It takes a genius to invent a new genre of music. After honing his skills as a young church musician, Teddy Riley ended up creating a go-to sound that flooded the dancefloors around the world. The architect of New Jack Swing turns 50 years old yesterday (October 8th).
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The talented musician rose out of the crack-addled ’80s Harlem (New York) with the help of a new sound he created that served as the soundtrack for an era of pop culture and fashion trends. New Jack Swing blended R&B grooves with an angular hip-hop sensibility. After transitioning from the death of disco, R&B got interesting again thanks to Riley’s innovation.
Riley, Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling composed the first New Jack Swing group Guy. The trio’s self-titled debut went double platinum and their follow-up, The Future, went platinum. Sadly, the group broke up due to creative differences and Riley dove deep into production mode.
During his career, Riley produced some of the biggest acts in R&B including Keith Sweat, Johnny Kemp and Bobby Brown. He also dabbled in hip-hop producing classic songs for Wreckx-N-Effect, Heavy D, Kool Moe Dee, Redhead Kingpin and more. He also has the distinction of being the producer who replaced Quincy Jones for Michael Jackson’s eighth album Dangerous in 1991. While the album didn’t reach Thriller-esque heights, it did produce several hit singles including “Jam” and “Remember the Time.”
Eventually, New Jack Swing would fade as music shifted into fusions of hip-hop and R&B, but Riley got one more push when he formed his second group BLACKstreet. The group would take the sound to another level with “No Diggity” being one of their most memorable songs.
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Currently, Riley been producing tracks for the biggest K-Pop groups in Korea like Girls generation and Shinne. “I feel like I’m a cat in the business, with nine lives. I’m only on my fifth, and K-pop is number five,” he tells Jezebel. “K-pop has been a savior in music for me because of the direction, the idea of having your own music style.”
At the age of 50, Teddy Riley’s music still continues to bump on the dance floors in America.