In the 90’s,Teddy Riley was the king of swing – new jack swing, that is. The term was coined by journalist Barry Michael Cooper to describe the emerging hybrid of R&B and hip-hop that was created in part by producers like Riley. 25 years later, Riley is still influencing music. He’s currently working with Blazetrak.com to find new musical talent. From now through December 31, songwriters can submit their work through the site and receive a personal video response from Riley himself.
Submissions will be accepted via blazetrak.com/teddyriley. Riley is looking for music specifically for the emerging K-pop and J-pop genres, a fusion of music from Korea and Japan with pop music and techno. While Riley is looking to the future these days, he got us to thinking about how much of an influence he’s been on music and culture. Here’s our list of the greatest moments of the New Jack Swing era.
Guy, comprised of brothers Aaron and Damion Hall and Teddy Riley, released new jack swing’s debut album, “Guy” in 1988. Although it didn’t “cross over” to the pop charts of the day, it went #1 R&B and sold over 2 million copies. Its singles included such new jack swing classics as “Piece of My Love,” “Groove Me” and “Teddy’s Jam.” (The album cut “Goodbye Love” was just sampled for Nas’ “Bye, Baby.”) Guy’s success undoubtedly influenced other groups like Shai, Jodeci and Riley’s next group, Blackstreet, and was one of the early stalwarts of the fledgling genre.
BOBBY BROWN “DON’T BE CRUEL
Already associated with one of the most successful R&B groups of the 80’s and 90’s, Bobby Brown quit New Edition amid some controversy to pursue a solo career. In 1988, Brown released his second solo CD “Don’t Be Cruel” (his first, “King of Stage” was quickly forgotten) which was a monster hit led by the title track and the pulsating “My Prerogative.” Most of the album was produced by L.A. and Babyface, who would then create their own successful label LaFace Records. Brown sold 8 million records to become the best-selling artist of 1989, but this would prove to be his solo career peak. An ill-fated marriage to Whitney Houston produced one child, Bobbi Kristina, now 19, but Brown never again reached the superstardom he enjoyed in the early 90’s. He’s rebounded with New Edition, though, as the group toured across the U.S. this year and received a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.
“NEW JACK CITY”
After coining the term in an article about Teddy Riley, Barry Michael Cooper took it a step further and penned this 1991 movie about Harlem crack kingpin Nino Brown and his violent empire. The movie, starring Wesley Snipes, Ice T, Judd Nelson, Chris Rock, Allen Payne and Christopher Williams, and its soundtrack were blockbuster hits and a defining moment for the era. The soundtrack included songs by New Jack Swingers Keith Sweat and Williams as well as its biggest hit, “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd.”
You might call them one-hit wonders these days but oh, what a hit it was. In the summer of 1992 “Rump Shaker” was the only song booming out of cars, trucks, jeeps, boomboxes and anything else with a speaker. The group, Wreckx-n-Effect featuring Teddy Riley was to enjoy little success despite three album releases. Plagued by label and personnel problems, they disbanded soon after their biggest hit. Too bad, because without them the 90’s would have been without one of its most memorable party anthems. The beach party video for the song, tame by today’s standards, was criticized at the time for exploiting its bikini-clad models.
Internal problems were the downfall of all of Riley’s groups and BlackStreet was no exception. But they made some great music before they eventually fell apart, anchored by the soaring vocals of their original lead singer, Dave Hollister. They did release two platinum and one gold album in their heyday. Riley was the group’s main producer, using it as a platform after the breakup of Guy. “Before I Let You Go” from the self-titled debut and “No Diggity” (with Dr. Dre and Queen Pen) from their second “Anotha Level” were the group’s main hits, even though Hollister was gone by the second album. Despite the changing lineups, Blackstreet made its mark on New Jack history.
Former Wall Streeter Keith Sweat found his biggest financial windfall in music instead. He was one of the linchpins of the New Jack sound with a string of hits starting with 1987’s “I Want Her.” One of the biggest artists of the 90’s, Sweat had six platinum or multi-platinum albums and one gold from 1987-2000. Along the way, he even discovered Silk who hit with “Freak Me” and “Lose Control” as well as Kut Klose and Ol Skool. When things slowed down after the new jack era, Sweat continued his run by joining up with Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill to form LSG. But he’s still best known to this day as one of the superstars of new jack swing.