To celebrate Black History month, throughout June check out a series of features on the influences of blacks in the music we listen to today.
In the late 1980's, R&B artists started to add hip-hop rhythms, samples, and production techniques to their sound and New Jack Swing was born. Just like other previously created new sounds, older musical elements of jazz, funk, rap and pop influenced the New Jack Swing sound. Its formula was to sing R&B vocals over a hip-hop/pop beat, beats created by a drum machine and samples. The music described the urban music experience.
Legendary music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (former members of the 1980s group The Time) were the first to incorporate this unknown sound in the music they produced, one of which included Janet Jackson's 1986 album Control. However, it received most of its mainstream popularity by the efforts of two men producer Teddy Riley and label executive Andre Harrell who make New Jack Swing a movement.
Before New Jack Swing, it was unheard of for rappers and singers to collaborate on a song. It was like mixing water and oil together. As a producer, Teddy Riley found a way to mix the two. Riley called the sound "sophisticated bubble gum music" but it was officially labeled New Jack Swing by Barry Michael Cooper, a journalist of The Village Voice (also created the 1991 film New Jack City). In 1987, Riley produced the first New Jack album, Keith Sweat's Make it Last Forever (1987). Sweat's single I Want Her was the first major New Jack hit that peaked people's interested in the music.
That same year, Riley formed the group Guy with Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling (later replaced by Hall's brother Damion) and the group became the pioneer of the New Jack Swing movement with their 1988 their self-titled album. One of their major hits was Groove Me.
Also in 1987, Andre Harrell founded the New York based Uptown Records. This was the first label to sign New Jack Swing artists which included Guy, Heavy D & the Boyz, and Al. B Sure. It quickly became the home of New Jack Swing with Teddy Riley as the label's Chief Producer. Harrell had the ability and clout to market this new sound to other executives which allowed New Jack to become mainstream.
New Jack Swing Facts
Bobby Brown's, also known as the King of New Jack Swing, album Don't Be Cruel (1988) produced New Jack hits like Don't Be Cruel and My Prerogative
The most successful New Jack swing album is Michael Jackson's 1991 Dangerous album, which sold 32 million copies worldwide.
Riley would then go on to form other New Jack groups like Wreckx n Effect and Blackstreet. New Jack went on to influence many other artists/groups such as Jodeci, BBD, Mary J. Blige, New Kids on the Block, En Vogue, Tevin Campell, Mint Condition, Aaliyah. SWV, R.Kelly, and the list goes on.
Check out all of the Black Music Month features, click here.