For many of music’s biggest names, the genesis of a long and fruitful career often comes at the hands of a chance encounter that reshaped their lives forever. For Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, that moment came in the form of a Virginia Beach high school talent show in 1992.
The collective impressed New Jack Swing architect Teddy Riley to the point where he overrode the other judges and gave the group first prize. That spark would ignite an inferno and nearly 30 years later, their résumé is rivaled only by names like Dr. Dre, David Foster and Quincy Jones.
In any competitive industry, there’s a level of jealousy that precludes some people from trying to put on others. Teddy, secure in his legendary status, wasted no time in helping to kickstart his newfound protégé’s careers, and at the same time, strengthening his own catalog.
As the venerable curator of sound tells it, it was a no-brainer.
“We had a talent show at his school and [Pharrell] was a part of it, performing with his crew, The Neptunes,” Teddy recalled to HipHopDX. “I took a liking to them all: Chad, Pharrell, Mike Etheridge, Shay [Haley] and the rest of the crew. I overrode the judges in the contest and said ‘This is what I’m looking for,’ and wound up signing them. At the time, I was in the midst of working on Blackstreet as well as Wreckx-n-Effect, so I was working on the song ‘Rump Shaker,’” he added.
As fate would have it, the song needed something and Pharrell was in the right place at the perfect time.
“I produced the song, and there were so many versions of it and I didn’t like the way my rap was,” recalled Teddy. “This was my chance to give Pharrell the opportunity to write it. He said ‘I can come up with something.’ I said ‘Well, let’s do it.’ He came up with the rap. I studied it. I rapped it on my song and that was his contribution to the song was writing my rap.”
Pharrell is still one of the biggest hit-making machines in all of music and Teddy is planning his move to Africa to get in on the tech boom that is happening over there, but despite their separate lives, the two are always there for each other whenever the call comes.
“We don’t work together but we still network. I do whatever he asks me to do,” noted Teddy. “We performed together last year at the Essence Festival. It was an amazing performance and you’ll see in my documentary, us doing ‘Rump Shaker’ for the first time together in the Superdome, in an 85,000-seat stadium.”
He continued: “That was a night to remember, performing on stage with Timbaland, Wyclef, Doug E. Fresh, Teyana Taylor, Ro James, Blackstreet and Maejor. I had the most incredible time and whenever I have something come up like this documentary, [Pharrell] shows up and whenever he has something, I show up for him as well.”
As for the casually mentioned documentary, Teddy is chronicling his own life as well as the movement that he started back in the 80s and he’s enlisted a big name to help him tell the story.
“We’re developing a documentary. We have teamed up with the Incredible activist, writer, producer and director, Nelson George, who is my friend and my idol,” Teddy revealed. “I always admired him and Spike Lee, so I feel so honored having him come aboard. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to work with Spike Lee in this lifetime. It’s a Teddy Riley/New Jack Swing documentary. We also have a book coming as well. It’s going to be called Remember The Time,” he added.
The title, of course, stems from one of Michael Jackson’s most famous songs and videos. As one of the only producers that was fortunate enough to work with both Michael and Prince, Teddy sheds some light on the adversarial pop stars’ well-known feud.
“It wasn’t pettiness [between them] it was just, when it comes to lyrical content, there was a thing about the song ‘Bad,’ which Prince was supposed to be a part of but he wasn’t cause he had a problem with the words [‘your butt is mine,’], said Teddy. “When Prince didn’t wanna do it, Michael went ahead and did ‘Bad.’ Prince wasn’t a part of it but it was a big success and if I was Prince I would have gotten on that song.”