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Black Music Month In Focus: Guy

Helmed by New Jack Swing producer Teddy Riley, Guy was a confluence of street-wise sophistication and romantic intuition

This is part of The Shadow League’s Black Music Month In Focus series celebrating the vibrating musical excellence within our wide cultural tapestry.

It’s summertime, and if youre like me, a little sunshine and a tight hug of humidity bring back memories from times past along with a reminiscence of ’90s era R&B, which always feels like a summertime groove. No other group put that young meets grown and sexy energy together quite like the seminal New Jack Swing group, Guy.

Guy – I Like

Guy’s song “I Like” from their 1988 debut album.

Helmed by musical master and producer extraordinaire Teddy Riley, Guy was a confluence of street-wise sophistication and romantic intuition. Childhood friends Riley and Timmy Gatling brought their Harlem roots to melodious syncopation and with the addition of crooner, Aaron Hall, the cipher was complete.

The group would sign to a powerhouse record company at the time, Uptown Records, which was responsible for acts like Heavy D and Mary J. Blige.

Guy – Groove Me

Music video by Guy performing Groove Me. (C) 1988 Geffen Records

Their 1988 self-titled debut album, Guy, took a different approach to commercial success. Five singles were released which each having no real heavy commercial impact, however, the album was able to secure double platinum status.

Songs like Groove Me, Teddys Jam, Piece of My Love and I Like, were all big on the Billboard R&B charts but didn’t make the Hot 100 list of pop charts.

Still, the album is considered a classic and defined the drug-soaked era of flashy hustlers and urban playboys.

Piece Of My Love

Guy doing what they do best. No Copyright Infringement Intended.

Shortly after recording their debut album, Gatling left the group and was replaced by Damion Hall, younger brother of lead singer Aaron. In 1990 they released their second album, The Future, which really cemented them as leaders of the New Jack Swing sound. Singles like Wanna Get Wit You and Lets Chill were bookends to a brash yet sultry presentation to black love.

They really defined the angst in urban dating through the masculine perception of how to approach and maintain a young relationship. The testosterone-filled odes that secretly wished to be love ballads were infectious and defined an entire generation’s outlook on love.

Guy – Let’s Chill

Music video by Guy performing Let’s Chill. (C) 1990 Geffen Records

Guy also gave us the title track to the film New Jack City, performing it in a scene in the movie which forever memorialized the way the club used to be, replete with synchronized dance moves where the tone was all fun and less svelte.

GUY- New Jack City

Good old “New Jack Swing”

Unfortunately, the group disbanded after a while with Riley moving his base of operations to Virginia Beach and forming the successful group Blackstreet. The Hall brothers each pursued solo careers with Aaron Hall being the more successful of the two.

Still, Guy gets together from time to time to perform at nostalgic concerts that are now affectionately labeled as old-school. They are true kings of Black Music Month and Riley continues to get his props and be remembered as an icon. His COVID-19 quarantine-inspired Verzuz battle with Baby Face (Parts 1 and The Do-over) introduced him to a new set of Instagram fans and solidified his legacy as one of music’s all-time masters of production.

No one will ever be able to erase the genie in a bottle effect the trio captured during a pivotal time in late ’80s and early ’90s.

Guy – Teddy’s Jam (live Soul Train 1988)

Uploaded by Boogo Spaceyacht on 2014-02-12.

Teddy Riley is truly the pre-Q-Tip, Pharrell and Kanye West, crafting a style and sound that would define an entire generation and force the music world to conform to the style of the youth saddled in the crack cocaine era.

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