television show – alongside the Cascio family. Here, Riley claimed that Michael would be loving the controversy regarding the album, while attempting to convince Oprah, and the world, that vocals on the Cascio tracks were authentic.

“This is Michael’s voice,” he said nervously.

“Why do you say for sure it is him?” asked Oprah.

“[Because] you can hear the authenticity in his voice and you can hear, like, the natural part of him. And no one can really do a scream like that strong scream on the music that you hear, like Michael. I don’t care if you get anyone. They will never be able to duplicate Michael’s voice.”

The only problem with Riley’s statement, that ‘no one can do a strong scream like Michael Jackson’, was that the screams heard on the Cascio tracks, i.e. “aow!” and “hoo!” were actually stolen from previously released Jackson recordings – something that Jackson’s nephew TJ has addressed in an earlier statement:

“Deceptively merging shady vocals with MJ samples (from prior MJ records) will never fool me.”

“I’ve always admired the talent of Teddy Riley,” stated Taryll Jackson after the Oprah interview aired on television. “But after hearing him lie on Oprah I am terribly disappointed.”

When the “Michael” album was eventually released, in mid-December 2010, three Cascio tracks in total were included. One was the Riley-produced “Breaking News”, and another called “Monster” – also produced by Riley – featuring a rap segment by 50 Cent. The third Cascio track was called “Keep Your Head Up” – a song originally given to Riley to produce, which he decided against doing.

“I remember when Teddy and I were at Encore listening to ‘Keep Your Head Up’,” recalls Taryll. “We both knew it wasn’t my Uncle. [Teddy] stopped working on it because (and I quote) ‘it didn’t sound enough like Michael. Michael doesn’t swing like that.’ He also said he was only working on the Cascio records in hopes that he would eventually be given a ‘real Michael Jackson song.’ As he knows, I never agreed with that logic.”

Tricky Stewart, who never once worked with Jackson during his life, ended up producing the final version of “Keep Your Head Up”, as it appears on the “Michael” album.

Since the Cascio Fiasco first blew up publicly, in November 2010, Teddy has endured a continued onslaught of negative remarks, threats and attacks from Michael Jackson fans online. Many fans insist he deserved it.

However, it seems that now Riley is hoping to turn the tables on Eddie Cascio, James Porte and everyone else involved with the creation of the tracks, claiming he will be addressing the issue soon.

“Do you feel betrayed by Eddie Cascio and his team for the situation you ended up in with their fake MJ songs? It seem[s] to me like you got all the heat for a fraud they created, which is [not] fair on you…” tweeted a fan to the producer on April 8, 2013.

“It isn’t (fair), but it’s all good. I’ll be able to talk soon,” responded Riley.

“[Now] isn’t the time. I’m muted, but trust me MJ always gets his just due. He is my bestfriend, bigbro and confidant. Please believe! The truth will set us all free.”

“I was set up and it will all come out when [my] book comes. That’s all I can say right now.”  – September 2, 2013

Riley later informed a fan, again via Twitter, that his book will not focus solely on Michael Jackson and the “Michael” album controversy. Instead; just one chapter will cover his entire “MJ experience” – including details of his work on the Cascio tracks. He wrote:

“… My book will not be totally about Michael… Just a chapter of my total MJ experience. The times I had working with and without him. I love MJ so much and he knows that. What I’ve been through without him being there I regret, and thats what will be in detail. I hope everyone appreciate and respect that. Thank you so much for your concern. Michael loves everyone, especially his fans that protects him.”

Discuss below…

Image at top: Teddy Riley and Eddie Cascio at the “Michael” album launch, Dec 2010 – Source – No copyright infringement intended.

Follow Damien Shields on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with Michael Jackson-related news.

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