Teddy Riley Details Losing His Fortune & Moving Back To The Projects (Video)
In addition to his crucial role in Guy and Blackstreet, Teddy Riley may be best known for pioneering the “New Jack Swing” sound (a term coined by journalist/screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper). The 51-year-old Riley is a product of Harlem’s St. Nicholas housing projects, a backdrop for the new-jack slang and style. Beginning in the mid-1980s the Uptown singer, producer, and songwriter began a long string of hits with Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Heavy D & The Boyz, Kool Moe Dee, and more. Reportedly in attendance when Moe battled Busy Bee at Harlem World, Riley eventually gave his section of New York City a sound all of its own through blending Hip-Hop, R&B, and Pop.
This week, Riley was a guest for more than an hour at The Breakfast Club. At 58:00, DJ Envy asked Riley about his mid-’90s exodus from his then-Virginia Beach headquarters. “I didn’t close shop. I just took everything with me to Atlanta and opened up Future [Recording Studios] there.” Envy pressed Teddy for the reasons the hit-maker relocated, especially at a time when he appeared so entrenched in the area and successful.
“The reason I left is because I was hated on by the officials, not the people. I love the people. I [still] go to Virginia; I still have a spot in Virginia where I can go and lay my head—but I would never let them know that I’m there,” he continued. “I’ll let my people know. I feel like I was used, you know what I’m saying? People know who they are, but they don’t listen [to The Breakfast Club]. Basically, a lot of the officials wanted to utilize my likeness, and not me as an official person in Virginia. I felt like this is not the place for me [anymore]. So I left. I was also…how will I say? I was in a situation with someone [who] shiested me [and Blackstreet co-founder] Chauncey [Hannibal], and a lot of people in Virginia. [They took] over $50 million. I don’t know if anybody’s seen American Greed, but I’m [featured on an episode of] American Greed, ’cause there was a gentleman who actually took a lot from us [and] a lot of [people’s] retirement funds and a lot of that stuff. He’s in jail; he’s doing about 33 years.”
In 2012, Riley appeared on an American Greed episode chronicling self-proclaimed real estate guru Troy Titus. In 2008, a company linked to Titus, Dunkirk Properties LLC, was confirmed by The Virginian Pilot to be the then-owner of Riley’s former Future Recording Studios in Virginia Beach. That shuttered facility caught fire while it was on the market. During the overnight fire, Titus’ license was revoked after the man bounced checks in excess of $3 million.
“For me, this guy was doing [multiple] fake [property] deeds, and selling them to people,” explained Riley. “Meanwhile, I’m not making any of the [revenue], ’cause I’m not a part of it. I never knew anything about it.” Teddy revealed that he learned he lost his home because of Titus’ wrongdoing. In 2002, Riley filed for bankruptcy, owing the IRS a reported $1 million in back-taxes. Four years later, Teddy’s Virginia home was sold for $1.5 million, with monies going towards the debt. “People were buying the [falsified] deeds and then they’re [publicly using the fact that it is supposed to be] Teddy Riley’s house—not the guy who actually shiested them. ‘It’s Teddy Riley!’ I had lawsuits against me. I said, ‘You know what; I’m going to tell the truth.’ Chauncey accompanied me, ’cause he was going through the same thing. We wanted the story to get out about him, ’cause this is going on everywhere. So that’s why I left. I just said, ‘You know what, it’s time for change.’ I went to Atlanta. I enjoyed it there. My mom enjoyed it. She was with me everywhere.”
However, Riley revealed that he suffered massive losses, long before the 2000s. The discussion began when Charlamagne asked Teddy Riley what he was charging to produce a track at the height of his career. “Money-wise, I gave it all away. When I left Gene [Griffin], I think I left about $20-30 million on the table. Because I just wanted to be away from him. Because, when I found out from his right-hand [man] who left him, and came back and showed me all the paperwork of monies that I really made I didn’t even know that I was getting $200,000 to $250,000 a song, ’cause all he did was give me $10,000 a song or [per] remix. And I didn’t control the bank accounts; he controlled them all.”
Riley continued that upon learning he was often making less than 5% on his tracks, he decided to leave the man sometimes called his mentor. “So when I came to New York to let my crew: Guy, Abstrac’, Tammy Lucas, Redhead Kingpin, Wreckx-N-Effect—everybody, I let everybody know that I had to leave Gene. They’re like, ‘What about us?’ I said, ‘Well, I am a partner [of Gene-Riley Productions]. I can release you from your contracts, because I’m the one who gave you your deals.'” He continued, “I gave everybody their releases. I was on my way back to Atlanta, and I was stuck at the airport, with $20 in my pocket. He cut off all the credit cards and bank cards. So I couldn’t get a flight to go home, ’cause I don’t carry cash. I carry cards.” Nearly choked up in retelling the story, Riley said a background vocalist in Abstrac’, Marsha McClurkin, had previously offered him a platinum American Express card in case of emergencies like this. Riley was able to catch a flight home. “[A lot has been said] that ‘Teddy Riley broke!’ That was the time. I was actually broke. But the news came later.”
Upon showing the ticket agent the card, Teddy Riley was able to purchase a first-class ticket home to the ATL. “That’s how I got on the plane to get my family out of Atlanta. We moved back to the projects.” Charlamagne asked if this was public housing in Harlem. “First floor,” Riley replied. “Then, Keith Sweat, Harvey Alston, Benny Medina, Quincy Jones, and Clarence Avant gave me a whole new life—and Jane Child.” Riley remixed 1989’s “Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” for the Canadian Dance-Pop singer, a move that he says got him back on his feet. “I got my first job from Keith Sweat. Keith was like, ‘I’ma give you this remix. I’ma pay you $15,000. That’s more than $10,000, right?” Riley asked, alluding to Gene Griffin’s allowance. The calls continued. Riley says he had envisioned a mix to Jane Child’s record the same day that he received the call, offering him $75,000 for the express job. Days later, Riley was offered his own imprint. He signed Wreckx-N-Effect, fusing Rap and R&B.
Elsewhere in the interview, Teddy Riley broke down forgiving Gene Griffin. He also chronicled his often-understated role in producing Doug E. Fresh’s seminal “The Show.” He detailed the inclusion of Aaron Hall of Tupac’s “Toss It Up” being a political move, following a meeting with Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight. Riley also expressed his hopes for a proper Guy reunion.