Despite their shared musical DNA, R&B and hip-hop were rarely combined until the late '80s. Music fans have one man to thank for that brilliant cross-pollination: Teddy Riley, the undisputed king of what came to be known as New Jack swing.
Riley's production style - built on fast drum machine rhythms and couched in a dense bed of synths and samplers - made him one of the most in-demand producers of the late '80s, '90s and '00s. When he agreed to go head-to-head with legendary producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds earlier this year on the music platform Verzus, fans pushed the site's servers to the breaking point to watch the duo put their top productions head-to-head.
If you're looking for a pick me up today, get down to these 10 great songs that feature Teddy's signature sound.
Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, "The Show" (1985)
This hip-hop classic became one of Riley's first production credits - and the lyrical flow between Doug and Slick Rick earned the genre one of its first ever gold records.
Keith Sweat, "I Want Her" (1987)
Believe it or not, Riley needed to be convinced to work on Keith Sweat's debut album Make It Last Forever ("I told him I don't do R&B," the producer recounted to The Atlantic in 2012). But the results were pure magic - the blueprint for Teddy's hits to follow over the next decade-plus. "I Want Her" reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Sweat's first of eight chart-toppers on the magazine's R&B singles chart.
Guy, "I Like" (1988)
Riley's next step into New Jack swing was as part of his own group. Guy found the producer joining forces with childhood friend Timmy Gatling and singer Aaron Hall for his most soulful work yet. Guy's self-titled debut only became more popular in the year after it was released, with fourth single "I Like" reaching #2 on Billboard's R&B chart.
Bobby Brown, "My Prerogative" (1988)
This confident burst of energy from the former member of New Edition was masterminded by Riley and Aaron Hall from a Guy outtake. Bobby even gives Teddy a shout-out on the track. "My Prerogative" topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the second week of 1989 and became the year's second-biggest single.
Johnny Kemp, "Just Got Paid" (1988)
The New Jack swing reign of 1988 continued with another Teddy Riley outtake written during the sessions to Keith Sweat's Make It Last Forever a year earlier. Kemp's vocal was allegedly a demo he meant to send to someone else to record, but it was too good to pass up - and audiences agreed, giving Riley another #1 R&B and Top 10 pop hit as a producer.
Hi-Five, "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)" (1991)
Perhaps one of Teddy's most pop-friendly compositions, "I Like the Way" became Hi-Five's highest-charting hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1991.
Michael Jackson, "Remember the Time" (1991)
You know your style is really impacting culture when The King of Pop wants a piece. Teddy co-produced half of Michael Jackson's blockbuster Dangerous, including worldwide smash "Remember the Time," remembered for its star-studded, Egyptian-themed music video.
Wreckx-N-Effect, "Rump Shaker" (1992)
Don't forget that Teddy's first love was hip-hop over R&B, and in 1992 he proved he still could spin some hip-hop hits as a producer. "Rump Shaker" soared to #2 and even featured a verse from the producer himself - albeit one written by Riley's protégé Pharrell Williams, a blockbuster hip-hop/R&B producer in the making.
Blackstreet, "No Diggity" (1996)
After Guy broke up, Riley was keen to form another group at the crossroads of rap and soul. Blackstreet proved to be just the right combination. "No Diggity," the lead single from sophomore album Another Level, was built on a sample of Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands" and augmented with a killer verse by hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre. It rocketed to the top of the pop and R&B charts.
Joe, "Stutter" (2000)
Teddy's magic touch with smooth soul singers continued into the new millennium. The Riley-produced "Stutter" ironically hit another plateau when it was remixed for the soundtrack to the film Double Take, complete with an extra rap verse by Mystikal; a true sign of the producer's influential joining of the hip-hop and R&B worlds, now and forever.