It’s Time We Give Teddy Riley The Credit He Deserves For Changing American Music

We will forever like the way he works it.

Teddy Riley is more than just the father of a Love & Hip Hop star. He is a musical genius whose impact on the music industry is sorely underrated. Known as the King of New Jack Swing, Teddy forever transformed American music in many different ways. Throughout his career, he’s written, sung, and produced countless records that have soared to the top of the charts. These songs have impacted culture for the better and continue to affect our lives—whether we realize it or not.

For someone who has done so much for us, his accolades are surprisingly few. Can you believe that he’s only won a single Grammy in his entire career? Where are his Lifetime Achievements awards from the Grammys, American Music Awards or BET? For crying out loud, Teddy invented a completely new genre of music!

Let’s break down how much this genius has done for the industry, one musical fact at a time.

  1. He Created New Jack Swing

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    With its roots in Teddy’s hometown of Harlem, New York, New Jack Swing (AKA Swingbeat) was formed during a time when the hood needed a new voice. Hip hop was born as the crack epidemic raged, and New Jack Swing came about in a similar way. It wasn’t as hard, but it still spoke for the people on the streets.

    As its influence grew, so did its multifaceted impact on pop culture. Classic movies like New Jack City and Boyz N the Hood featured some of the biggest New Jack Swing artists at the time, like Christopher Williams, Keith Sweat and of course Teddy himself. Other artists even stopped through hit TV shows like Family Matters, Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Soon, fashion influences later followed suit (pun intended). Trendsetters such as Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, and Janet Jackson were constantly emulated by their adoring fans. From the Kangol hats to the colorful jumpsuits and dookie chains, New Jack Swing artists styles were also showstoppers. If it wasn’t for Teddy, this entire movement would never have been cultivated.

  2. He Made Michael Jackson Rap For The First Time

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    Teddy Riley has the amazing ability to see the uninvented, and he’s passed this feeling of creative fearlessness to all of the artists he’s championed over the years. From Keith Sweat to New Edition, Teddy encouraged musicians to venture out of their comfort zone. Perhaps the most vivid example involves Pop King, Michael Jackson. MJ had been known as a vocal powerhouse for decades, but he didn’t start rapping until collaborating with Teddy on his 1991 album, Dangerous. Teddy has to get props for making an innovator like Michael branch out into something completely new for him. Almost every top name in the industry has credited Michael with impacting their art. They should recognize that Teddy often provided their idol’s musical motivation and daring.

  3. He Discovered The Neptunes

    Teddy also blessed the industry with fellow super producers, The Neptunes. You read that right: Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were both discovered by Mr. Riley after they entered a local talent contest. Impressed by their skills, Teddy signed them following their high school graduation. The duo got their first break in the industry by working with Teddy on Wreckx-n-Effect’s sophomore album, Hard or Smooth. This experience launched Pharrell and Chad’s mega-successful careers, as well as that of future Murder Inc. producer Ty Fyffe. They would later work with some of the biggest names in music including Jay Z, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears.

  4. He Formed Blackstreet and Guy

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    These hugely successful old school R&B groups can still get the club jumping today with classics like “No Diggity,” and “Let’s Chill.” Time may pass, but they will never get old in the ears of millions of music lovers. The music Teddy created with these groups will continue to live on from one generation to the next. Great work from geniuses like Teddy create a greater, richer culture.

You see, folks? Whether you’re listening to the King of Pop, old school R&B, or some of your favorite present day singers and MCs, you may be savoring some of Teddy Riley’s flavor. Thank him for making your life.

"It's one life to live, so live it the best you can. The world could use one less man." - Nas
@IshaThorpe