Interview with the legendary "New Jack Swing" man, Teddy Riley of BS2

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    Versatile, charismatic and prolific, Teddy Riley is what entertainment insders refer to as a 'triple-threat,' a Grammy-Award-winning songwriter, composer and producer that's launched the careers of multiple performers across genres and generations. His diverse repertoire and trademark sound---the gospel-tinged, urbanized hip-hop-flavored style known as 'New Jack Swing'---has dominated playlists for decades, but to hear him tell it, there are miles to go before he sleeps. 
     
    "It's for the love of music," Riley affirms.
     
    Versatile, charismatic and prolific, Teddy Riley is what entertainment insders refer to as a 'triple-threat,' a Grammy-Award-winning songwriter, composer and producer that's launched the careers of multiple performers across genres and generations. His diverse repertoire and trademark sound---the gospel-tinged, urbanized hip-hop-flavored style known as 'New Jack Swing'---has dominated playlists for decades, but to hear him tell it, there are miles to go before he sleeps. 
     
    "It's for the love of music," Riley affirms. He and his latest group, BS2,  recently headlined a souled-out roster with Joe and El DeBarge in Dallas. The ticket and marquee may have read "Blackstreet," but according to Teddy, there are major differences personnel-wise and professionally between the two. 
     
    "Our sound is definitely an extension of New Jack Swing, but we just refer to it as great music," says the low-key and humble icon. "So many people are using machines to become a star that when fans find out what they really have, they can't help but think, 'Wow, this could've been a great thing, but now I'm disappointed.' They're going to concerts and finding out that the performers aren't sounding like their records, and that's not the era that we came from. There's no real singing groups left out here, and I wanted to prove to people that I don't need to put together artists already out for years to have a supergroup. They all have their own sound and that's what I strove to create."
     
    BS2---not Blackstreet---is the name, and hit-making is still the game. Online interviews, most recently with former member Chauncey Black, characterize the name change as a duplicitous alpha-dog tug-of-war, but according to Riley, BS2 represents an entirely new template. "We don't want the crowds to be fooled and we don't want to crash their [Blackstreet's] party because they aren't doing we do: we have a live band, no tracks, and straight live singers. You get a real show."
     
    Incredibly, public feuding and departed members aside, the one-man hit machine hasn't completely ruled out the possibility of a reunion later on down the road. "If I could have 20 members in a group, I would. It's like raising a child---you're not going to get rid of him for not obeying you, you still want them around you because you birthed them, and that's what I did with the first group members of Blackstreet. Some of them went the wrong way, made their mistakes and now they want back in, but I'm working on something powerful enough to allow  that [later] opportunity, a branding that starts from the original lineup all the way into BS2, the new generation. That way there won't be a way for someone out there to say 'I own this.'"
     
    Dave Hollister, the only member from original 1990s era besides Teddy, completely embraces the transformation.  "I'm not 'fly-by-night,'  these are our little brothers and this is our group. When I went solo [as an R&B and gospel performer], it wasn't on bad terms because he allowed me to leave and do what I wanted to do. We've always been connected, no matter what others 
    have said, because we always knew the truth. And when it was time to come back, according to Teddy, I brought my end on back."
     
    The debut BS2 CD, All About Her, is scheduled for a summer release; given the combined vocal genius Lenny, Tyler and J-Stylz, it's practically destined to become a smash. "We've got a Sam Cooke type, a Cee-lo Green on steroids and something like Philip Biley meets Eddie Kendricks," Riley chuckles. "When you hear these guys, you won't hear a beat missing from the first Blackstreet lineup. I've never had a group of guys that can get along without tripping. We have fun, but we can be serious and we're focused on 
    where we're going."
     
    Watching BS2 brainstorm about their future, it's hard to believe that their youthful founder is a 40-something music vet. But what fuels his dedication, according to Teddy, is the legacy he's built for himself and Generation Next. "It's what I've been doing for the last 30 years. Even when I'm no longer here [physically], I'll still be here. When you see Pharrell [Williams], you see me. When you see Rodney Jerkins, you see me.  Even with Aaron Hall and Damion Hall, that's still my music playing behind them, and you can't take that away from me." 
     
    By Melody Charles
    .