Retrospective: The New Jack Swing Era

New Jack Swing. Music that was essentially popularized via Teddy Riley and spawned many of the late 80s and early 90s R&B superstars. Utilizing most synthesizers, drums and keyboard instruments, the genre created a bouncy, funky, hip hop inspired style that provided R&B with an edge. Some might credit Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as the true architects of the sound, but Teddy Riley was the one who helped further it and grow it. Today, we gathered a few of the fellas to talk about the New Jack Swing era, some of their favorite songs that came from the era and its importance in music.

A fitting topic considering my recent interview (shameless plug) with Aurora Jolie over on, the New Jack Swing era was lightning in a jagged edged bottle. New Jack was the combination of several genres, including hip-hop, R&B, and funk, something that'd never been done before. A response to the changing times in music, New Jack brought us legend after legend after legend. But, was it the greatest era in music?

Yeah, kind of.

For starters, it was fun. Artists were less concerned with being anointed with pretentious titles and actually just made music. It took pop and made it gritty, and took rap and helped make it pop. When artists remove those "oh, I've got to do XYZ" pretenses from their music, in my opinion, you get classic stuff. Without NJS, a lot of the hip-hop we have today? I feel it'd fall flat, because that meshing between genres, that ability to crossover while still remaining true wouldn't exist.

Plus, we wouldn't have a lot of the baby-making music we grew up on/may've been conceived to (if you're in your early 20s)/may've conceived your own little one to/made memories to. Who hasn't grinded on that one big booty chick to "Poison?" Who hasn't slow-danced to "Forever My Lady?" Who hasn't recited the first lines of "This is How We Do It?" And if you say "no," you're lying to me and you're lying to the music Gods.

Now, excuse me. I've got a playlist to crank in my office.

Whenever I think of New Jack Swing, I think of baggy colorful suits, the fades, the fast (and ridiculously massive sweat inducing) dances that more than makes up for missing time at the gym. I mean the music was pumping with tracks you can't help but dance your ass off to, even for an offbeat dancing ass nigga like me myself haha. This is the era that had Guy, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, etc.. My personal favorite New Jack Swing song is Teddy's Jam by Guy. MAAAAN. This track was crazy! It was quite unique to me because even though Aaron Hall wasn't saying anything (literally) other than the title track, you can't help but feel the movement to this shit. To end this, New Jack Swing may have been a short era to some(debatable timeline), but it's a short one that could not be fucked with at all.


When it comes to music eras, I was born in the New Jack Swing era. The late 80s spawned a change in music and brought forth this amazing sound. I remember the only two albums I heard for a good year were Michael Jackson's Bad and Bobby Brown's Don't Be Cruel. Bobby's album was right there at the start of the New Jack era and the music was flawless. Bobby was once called The King of New Jack Swing, and when speaking of albums during that era, there is not a single album that comes close to Don't Be Cruel. You could even count groups like Soul II Soul in with the new music style, as their mega hit "Back To Life" has the similar style of new jack. There were movies that fit the style, of course New Jack City being one essentially. House Party to an extent had elements of new jack swing, while TV shows such as A Different World definitely featured some pieces of new jack in their episodes.

The music itself spawned so many classics and I could go for days about this. Keith Sweat really benefited from the era, releasing some classics along the way. Two of my favorite tracks from him during that era were "I Want Her" and of course "Make It Last Forever". Keith Sweat solidifed his name in the era, and even Johnny Kemp(RIP) got in on this wave with his iconic song "Just Got Paid(Friday Night)". Even now, you can play that song and it automatically makes you want to dance.

A key component of this era was also the legend Babyface, who specialized in producing and writing for some new jack artists, but also made some new jack ballads of his own. Two of my favorite Babyface new jack era ballads would have to be the smooth "Whip Appeal" and the number 1 simp song in history possibly, "Soon As I Get Home". There's no denying the impact that Babyface, and his "Tender Lover" album is without a doubt a classic.

Wreckx-N-Effect immortalized the era itself with the track "New Jack Swing", Whitney Houston had a hit of her own with a new jack style(I'm Your Baby Tonight), and even the King of Pop, Michael Jackson made an album full of New Jack inspired music with "Dangerous". One could point out some of the early 90s songs as well, such as Hi-Five's "I Like the Way(Kissing Game)", Christopher Williams' hit from New Jack City, "I'm Dreamin'", and even Boyz II Men with the classic "MotownPhilly". Another Bad Creation, the unibrow king Al B. Sure(Nite and Day, as well as Off On Your Own were classics), Tony Toni Tone(Feels Good was a party jam), Jodeci(Forever My Lady is essentially a New Jack Swing R&B album and a classic), Janet Jackson, Heavy D and The Boyz, Jade(Don't Walk Away), SWV, even TLC released music that fit the New Jack style.

However, there are truly two groups that come to my mind instantly when talking New Jack Swing era:

Guy and New Edition. 

New Edition more so as solo artists than a collective, but what the fellas did with the music in this era is undeniable. Bobby was already the King of New Jack Swing, but Bell Biv Devoe also carved out a legacy with classics, of course, the biggest one being "Poison". Ralph Tresvant saw success on his own with "Sensitivity" and "Yo Baby Yo" as well. Johnny Gill would go on to strike gold with three new jack inspired songs, two slow ballads in "My, My, My" and "There You Go", as well as the party starter "Rub You The Right Way". With their success collectively and apart, New Edition is one of the most vital parts of the era.

However, the faces of the era have to be Guy. Aaron and Damion Hall created magic along with Teddy Riley. Timmy Gatling was originally the 3rd member, but when he left the group, he was replaced by Damion. The self titled album from them spawned mega hits like "Teddy's Jam", "I Like", "Groove Me" and my personal favorite "Piece Of My Love". Their second album, The Future, spawned hits such as "Do Me Right" and the epic "Let's Chill". There was no denying the impact that Guy had on this era and to me, they remain the face of it.

The New Jack era was abrasive, in your face, melodic, but most of all... It was amazing. The music, the dances, the style, etc... It was great. Hopefully you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.



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