The “New Jack Swing” creator and super producer Teddy Riley speaks with theGrio on lessons learned from being defrauded to his current projects and the state of R&B music. Mr. Riley is currently based in Los Angeles and spoke to theGrio from his Future Recordings studio.
TheGrio: What did you learn about trust — either on a professional or personal level— after being defrauded by Troy Titus?
Teddy Riley: Trust no one unless you have known them for a long time. It’s hard, you can’t really judge, sometimes it could be your own family. It happens to lot of people, you never know. I know people whose own family have scammed them.
How much effort did it take to authenticate Michael Jackson’s voice on the Michael album?
It took a whole lot. We went to a forensic musicologist. Went to calling all the people that worked with him over the last 25 years in the studio. They stated they know it’s Michael.
The album is successful. Three million sold worldwide. That’s incredible for this economy and the recession.
Watch this clip of Teddy Riley from ‘American Greed’, which airs tonight on CNBC
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What is the state of R&B music now? Are you happy with the quality of the music from today’s R&B artists?
It’s not called R&B music anymore. People try to shy away from it now. It’s pop music. Most people doing R&B are not doing it now. It’s called Pop. There should not be a genre name, because if its known it’s popular.
I feel some of it has no substance. Now it’s coming back to real music with substance. It’s coming back to that. I feel like I will be one of the reasons.
I’m doing some real music and some real substantive pieces and compositions with great artists. It’s about to surface.
Are there any artists out now that remind you of yourself artistically?
The only artist that reminds me of myself as a producer/artist would be Bruno Mars. Bruno Mars is doing very well. I look forward to seeing him have 400+ to 500+ songs in his catalog. He’s cranking these records out that are amazing. I hope to see him up there.
As far as what I’ve done — creating their own genre that people have followed —I haven’t seen another New Jack Swing. I long to see someone do that. Come up with their own style.
In late 2009/early 2010 there was quite a bit of publicity about an altercation with your daughter Taja Riley. What is the status of your relationship with her now and the rest of your children?
You had to bring that up. (chuckles) My daughters and I and all my children are together and we’re doing great. My daughters have a group called RaidR — and they are incredible. They are doing everything. They are learning everything they need to learn about staying together as group and staying strong. They are the next TLC meets the Phillips sisters (Wilson Phillips) or the next Sister Sledge.
When does their album come out?
Album comes out soon. Looking at labels. I want them to have the proper care and be with the right company. Hopefully I become the label for them to help them build and make sure they save their money and do the right thing.
You have been working with Robin Thicke and Lady Gaga, who else are you working with currently?
I’m on the new Lady Gaga record which has been nominated for a Grammy. The “Teeth” song, which is my song. Things have turned around which is a blessing.
I heard you worked with Jay Park.
I’ve worked with Jay Park from Korea. I’ve worked with Snoop Dogg, Pussycat Dolls, New Kids on the Block these are the latest. I’m about to work with Fantasia and waiting for my debut with Maroon 5.
Will there be a BLACKstreet Reunion in 2011?
Yes, definitely. A new album is coming out in 2011. We’re touring first.
Have you been touring already?
We were in Europe, Japan and all over touring last year. I am working on BLACKstreet and working with Taryn Manning.
Taryn Manning. I think I’ve heard that name before.
She was in Hustle & Flow and Hawaii Five-0. She is my artist and signed with my label. Her album will be out third quarter.
What advice do you have for young people wanting to break into the music industry?
My thing is have the education first. That’s one thing I didn’t have being in this music industry and got put through the ringer. When you’re not educated it’s easy for people to take advantage of you.
Do you mean formal education or business experience?
I’m saying get the books and go to the seminars. Learn all you need to learn before getting into the business. Have the right representation in terms of an attorney, an accountant or have a great bookkeeper.
Lots of artists have success, but fail on financial side.
Exactly. Before getting in the business and think you will be a star, know the business and surround yourself with the right people.
What do you want your musical legacy to be? Is it working with the biggest names in the business?
My thing is making superstars, building superstars and raising new stars. We don’t have our next Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Beyonce and we need that — our next Miley Cyrus. Who’s going to grow up and be in these spots?
What is your proudest professional accomplishment? Is it the Grammy?
It’s all of it. I think that being a Grammy winner is great, but I think more than that it’s working with someone special like Michael and being on Oprah. There’s nothing bigger than that! (He laughs)
Is there anything else you want to share with theGrio?
I’ve never done a project or album by myself. I’ve been with BLACKstreet. It’s time for me to do a masterpiece. It’s what Michael Jackson wanted me to do. Michael’s favorite song of mine was “Spend the Night.” It’s on the first Guy album entitled Guy. He wanted me to do an album before and I said no I’m afraid, I was a little shy.
Now I can do an album where I would be on a composition with Gaga and people very dear to me. I have a Michael composition that I will put on my album as well with Michael and myself. I think it will be a very special record for everyone to hear. It’s truly his vocals. It will be a very special project — the Teddy Riley album. It will show the substance of music where people can hear great artists perform on my record. We will do a special performance for the 25th anniversary.
When is the 25th anniversary?
It’s this year.
Has it been 25 years?
Yes, 1986. The first Guy album was released in ‘86.
Can you share the name of the song with Michael?
I can’t share it yet. (laughs).