Teddy Riley: Musical Rebirth
As the founding father of the New Jack Swing era (think Keith Sweat, Heavy D, Al B. Sure and early Bobby Brown), Edward Theodore Riley (his real name) ushered in a whole new generation of music with his, then, fresh and exciting sound.
Starting his professional career at the tender age of 12, Teddy, as he was affectionately known, later went on to form the super successful trio Guy -- with Aaron Hall, an aspiring singer he met at a New York City shopping mall, and Timmy Gatling, who was soon replaced by Aaron's younger brother, Damion. Their self-titled debut album eventually sold over three million copies and spawned a slew of hit singles -- including "Groove Me," "Teddy's Jam," "Piece Of My Love," "I Like" and "Spend The Night." As Guy quickly rose up the charts, Teddy was also given the chance opportunity to branch out and contribute his production expertise to projects from a bevy of industry heavyweights (i.e., Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Billy Ocean, Blondie, Boy George, the New Kids On The Block, and even his sibling Markell's rap group, Wreckx-N-Effect.)
After more Guy albums, he went on to form Blackstreet, who managed to record a total of four studio albums before also parting ways. While comeback albums came from thees two groups, they were ignored for the most part. However, years later, Teddy Riley is back and sounding better than ever. BallerStatus.com spoke with the musical veteran about being honored at VH1's "Hip-Hop Honors" and what he's been up to musically.
BallerStatus.com: Back in October '07, you were honored at the VH1 "Hip-Hop Honors." How did that make you feel?
Teddy Riley: I felt honored. To me, [it's] a special, special award and I just took it as something that could be a stepping stone to me really coming back into the business, which is what I'm doing now.
BallerStatus.com: So in a sense, that was your much needed ticket back into the music game?
Teddy Riley: Yes, it is. Like I said, I'm taking advantage [of that], and now I'm working on my first project coming back into the business after five years.
BallerStatus.com: Well, what exactly had you been doing in your time away from the business?
Teddy Riley: In my off-time, I've been spending time with my kids. You know, I'm a single parent and kinda dealing with that. [I] kinda moved them out of their -- out of Virginia. I'm out of Virginia now, and moved to Atlanta, and kinda got them straight first. I spent some time with them and gave them more quality time. After doing that, I've been dealing with my daughter 'cause they're older and dealing with boyfriends and different things like that. So, you know, it's all good. At the same time, she kinda left that life and went into her career, which she is doing really well. She's an incredible dancer. She danced with a bunch of people -- Common and Kanye West, and a few people of that stature. She kinda told me, "Dad I think things are great with us, and you've been really doing your music in the house. Now it needs to come out!" I basically went back into getting things together.
When I got in touch with Snoop Dogg at the "Hip-Hop Honors," he said to me, "Yo, dawg, yo, get everything together, saddle up 'cause I can't do this next record without you." I saddled up. I mean, we were actually sitting next to each other at the "Hip-Hop Honors," and that's all we were talking about. He was like, "Yo" And then, when I did my show, my part in the show, his daughter was there, in the balcony... and she said to him, "Dad, his show is tight!" So, it really, like, jump started the whole thing of me working with him, and he's an incredible family man. He's like myself, and we just really hit it off from there. We chopped it up, and we talked after the show at around three, four o'clock in the morning. He was like, "Yo, I'm ready for whenever you want to come down. Let me know." And, we put it together.
BallerStatus.com: You mention that your daughter is getting involved in the industry now. Knowing what you know, and, of course, going through all that you have, initially were you more for or against her getting into the same line of work, so to speak, as you?
Teddy Riley: Well, you know what, I support my children, and as long as they're careful and I'm consulting them, I think everything will be good. She respects coming to me. She respects the whole thing, and that's the thing that I can appreciate. She comes to me with everything, and she asks me about all of things that she would like to do. People basically come with offers and different things like that, and a lot of people know she's my daughter, so I don't think anything would break out 'cause I think everything will be great.
BallerStatus.com: What happened to your once burgeoning solo career? Are you still planning a Teddy Riley album?
