Artists have been serving creative and highly addictive entertainment during the quarantine and everyone was here for the Verzuz series, aka the Instagram Live battle brought to us by super producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.
Audio and technical issues interrupted the first session between Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Teddy Riley, the King of New Jack Swing, but the legends refused to be defeated and returned for another night for an epic, musical face off.
Recently, Riley linked up with ESSENCE’s Webby-nominated Yes, Girl! podcast to recap the matchup—including his response to the hilarious memes that ensued—and share behind-the-scenes tea on some of his biggest hits, including Guy’s romantic “Let’s Chill” and Bobby Brown’s dance manifesto, “My Prerogative.”
Brown’s declaration that he didn’t need “permission to make my own decisions” in “My Prerogative” almost didn’t happen because Riley and Brown had a lil’ beef (no broccoli) in the studio.
“Actually for ‘My Prerogative,’ we did it at the house. He sung it just like how we wanted it. We was bull crapping around and that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’ve got to keep that same thing when you get to the studio,” Riley shared. “The problem was when we got to the studio and it was time to sing, he wanted to go on tenor only mode. I was like, ‘This song is too high for some tenor only mode.’”
In the studio studio, Brown was on one and started flexing on the famed producer who gifted us 1998’s “Groove Me.” But Riley was unbothered. “I was like, ‘Well, listen. We don’t have to do this’ and then [Bobby] walked out on me… I was like, ‘I could take this song and give it to someone else.’ But this was made strictly for him.”
Brown disappeared for three hours.
Little Sails was called for a come to Jesus moment with the singer, which made Brown return to the studio. Still, Brown was determined to get the last word. “He said, ‘If it don’t come out right… We’re going to do it my way,’” Riley recalled.
Harlem’s famous son is thankful that he let the Boston bad boy have the last word because it fueled Brown’s performance that day. “I’m so glad it frustrated him, because it came out on the record,” Riley told Yes, Girl! podcast hosts Cori Murray and Charli Penn. “It sounded like he was determined for people to stay out of his business. It’s my prerogative and you felt it.”
Brown was happy with the final product and even name checked Riley on the song.
In the end, “My Prerogative” climbed the charts to Billboard’s No. 1 spot and sat there for 24 weeks. So for Riley, the moral of the story is simple: “You’ve got to push an artist beyond what they’re thinking and what they feel like they can do. That’s when they know they can do more. Some artists, they just settle. I don’t settle.”
Listen to Riley’s full interview on Yes, Girl! above.