The 5 things I learned from Teddy Riley’s Breakfast Club interview

Photo Credit: Vickey Ford of Sneakshot for Okayplayer

Photo Credit: Vickey Ford of Sneakshot for Okayplayer

The 5 things I learned from Teddy Riley’s Breakfast Club interview

By Michael McConnell

Who doesn’t love music? I always say it saved my life when I was a teenager. I remember writing rhymes in my house, listening to underground radio shows with my Maxell tapes, ready to hit “record and play.” It kept me off the streets and focused on my creativity.

My father was a jazz musician and my uncles were in a pretty famous band at the time. I remember watching Michael Jackson hit the moonwalk on live TV. The next day at school, everyone tried to emulate him.

I recently found myself going down a rabbit hole and stumbled across an interview on The Breakfast Club; a popular urban radio show known for its drama and witty humor. They were interviewing legendary producer/artist Teddy Riley. The Quincy Jones of my era. This man created the new jack swing or swing-beat, which is a fusion genre spearheaded by him and Bernard Belle that became popular from the mid 1980s into the early 1990s. I rarely can make it through an entire interview, but on this particular Breakfast Club, I was handed down some precious gems by Teddy. These are the 5 things I learned… Teddy Riley Edition!

1. Humility: Teddy’s humility is shocking for a man who has 61 pages of songs listed on Wikipedia, and they’re all bangers. I noticed his calm tone and demeanor for the entire interview. This was a man who has been humbled by life a few times. You can tell humility was something he acquired along the journey. Teddy’s humility taught me to be appreciative of the moment and to be kind to others no matter what. I learned that tones matter in discussion, and it made me do a self-evaluation.

2. Emotional intelligence: Teddy Riley is a grown ass man, dog. I listened to him talk about how his former business partner screwed him out of almost 50 Million dollars. I ask myself, would I have gone Rambo? At an earlier point in my life, probably. The incident left him and his family back in the projects, penniless. How did this man find the capacity to forgive? I’m betting growth and understanding one’s peace of mind is more important than harboring anger. My takeaways were Teddy didn’t want to live the rest of his life buried in regret. Teddy practiced emotional intelligence in order to keep living his best life. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be self-aware, in control, and to express one's emotions; to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Kudos Teddy! You’re a giant amongst men.

3. Legacy Matters: A lot of artists these days chase clout and wind up tainting their legacies. The petty dramas, drunken stupors and having to pretend your twitter was hacked to cover up a tantrum. Teddy seemed to navigate the music industry's most feared and/or irresponsible, but still kept his head intact. I felt from this interview Teddy always kept his legacy in mind before making decisions, and that’s not always easy to do when you’re young and successful. I mean, the guy survived being close friends with Suge Knight and Bobby Brown. The stories from this interview were pretty insane. It’s OK to live in the moment, but it’s not OK to throw your legacy away because of one.

4. Relationships Matter: I realized from this interview that Teddy is a master at maintaining meaningful relationships. I like how even though he was working with Michael Jackson and had all types of NDA’s, Michael himself wanted Teddy to tell people they were working together. Teddy still kept it low key and eventually put out the smash hit “Keep it in the closet.” Teddy didn’t abuse celebrity friendships. He had that Quincy Jones charm, where he naturally attracted talented people into his life. I like how he let his work speak for itself. He was never disrespectful publicly to any of his colleagues. That is a rarity these days, as the media thrives off of gossip. At very low points in his life, Teddy was able to bounce back because of his strong relationships with the likes of legendary Benny Medina, Keith Sweat, and more. They came to his aid when he lost his fortune, within a month. Teddy was back in the lab getting checks for $80,000. The moral of the story is keep your relationships golden and earn the trust of those who have your best interest in mind.

5. Play the long game: Teddy has had a music career spanning 30+ years. There have been highs and lows, but he never stopped pursuing his dreams. It’s pretty crazy how in this digital age we feel entitled to success because we announce it to our Facebook friends. There was a time before social media where you had to actually leave your house to be successful and meet people. A time where charisma and talent made you a star. Teddy built his legacy off talent, true, but I can’t imagine the patience he must have had to work in such a crooked industry. Teddy played the long game and instead of selling his soul to the devil, he decided to nurture it. In this age of social media, people want to look good right now. I’m happy to see patience paying off, and he’s slated to receive a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

You can learn some of the best lessons in the strangest places.

Watch the full interview HERE