Teddy Riley: Yes, I am planning on putting something out, but I want to go through the same thing as far as my career. I want to go through the same motions that I did when I started my career. I did music for folks, and I started getting my music out there first before I even thought about doing a record with Guy. So, I want to do the same thing, and kinda build the success that way, where people kinda hear some of things that I'm doing. Then, I'll do an album from there if need be.
BallerStatus.com: With your latest collaboration with Snoop Dogg, musically what can be expected?
Teddy Riley: Well, I tell you this, "It's a new sound for both of us!" And, the stuff that I brought to the table, actually he would say, it's what he does not have on the album. That's the thing that I like about it the most, is that I'm bringing something to the table. The sounds that I'm bringing is definitely the Teddy Riley flair, but it's stuff that you haven't heard from me, that I can now spread out with him as an entrepreneur, as... well, an innovator rather.
BallerStatus.com: With that being said, I guess it's safe to say that the chemistry is definitely there?
Teddy Riley: Everyone, because we've had people at the studio in there, they're so excited. They're surprised that I could still do what I do, and not let the lag of time [affect me] -- being back in the business can overcome.
BallerStatus.com: Tell me about your new artist driven venture, Buck And A Dream?
Teddy Riley: Well, it kinda originated from a friend of mine, 4orty, who actually brought it to me. What I did was I kind of enhanced it with maybe my expertise of really helping bridge the gap between the artist, up-and-coming artists, and the record companies. [I give] them the advice, before they even go to the record companies. They have the advice of the inside of how to get to the record companies, and what they're looking for. Being that the record business has changed, we have a better insight. At the same time, we're able to introduce them to other avenues other than thinking about going on a major label.
BallerStatus.com: Are you still getting the artist roster together for Buck And A Dream?
Teddy Riley: Well, no. Actually you can go to the website, which is BuckAndADream.com. You can go to the website and actually see all the different featured artists that are lined up with the program, and more are coming. We're just doing a bunch of things to really get this project jumped off.
BallerStatus.com: How has the industry, and music business in general, changed or evolved since your early beginnings in it?
Teddy Riley: Well, it's a lot different and I can't judge how it's going, and say that I don't like it. At the same time, we have to do things to really steer it the way that it used to be where you had more than two or three or four R&B artists out here. That's pretty much it. The business has came down to a less amount of record companies and a lesser amount of artists out here. So, what we're gonna have to do, I mean, is what used to happen is having our boutique companies and really expand the careers of these artists, and really showing 'em that this is how you're supposed to do it -- where you can now own [your own masters] -- because now this is the new way to make money because records are not selling these days because of the digital business. The internet things are changing, so this is the way to really do it -- to have your own company, have your own boutique company, and really pull together [everything yourself]. You can get the same marketing and promotion that the record companies have now. They're accessible to really get out there and get your career going.
BallerStatus.com: I remember you having your very own imprint, I believe it was called, Lil' Man, through Interscope. Is there another label situation in the works for you?
Teddy Riley: Oh, yes, it's definitely in the works. I'm talking to a lot of people right now. There's just so much going on with me. I can't really tell you the things that's gonna really change my life that's happening. Some of it has to do with the business and some of it don't have to do with the business at all, and it's another part of the industry, you know, show business.
BallerStatus.com: How have you managed to withstand the test of time?
Teddy Riley: Well, what sustains me is being in the background, kinda like, building my record company and doing production with a lot of these artists, and then they kinda bring it out. But, I like to be the producer. I like to be behind the scenes and not overexposed, which has kept me in the business this long.
BallerStatus.com: You mention your music related endeavors, but is there anything else that you are hoping to branch out and pursue?
Teddy Riley: Yes, definitely doing some real estate, different kind of real estate. Music real estate is publishing, and I'm actually building a publishing company now. A lot of people talk about real estate, but I kinda talk about it in a different way. Real estate for the music industry is the publishing business, and that's what I'm building right now. I'm building writers, and putting together my publishing deal with a major company and signing a lot of the great writers out here. Writers that are gonna be the next.
BallerStatus.com: What is the one thing that you want people to know most about Teddy Riley?
