When Timmy Gatling picked up the phone, it looked like there was a party going on. “Timmy, you should come here now—you should hear this song,” said Teddy Riley, on a booming drum track and chattering sounds. Gatling hung up and walked 15 minutes through Harlem to Riley’s apartment in Building 225 of the St. Nicholas Housing Project. When he entered the living room that Riley’s mother had let them use as a recording studio, there was already a party. Riley liked to keep the windows open, blasting his new trails into the entire neighborhood — and tonight, Harlem was witnessing the birth of his R&B masterpiece.
Rhythm plays on a loop – the beginnings of what would become “Groove Me,” the breakout song of new band Riley and Gatling, guy– Did the party go crazy? Gatling’s workshop organized lyrics and melody with Aaron Hall, Guy’s lead singer. Hall climbed into the apartment bathroom, where soundproofing blanket curtains and a makeshift acoustic booth installed in the bathroom, took a shot. Weeks later, the group attempted to re-record the track in a professional studio, but nothing beat the raw energy of the sounds that Hall recorded at the party that night.
Released in the summer of 1988, Guy’s self-titled debut redefined R&B music for the hip-hop generation. With cabaret songs like “Groove Me” and “I Like” guy Famous for his melodic tunes, uptempo synth, Teddy Riley put him as the wonder producer at the center of the new jack swing craze. Despite the name, Jay was the work of not one but three men, all in their early twenties: Riley, the accomplished producer; Timmy Gatling, Passionate Songwriter; Aaron Hall’s Golden Voice.
Childhood friends Riley and Gatling first got a taste of fame in 1984 as members of Kids at Work, a remake-inspired teen pop trio signed on CBS. Unlike the new version, the children wrote all their songs and played their own instruments – Teddy on the keys and Timmy on the bass. They grew up listening to a diverse mix of soul, funk, go-go, gospel, and hip-hop, but Kids at Work aimed for safe, radio-friendly R&B. The solo group “Singing Hey Yea” took major courses at R&B stations in New York City, rising to #64 on Billboard’s Hot Rap/R&B Singles Chart. The kids released one LP, but the label dropped them after their manager, Gene Griffin, was jailed for drug charges.
Disappointed, Teddy graduated from high school and headed first into the city’s hip-hop scene, where he helped his former bandmate, Doug E. Fresh, produce his gold-selling single in 1985, The Show. Rap was transitioning from its scattered electric sound to the looser, more playful, sample-based rhythms that would define hip-hop in the late ’80s. Early Riley’s work by artists like Kool Moe Dee and Heavy D split the difference, blending tuned bass lines and complex drum programming with eccentric keyboard extrapolation and James Brown’s punchy samples. In 1987, Harlem R&B singer Keith Sweat, who was impressed by Riley’s hip-hop work, asked the producer to collaborate. Their first piece – a dramatic rush of orchestral beats and drums called “I Want Her” – rose to number one on the Hot Rap/R&B singles chart, whetting audiences’ appetite for uptempo club tracks that blend harder hip – a production feel with an R&B tune. seamless. Riley trained the race with the sexy nasal conduction that would become his signature and worked on every track of his subsequent album, Make it last forever. But although he was pivotal to its creation, Riley was only paid $1,500 for his work and earned disappointing “co-producer” credit for four songs.