The two pop stars competed with each other throughout their careers, according to Will.I.Am

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Credit: Kevork Djansezian-Pool/Getty; Inset: SINEAD LYNCH/AFP/Getty

Michael Jackson and Prince competed for chart space at the height of the MTV era of the ’80s and ’90s, and remained rivals for the rest of their lives.

In a new interview airing this week on The Graham Norton Show, Will.i.am tells Norton about the time he brought the two late pop stars together – and witnessed their rivalry firsthand.

The TV presenter and singer remembered inviting Jackson to a show in Las Vegas.

“Michael called, asking if he could come and what time it started,” Will.i.am said. “When I told him nine, he said, ‘Oh rats, I’ve got to put the kids to sleep.’ ”

Will.i.am continued: “I told him I was performing with Prince later on and that he should come along. It was a magnificent night with me, Chris Tucker and Michael Jackson watching Prince rock on stage.”

The night took an unexpected turn, however, when “Prince steps off the stage and plays the bass in Michael’s face,” according to Will.i.am.

The following day, Jackson invited Will.i.am over for breakfast, “and the first words he says as he opens the door are, ‘Why was Prince playing the bass in my face?’ ” Will.i.am said. “When I said he was just being nice, Michael said, ‘No, he’s always been a meanie.’ ”

Will.i.am, who performed his latest song Boys and Girls live on the show, also told Norton that he will never release any Jackson tracks he made with him during his own collaborations.

“Especially with an artist like Michael Jackson – without him guiding it, it’s not my right to do it,” Will.i.am said. “He was a friend, so I wouldn’t do that.”