Teddy Riley: Well, they'll know basically that I'm still here, and I still have it. And, things that... They kinda thought I'd gone away, and I'm always gonna be here. I always have a lot of things up my sleeves, and things that I've been doing that's behind the scenes that are successful today such as: (two of Ted's protégé's) the Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins, and a lot of the projects that's going on all because of my contribution in the music industry.
BallerStatus.com: What does TR like to do in his free time, away from the music?
Teddy Riley: Oh, completely away from music... Spending time with my children. That's really important for me. And, just really being involved in their lives, especially my boys.
BallerStatus.com: As an artist, what has been your greatest career achievement?
Teddy Riley: My biggest achievement was the "Hip-Hop Honors." I mean for me, the latest achievement. But, as far as making records, the Michael Jackson project.
BallerStatus.com: Speaking of Michael, is there any truth to the rumor that you are working on his highly anticipated return to the spotlight?
Teddy Riley: Well, I can only say I'm waiting. If it comes around, definitely. I have much, much, a lot of respect for Michael Jackson, so... and, he's my good friend. If he needs me, I'm there. If he doesn't... because a lot of people, they're with the producers who are now, and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. I wish him the best in that area. I know what I can do, and everyone still says that he should do records with me and Quincy [Jones], and the real guys who make records. The thing about it is in this business, you can make records until you're 80. Quincy still has it, and he still has the resources to the best guys. He called me on the scene. So, I know what I can do being with Michael. I am still waiting, you know, to figure out if he's gonna really do this because a lot of people just don't think he's serious.
BallerStatus.com: Since you spoke already of working with Snoop Dogg, overall, how has that whole experience gone for you?
Teddy Riley: Oh, it's definitely worked out as time goes. I know that he's appreciating my... definitely my presence on this record. That's what I'm loving. He mentioned me on "106 & Park," and it's just making me more... feel more comfortable as a part of the record because he has a lot of records. It's like dealing with the Michael Jackson project, you know? They'll do a bunch of records, and the best records make the record. So, I'm always modest about things. If I make the record, it's great. And, if I don't, it was just great working with Snoop and doing such a great project 'cause he's got a lot of musical things. To me, I think he's one of the most musical rappers, you know, musically inclined rappers out there that know music.
BallerStatus.com: Predicting ahead, where does TR foresee things five to ten years down the line?
Teddy Riley: Oh, man, I see myself doing a bunch of things. That is the reason why I moved out here. Well, I set up a shop out here in Los Angeles because I'm looking to do some scoring with movies and new projects, new film projects, and I'm looking to do just a whole bunch of things. I'm actually entering into a new entertainment business, which you'll hear about soon. I can't really expose the name and anything, but you'll definitely hear about the new entity that... I mean, empire that I'm getting with. It has a lot to do with a lot of major artists in the business, so I'm really honored to be a part of that as well. Then, you can also look for something with me and Jamie Foxx. And, hopefully other artists like Letoya [Luckett] and Ne-Yo. I'm just looking to take on challenges. I don't want to be with an artist... I mean, just because I'm with Snoop, it's still a challenge for me because I haven't done rap in a long time. I think that's a challenging project. I like to do challenging projects.
BallerStatus.com: Another rumor pertains to your former groups, Guy, as well as Blackstreet. Is there any chance of a reunion record from either crew?
Teddy Riley: Well, I can only vouch for Blackstreet, more than Guy. Blackstreet, as far as Blak and myself, we're trying to come together on doing some things as far as Blackstreet's concerned. That's not a lie. Yeah, we're talking about that. As far as Guy, I'll never say never, but we haven't been talking about doing anything as far as Guy. And, I kinda put some of that stuff behind me because I'm now onto a new regime of doing things in the industry to make a difference and make another input.
BallerStatus.com: What's been up with Markell and Aqil? Is there a future Wreckx-N-Effect CD in the works?
Teddy Riley: Well, they're both like my... matter of fact, my brother Markell, that's my blood brother. Aqil is like my blood brother as well. We communicate at least once a week. We talk about things that he's doing, and I told him, some of the things that I'm doing now that will be of support to him doing what he's doing. If we do come about getting a tour together or something with Wreckx-N-Effect, I totally support it. We never had any problems.