We already knew it was about to be epic when Babyface popped into Instagram Live. In the background, white candles on black pedestals were lit, illuminating a beautiful arrangement of flowers and, of course, two Grammys. And thankfully for all of us, Teddy Riley popped on-screen without any mics. This time, all he had was the jams…and they were the only thing we needed.
They say the third time’s the charm and the Babyface versus Teddy Riley Instagram Live Battle, where the iconic producers went head-to-head with their classics did not disappoint. It felt like the end of every party or the beginning of every relationship. It felt like high school parties in the gym, or late car rides home, listening to the Quiet Storm. It felt like a cookout at auntie’s house or listening to the playlist your boo made for you.
Riley started off with a banger, his 1992 collaboration with SWV, “Right Here (Human Nature Remix).” Babyface came out swinging when he played “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” from the Boomerang sound track, sung by Toni Braxton, the singer he discovered.
But it was the story that Face told to set the song up that won him the round. The R&B singer said the late Michael Jackson called him once, asking him to hook him up with the movie’s star, Halle Berry.
Riley had his own stories with Jackson, especially since the producer collaborated on a number of hits he played Monday night, including “Blood on the Dance Floor” and the song that made me two-step in my towel, “Jam.” The Harlem-bred singer said working with MJ felt like an AP course, when he didn’t even go to college. He added, “It was like me going to the next level.”
The next songs took us from the club to the bedroom with Riley playing hits such as, “Just Got Paid,” “I Like” and “Rump Shaker,” and Babyface playing classics like “Superwoman,” “You’re Making Me High” and “Red Light Special.” But Face called foul when Riley played his remix to Janet Jackson’s “I Get Lonely.”
“Oh, did you write that, produce it or remix it?” he asked, likely already knowing the answer.
“Oh, I didn’t know we could do remixes. I don’t do remixes. Maybe that’s why.”
Yessssss, uncle with the subtle shade! It was like sitting at the adults table at a cookout, watching your uncles go back and forth. (And no, it’s not because of their age. It’s because you gotta put respect on these two icons for creating the sound track to our lives.)
Uncle Snoop put it perfectly. “I love being Black,” he typed in the scrolling comments.
Raekwon, Brandy, Tamar Braxton, Uzo Aduba, Erica Campbell, Fat Joe, Ashanti, Anthony Anderson, DJ Envy, Nelly, Sevyn, Keyshia Cole, Porsha Williams, Jurnee Bell, Tyrese, Letitia Wright, Keri Hilson, Chris Tucker and Jermaine Dupri tuned in along with more than 500,000 people at one point in the more than two-hour battle.
There were so many music lovers trying to log on and see the bouts that it seemed Instagram had had it. Between Riley running to go look for a charger (with the words “Okay Teddy” quickly trending on Twitter afterward, proof that Black culture took over two social media platforms) and his keyboard, the two could never hop back into the same livestream.
Fabulous wrote what we were all thinking, “ut oh,” with comedian Ali Wong chiming in with, “Oh dear.” Sevyn took a page from Beyoncé, writing: “Somebody getting fired.” Fab added, “I think he threw in the tile” —an inside joke from Saturday night’s botched battle. You had to have been there.
It felt like Instagram turned the lights on. The party was officially over, but the let out was even better. With thousands still tuning in, Babyface and Riley both went to their corners, or their respective lives, and played just a few more songs.
Babyface had a timely message for all of us before we hurried off to coat check, err I mean, before we all nestled into bed.
“I had COVID-19 myself and it was kind of scary,” he said in his home studio. “I’m blessed and happy to be here—and thankful.”
The producer then played a song he hoped would inspire everyone feeling the effects of the coronavirus: Whitney Houston and Cece Winans’ inspirational hit, “Count on Me.” And because he’s Babyface, he mixed it with Houston’s other collaboration with Mariah Carey, “When You Believe.” I felt chills.
“We have to believe in miracles right now,” Babyface concluded. “Everybody stay safe.”