For more than 30 years, GRAMMY’s award-winning, multi-platinum music icon Teddy Riley has embodied the spirit of innovation and ingenuity as a recording artist, songwriter, producer, composer, arranger, engineer, and all-around trailblazer. With over 1000 credits to his name, the legendary Riley has amassed a host of awards and accolades throughout his storied career for his incredibly vast contributions to music, which include being credited as the creator of New Jack Swing, the groundbreaking genre that re-defined the musical landscape of the 1980s and 90s.
Recognized as a child prodigy, Harlem native Teddy Riley began his musical journey playing multiple instruments at his home church at the tender age of five years old. By the age of 14, Riley’s gifts were leading him toward music production, and he was spending most of his time crafting beats for local New York rappers in a studio within his uncle’s famed Harlem-based nightclub – The Rooftop. Under the tutelage of local music producer Gene Griffin, Riley soon formed his first group, the short-lived Kids at Work but it was his work as a producer that provided his first big break. In 1985, the precocious young talent co-produced Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew’s classic “The Show” and then, at the age of 17, he produced rapper Kool Moe Dee’s single, “Go See the Doctor,” which became a mainstream hit, reaching #89 on The Billboard Hot 100.
With his songwriting and production work for other artists, Riley was fast building a name for himself and was introducing a new sound fusing hip hop and R& B music that would become known as New Jack Swing. On November 25, 1987, he co-produced R&B singer Keith Sweat’s debut solo studio album titled, Make It Last Forever, which went on to sell three million copies. One of the biggest hit singles from this album, “/ Want Her” (#1 R&B/#5 Pop), ultimately ushered in the New Jack Swing era.
Also in 1987, Riley brought his much sought-after talents in-house when he, Aaron Hall, and Timmy Gatling formed the R&B group, Guy. Riley’s work with Guy firmly cemented the New Jack Swing sound in popular culture as he infused his own unique blend of Hip Hop beats and R&B progressions with the Gospel vocal stylings of Hall to create this fresh fusion of musical styles on Guy’s eponymous debut in 1988. The following year, Riley, who was also still in high demand as a producer, produced Big Daddy Kane’s classic “/ Get The Job Done”, as well as other work for The Jacksons, The Winans, James Ingram, and the majorly successful remix of Jane Child’s crossover hit “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”.
In 1992, Riley began to turn his focus to his hip-hop group Wreckx-N-Effect and their second album Hard or Smooth. Based in Virginia by this time, Riley discovered and signed a production duo, The Neptunes (composed of then-fledgling producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), during the making of Wreckx-N-Effect’s smash hit single “Rump Shaker.
In late 1991, Riley formed another group – Blackstreet. A few years later, they would go on to release several major hits including “Don’t Leave Me” (1997), “Girlfriend/Boyfriend’ (1999, with Janet Jackson, Eve, and Ja Rule), and, of course, the GRAMMY-winning indelible classic “No Diggity” (1996, featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen), which reached number#1 on The Billboard Hot 100.
Around this same time, a 23-year-old Riley received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he was chosen to produce the King of Pop Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album on the recommendation of Jackson’s long-time producer Quincy Jones. Featuring the Riley-produced mega-hit singles “Remember the Time,” “Jam” and “In the Closet,” Dangerous remains the most successful New Jack Swing-inspired album of all time, debuting at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and remaining on the charts for 117 weeks with 32 million copies sold worldwide. The album also received three GRAMMY Nominations for Best Pop Vocal Male, Best R&B Vocal Male and Best R&B Song for “Jam” and Riley won a GRAMMY for Best Engineered Album Non-Classical. Dangerous was Michael Jackson’s fastest-selling album in the United States and was RIAA certified seven times platinum. Riley also produced four songs on the Invincible LP by Jackson in 2001.
Making a natural progression to film, Riley hit the big screen and his film score/composition credits include major releases: Do the Right Thing, Rugrats The Movie, House Patty, CB4, Money Train, Panther, Get on the Bus, Preacher’s Wife, Two Can Play That Game, King’s Ransom, American Reunion, and Wild, Wild West.
Teddy Riley soon took his signature sound global and he became the first African American music producer to produce K-Pop (Korean Pop Music) and bring it to America. He worked in Korea with S&M Entertainment for their top recording artist in his studio in Seoul, Korea. In late March 2015, he produced another worldwide No.1 K-Pop hit titled “Ca// Me Baby” by EXO which had over 18 million YouTube views within a month. The song reigned on the Billboard charts in nine categories and held the No.1 position on the World Album charts for several weeks.
Riley’s illustrious catalog encompasses a massive list of timeless hits that he has composed, produced, and/or written including Guy (“Groove Me: “Let’s Chill’: “I Like,” “Teddy’s Jam’); Johnny Kemp (“Just Got Paid’); Bobby Brown (My Prerogative); Heavy D (“Now That We Found Love); High Five (“The Kissing Game’); The Winans (“It’s Time’). The super producer’s credits also include his work with an impressive group of artists spanning a multitude of genres such as SWV, Janet Jackson, Trey Songz, Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Al B. Sure, MC Hammer, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, N’SYNC, Joe, Kenny Lattimore, Robin Thicke, Boys II Men, Lady Gaga, and an extensive list of others.
Riley’s schedule in the studio remains non-stop and he also continues to perform with his groups Blackstreet and Guy as well as with other artists he has produced. Between his studios in Korea, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, this iconic force stays creative in the lab working on tracks for numerous artists and special projects. Most recently, Riley has been inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame and bestowed with the Soul Train Legend Award and he is scheduled to be inducted into the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame in August 2019.