Teddy Riley was born on October 8, 1967 in Harlem, New York. By the age of 17, Riley found himself collaborating with MC Ricky Dee (Slick Rick) and Doug E. Fresh on 1984’s eternal hip-hop classic, “The Show.” In 1986 he did some remix work with more hip-hop acts around the New York area, including future Uptown/MCA Records label mate, Heavy D.
By 1987, Teddy Riley was an extremely busy individual, and a highly sought out producer. With the help of Gene Griffin, Teddy formed G.R. Productions, the musical collective that spawned (among other things) the “Guy” project, an R&B trio that would come to epitomize what the New Jack Swing era was all about: Hip-hop influenced R&B, with a distinct dance element. The original line-up of Guy was Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling.
Meanwhile, Teddy had lent his innovative production skills to both Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown, two of the New Jack Era’s largest icons. It was Teddy’s voice and beats that infused Keith Sweat’s “I Want Her” with it’s irresistible swagger; and Guy’s background vocals (atop of Teddy’s production) that made Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” such a Top 40 smash.
Early on during the Guy campaign, group member Timmy Gatling left the group citing creative differences, and was replaced by Aaron’s younger brother, Damion. When Guy’s debut album finally dropped in 1988, it was an instant success. With songs like, “Groove Me,” “Piece of My Love,” “You Can Call Me Crazy” and “Goodbye Love,” R&B fans just couldn’t get enough of the three-man outfit, and particularly Aaron Hall’s powerful vocals.
By late 1988 and throughout 1989, Teddy Riley was the undisputed King of New Jack Swing – and the music world was listening. Big Daddy Kane collaborated with Teddy on “I Get The Job Done,” an undeniable old-school mix show classic to this day. Teddy also produced Heavy D’s “We Got Our Own Thing” which was an enormously huge hit, and even branched out to the world of gospel music, producing “It’s Time” by the Winans with co-producer Bernard Belle. By the summer of 1989, Guy was even featured on Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing soundtrack with the track, “My Fantasy.”
Guy even managed to find time to hit the road with New Edition on the 1989 leg of their Heart Break tour. In some locations it was reported that there was a lot of tension between the two acts (Guy was actually upstaging New Edition on their own tour!) and that once a melee had actually broken out onstage when members of N.E. emerged during Guy’s set. But by the time the tour was over, Guy and New Edition had officially reconciled.
In the fall of 1989, Teddy Riley unveiled a hip-hop trio named Wrecks’N’Effect (note the spelling), released on the late Gene Griffin’s record label, distributed by Motown Records. Featuring lead MC Aqil Davidson, Teddy’s younger brother Markell, and Teddy’s dearly departed half brother Brandon Mitchell, Wrecks’N’Effect enjoyed a highly successful first single, entitled “New Jack Swing.” Teddy also found time to work with R&B group Today, and rappers Kool Moe Dee and the Red Head Kingpin.
By 1990, Teddy Riley was still re-mixing projects, including Jane Child’s big hit, “Don’t Wanna Fall In Love.” Riley also found time to do production work on Hi-Five, a five member R&B group named out of Waco, Texas, blessing them with their biggest hit: “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game),” co-written and produced by Bernard Belle. Around this time, Teddy was most likely being contacted by Michael Jackson to produce the Dangerous album.
A contractual dispute between Teddy Riley and Gene Griffin resulted in a parting of ways between the two. Then in the fall of 1990, Guy released The Future, an extremely worth follow-up to their 1988 debut. The mightily successful first single from The Future was called “I Wanna Get With U” (and it sounded like an update of “My Fantasy”). The album’s second single, “Let’s Chill” (co-written and produced by Bernard Belle) is Guy’s matrimonial masterpiece, and is widely considered by R&B fans to be one of the greatest love songs of all time.
The Guy campaign rolled on in 1991 with “Do Me Right” (featuring Heavy D) as the third single, and “D-O-G Me Out” as the fourth. During the spring of 1991, Teddy Riley and Aaron Hall blessed Heavy D’s wildly successful “Now That We Found Love”. During the fall of 1991, (citing creative differences) Guy abruptly disbanded during the release of their final single, ironically titled “Let’s Stay Together”. A few months later, Teddy (and Bernard Belle) scored big with Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.”
Ed Note: By late 1991, the landscape of the music industry was changing. When Seattle grunge act Nirvana emerged as the “next big thing” in music, that signaled the end of the Dance/Pop Era. That also meant much less crossover success for New Jack artists such as M.C. Hammer, Hi-Five and Karyn White. But things were only going to get worse for the New Jack Swing movement. Due in large part to America’s long standing obsession with unflattering media depictions of Black people (profoundly revived by nonstop media coverage of the Los Angeles riots) Gangsta Rap replaced New Jack Swing as the dominant representation of Black people in popular music by the end of 1992.
Life after the New Jack Swing Era still went on for Teddy Riley. In late 1992, Teddy re-emerged with a new act entitled Blackstreet. With a song called “Baby Be Mine” from the CB4 soundtrack, Blackstreet sounded like a newer version of Guy, minus Aaron Hall…at first. Blackstreet would go on to become very important players in the R&B world throughout the 1990s. Also in late 1992, Wreckx’N’Effect (note the new spelling) released their sophomore LP Hard Or Smooth, and unleashed one of the biggest songs of the 90s: “Rumpshaker.”
Upon moving to Virginia Beach, Teddy Riley went on to mentor local talents Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, who would go on to become producing powerhouses in their own right. And to this day, Teddy Riley is a name that any fan of R&B, Hip-Hop, or Pop music from the ’80s and ’90s is familiar with. For more information on Teddy, be sure to follow his instagram
Leave a Reply