Producer's Corner: Teddy Riley
It has been over a quarter century since Teddy Riley walked into the music industry. And he still has his wish list ready when you question his aspirations, proving that his illustrious track record still has room for improvement. Granted, there is only one name on that list and that belongs to the artist he looks to as the last bonafide superstar to emerge. But it proves his authenticity as the acclaimed producer he is.
Similar to D-Dot - who we covered last month in Producers Corner [click to read] - this Harlem native has nurtured various producers who have obviously learned from the best to become the best. The Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins are from the Riley School of Development and well we all know what they have achieved.
Talking to HipHopDX, the Blackstreet front man gets into his financial affairs, his plans to travel the roads with his former band mates and gives us an insight to just what is going on with QDT.
HipHopDX: You were a judge on American Idol this year; how was that whole experience?
Teddy Riley: Man, that experience was so incredible. It just gave me and enlightened me to get back in the business and that is what I am doing.
DX: Do you follow these shows where they focus on finding the stars of tomorrow?
TR: No, I sure dont as I dont really watch much TV.
DX: Obviously we have found some stars through shows such as American Idol; do you think this is a new way of A&Ring?
TR: Yes it is, it is definitely that but I think that everything comes to a halt after a little while.
DX: Your history is phenomenal and being that you have been around music for so long and have had this success, looking at the industry today, what mistakes would you say producers are making today?
TR: I think people are experimenting and doing new things but I think the only mistake that people are making is doing the same thing that they have been doing. It is just like recycling the same music that is the mistake. It just opens peoples eyes to a producer giving up a song just like his last song.
DX: Various producers will say that people dont necessarily do their homework and take in other genres to further their knowledge, would you agree with this?
TR: No, they dont. I mean that is advice I would give someone. I mean when I was coming up I studied everything and everybody. I think I studied too much.
DX: Can you study too much?
TR: Thats how I came up with so many songs by myself. That was my edge, studying people.
DX: You have encouraged the careers of The Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins. How did you come across the Neptunes?
TR: Well, I ran across them during a talent show and they were competing and of course, if a judge was looking at them, you know a regular judge, who didnt know music, would have picked somebody else, or something like a Whitney Houston song; something that holds a long note. But I could see the talent in those guys and I picked them and I over-ruled the Judge. That night everything they did they just free styled. I saw a real versatility with them and even though they werent necessarily singing, they had one singer in the group who is not part of them right now, but he was the voice. I think that person was thinking more solo and wanted to be by himself, so we let him go solo.
DX: Similar story with Rodney?
TR: Well Rodney was sitting on the stoop of my studio for about a week. He kept coming to the studio and waiting to see if he could get into talk to me. Then he did.
DX: This proves that persistence pays off?
TR: Oh yeah, it sure does. And what you have to understand is these guys wanted to learn, they absorbed everything. Pharrell, everything he does is what I done. He has his own style of course, but his work ethic and how he interpreted what he watched is what he watched.
DX: What is the situation with you, Snoop, DK Quik? IS QDT actually going ahead?
TR: Yeah QDT is most definitely going to be in full effect. This is a movement that is brought together by us three and what we are doing is bringing a group of great producers under the umbrella and building them and of course building the brand.
DX: There were rumors that you were working on L.A.X for Game, is there any truth to that?
TR: Man, working on a Game album is like working on a Michael Jackson album. You dont know if your song is going to be chosen, so I am hoping that I do have something on the album. We have worked on a few tracks, but like I said it is working on Michael Jackson.
DX: You had your joint "Lights Camera Action" with Busta Rhymes which kind of re-introduced back into the mainstream earlier this year. Why were you missing?
TR: I wanted to get with my children. You know you cant catch them twice and I had to take time out to be with them. People understood me taking that time and the reception of me coming back showed how much they understood that.
DX: Going back out on the road in 2006 on the New Jack Reunion Tour had to have been pretty interesting.
TR: Yeah it had been a while for me going out on the road and I loved every moment of it, it was very enlightening. I just got a call from Eric from Blackstreet and they want to go back out on the road and I think it is pretty cool to be back out there like that. You get to have insight as to what is going on out there musically. Its incredible to see that fans are still singing your songs after all this time. I think that anyone who has been out there would love to go back out there for that reason; just to see people appreciating your music and singing your songs and just enjoying what they have been enjoying which is the music.
