Teddy Riley vs. BabyFace Breaks The Internet But Who Won?

Yesterday, the anticipated epic song-for-song showdown between two of pop music’s most tenured producers went down.

It was the rematch from the first attempt at the pairing last Saturday that just couldn’t get right. However, last night’s revisit was worth the wait, even through the technical difficulties.

The Instagram Live showdown, is now a quarantine staple item for hip hop heads. This latest version featured Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Teddy Riley traversing their wide catalogue of hits from home. It was as unexpected as you would expect for a Monday night get down; but as craved as ever for fans of ’90s R&B.

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With a packed “house” including Michelle Obama, Missy Elliott, Diddy, Pharrell, and more, it was the most lit thing happening all night.  The virtual house party wasn’t without its technical mishaps, mainly on the side of the New Jack Swing king in Riley.

He eschewed a grandfather’s understanding of grandchildren’s technology that was both understandable as it could be annoying. Still, it aded to the authenticity of the Verzuz battles organized by super producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.

With the world now in the heavy throws of a quarantined life, the battles have helped people get past their discomfort. Starting with DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine IG Live series, Instagram has become the unofficial network of the quarantined.

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Other video conferencing services like Zoom are also being heavily used. However, Instagram’s Live platform has become the live content conduit of choice. With sports still on the mends, the battles continue the athletic spirit of competitiveness through creativity.

Tale Of The Tape

Babyface, the ideal of a contemporary soul singer, was smooth as ever in a maroon velvet blazer, a glass of wine, and his Grammys flanking him.

Riley had a towel wrapped around his neck, ready like a coach to deliver hit after hit. Like a time machine, it brought you back to the 90’s where R&B was king.

Both transformed from lead singers in groups to solo artists, but Babyface and Riley’s work as producers has truly stood the test of time. The two have so many hits that you were constantly reminded that they produced something that you never knew.

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Riley is the architect of the new jack swing sound in the ’90s. He was practically the sword and shield of 90’s executives like Andre Harrell of Uptown Records and Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen of Def Jam. He produced hits for Mary. J. Blige, Blackstreet and even Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.

However, Babyface is his doppelganger with and without his production partner L.A. Reid. ‘Face has crafted hits for everyone from After 7, Tevin Campbell, Whitney Houston to Madonna. At one point during technical difficulties on Riley’s side, Babyface broke out the acoustic guitar and began playing his “white” songs, “Change The World” popularized by Eric Clapton.

So who won?

It depends on how you view music.

Riley, showed extreme versatility with music for the nightclubs, bedroom, and general feel good records. Babyface has a classic palate with traditional soul ballads.

In the end, the winners were the fans, who have been saved from quarantine boredom by the masters of music. When quarantine is over and the world begins to put itself back together, we can only hope that the Verzuz battles stay apart of pop culture.

 

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.