Babyface vs. Teddy Riley Instagram battle an epic night of ’90s nostalgia
It wasn’t the Saturday night jam it was supposed to be.
But still, the much-anticipated Instagram battle between ’90s R&B greats Babyface and Teddy Riley was an epic night of nostalgia when it all went down 48 hours later on Monday night.
The IG showdown —with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Riley rocking their hits from home — was a Monday night getdown for fans of ’90s R&B, who were bumping instead of bored in the house.
The R&B Thrilla in Manila had to be rescheduled from Saturday night — when it went up against the all-star “One World: Together at Home” benefit concert — due to technical difficulties. Babyface, in particular, wasn’t about to get ratchet, smooth operator that he is.
But two days later, the stay-at-home battle was on, with everyone from Michelle Obama and Missy Elliott to Diddy, Pharrell and Anthony Anderson joining the virtual house party. Although it didn’t go off without a hitch — there were still some technical difficulties — the two-hour session did happen, much to the delight of isolated R&B fans everywhere.
Babyface — the picture of soul sophistication, decked out in a maroon velvet blazer — and Riley, with a towel wrapped around his neck like a boxing coach, went toe to toe with hit after hit that made you realize just how much better R&B was in the ’90s.
While both Babyface and Riley were artists — the former as a solo singer, the latter as a member of the R&B group Guy — it is their work as producers that has truly stood the test of time.
Riley, the architect of the new jack swing sound in the ’90s, produced hits for Mary. J. Blige, Blackstreet and even Lady Gaga. Meanwhile, Babyface — with and without his producing partner L.A. Reid — built hits for everyone from Whitney Houston to Madonna.
So who emerged as the victor of ’90s R&B supremacy?
The edge went to Babyface, whose songs are just so much more timeless than Riley’s. From “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” the breakout hit by Toni Braxton — who joined in on the virtual festivities — to the Whispers’ “Rock Steady” and TLC’s “Red Light Special,” his songs were more real songs than productions.
And it was great to hear Karyn White and Tevin Campbell — two Babyface protégées who seem to have fallen off the music map — get their due during this contest.
Riley, on the other hand, was a master of the moment as the new jack swing king. Songs like Keith Sweat’s definitive NJS hit “I Want Her” and Johnny Kemp’s 1988 classic “Just Got Paid” were tied to a specific time. Think Wesley Snipes as Nino Brown in “New Jack City.”
But it was cool to also be reminded that Riley helped give the great Michael Jackson some long-lost street cred with his “Dangerous” album in 1991. When he drops the beat on “In the Closet,” it’s a reminder of the genius in both of them.
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