DX: Is there going to be a Blackstreet album coming any time soon?
TR: Well, we are talking about it and it may not be an album, it might just be us going out all over the world.
DX: Would that be a hardship?
TR: I think that would be incredible.
DX: Obviously there was all the talk about the studio, you being in financial trouble, is all that sorted now?
TR: I have another studio here in LA where I am right now. Truthfully I didnt want to have the studio anymore in Virginia because it was just sitting there collecting dust, but I got into a situation which was a real estate scam with a guy called Troy Titus. This guy has been involved in various real estate scams. Right now he is looking to be indicted and he is the cause of me having big problems with my studio and I just gave it up. There is nothing we can do about it, we wouldnt be able to make any of the money we have lost, and people lost millions. I lost three or four million which was the reason why I filed bankruptcy. I just want to let people know I did that and it got me back where I am at and I am happy.
DX: Did the media blow that whole episode out of proportion?
TR: Yes they did and that is okay as that is the news for you but it kept me famous as it had people talking. I am not an artist that acts like a gangster, it kept me out there though and because of that situation everyone that was coming after me was those that he basically scammed and took money from. He was utilizing my property and I had my name along with that so I got sued too and I had to do what I had to do.
DX: Does this come back around to people making the right decisions for you?
TR: Definitely as I have a great network around me who are protecting me and making sure that I am doing the right thing and supporting me in my new start.
DX: Is this how you see this, a new start?
TR: Oh yeah this is a new start. My credit is good and I feel like I am a new person. All the stuff that I went through with managers and business managers kind of educated me too and I fell short on that and that was a huge mistake; not having the right representation.
DX: So all the negative karma has gone.
TR: Well yeah and there is still more going out; but as long as it is going out and the money is coming in.
DX: We are from a generation though where money was more disposable. We didnt save; in the music industry do you think people need to learn about how to handle money?
TR: Its not about needing to learn it, they need to know it. I can only say that I was the one to learn it, but the people that are coming up under me, they will know it. They need to know. I would never let anyone go through that kind of life where you lose all that they work hard for. I worked 25 years but it paid off. I mean look at James Brown, he worked so many years and didnt get paid for it, but it paid off. I have my name and my credibility and I thank god for that.
DX: What are you working on right now?
TR: Pussycat Dolls, New Kids on the Block, John Legend and I am also working with the Lieberman family, they bought the Elvis Presley catalogue.
DX: What do you look for today in an artist?
TR: Professionalism, the talent and of course the elements of a super star. You have to have that star quality.
DX: What do you think determines star quality?
TR: Star quality is the one that stands out. There are a lot of superstars but they dont all necessarily have the talent but they dont have the get up and go. A superstar is the one who has that talent and the get up and go, the potential to do anything at any moment or any time and is not afraid or ashamed to show their talent at any moment or any time. I think a lot of people now tend to not fall into that superstar status. They dont have a lot to offer and that is the thing that most records dont see as well. They will see the artist with a hot record and a hot record will get them some money but doesnt mean they are going to get a superstar. There is a lot more to it but I think a lot of record labels and a lot of people just have artists and hot singles.
DX: Where do you look for a superstar today?
TR: You cant find a superstar. A superstar just shows up, displays their talent. You know you can make a superstar, if that person has the star quality and is capable enough to learn how to be a star.
DX: Who was the last superstar you came across?
TR: For me, it would be Beyonce and right now I am trying to build superstars and I dont think that we have that yet. They just have it in everything they do, their skills cant be touched and you have to be a peoples person at the same time. You need to be able to get away from the crowds too. You have to have the willingness to learn and also not be ashamed to show what you know or what you dont know.
DX: You say working with Michael Jackson was a great experience, there has to have been instances with artists where the studio experience wasnt too great; how do you handle that?
TR: Of course there are times like that (laughs) and that was the worst. I do what producers do though; we are great communicators and it is almost like finding out what a baby likes and doesnt like and there are times when you have to feed them anyway and well that is what I have been doing with most of these singers.