MAN OF VISION: Teddy Riley
IT WAS an unfortunate saga that saddened their fans and still has many perplexed. But when news broke last year that Blackstreet member Chauncey ‘Black’ Hannibal was suing the group’s fellow founding member Teddy Riley over use of the name Blackstreet, it was clear all was not well between the band’s two original members.
Long story short, Hannibal ended up winning the rights to the name, and so the relationship between the pair – who had formed the celebrated R&B band in 1991, and gone on to enjoy success with hits including No Diggity, Before I Let You Go and Don’t Leave – came to an end.
Hannibal now performs with new group members, using the name Blackstreet. And while Riley admits he’d been left feeling “broken” by Hannibal on numerous occasions, he says his former bandmate is welcome to the group’s name.
“I’ve tried hard to be a friend and a big brother [to Hannibal]. When you’re being so sincere with things and someone else isn’t…his whole goal was to try and take what I owned. People can see that from the outside.
“I created Blackstreet, I funded Blackstreet, I did everything with Blackstreet. But all at a sudden, he came from under me and owned the name. It’s just so sad the way people treat you sometimes. I’ve been taking stabs all my life but I’m a warrior and I have to keep it going.”
He adds: “Now, I wish those guys the best and I don’t care if they use the name Blackstreet, because I don’t wanna use the name Blackstreet – because there is no more Blackstreet. If you’re not getting a combination of the old members, it’s not Blackstreet. So if anyone’s going to perform as Blackstreet, they should at least say who’s coming so audiences aren’t misled!”
The group has seen a number of line-up changes over the years, with Riley – who, as the group’s main producer, is widely considered as the brains of Blackstreet – famed for altering the band’s members from album to album.
The celebrated producer, who, before launching the group, enjoyed success with his New Jack Swing trio Guy, says that one of the reasons he switched things up with Blackstreet was because he couldn’t force “unity” between the band members.
AS THEY WERE: Blackstreet aka (l-r) Mark Middleton, Chauncey ‘Black’ Hannibal, Eric Williams and Teddy Riley
“The Blackstreet sound will always be a sound that I created, with the singers of that time,” says Riley, who has produced for a wealth of artists including Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat.
“The first line up was Joseph Stonestreet, [who was soon replaced by Dave Hollister], Levi Little, Chauncey [Hannibal] and myself. That was one sound and we really did a great job with that first album [1994’s Blackstreet]; people really enjoyed it.
“Then we came with the second album [1996’s Another Level], which featured the second line-up: Mark Middleton, Eric Williams, Chauncey and myself. And with that sound, I elevated and went to the next level and created [the single] No Diggity.
“People have their love for the albums that followed, but ultimately, I feel that the success of Blackstreet was more about the unity between us – and that’s something thing I couldn’t force. You can’t make people have unity, you can’t make people be loyal and you can’t force people to have a good synergy with others. Sometimes it’s almost like dealing with kids; when you’re trying to make everybody get along but somebody doesn’t like someone else. That’s why I changed the members, because the chemistry of the previous line-up just wasn’t working.”
SECOND COMING: Riley (second from left) with new group BS2
Now performing alongside vocalists Lenny Harold, Tony Tyler, J-Stylz and early Blackstreet member Dave Hollister, Riley’s latest collective goes by the name of BS2 and the quintet will perform in London this weekend at the Wembley Arena. And it turns out that Riley is somewhat of an honorary Brit.
“A lot of people don’t know I used to live in the UK,” he says. “Since 1984, I’ve spent a lot of time out there. I did Kool Moe Dee’s first, second and third albums there; I did Billy Ocean’s Get Out Of My Dreams album there; I produced for Jonathan Butler out there and Boy George – I practically lived out there.
“I used to stay in Lancaster Gate and I hung out in Piccadilly Circus a lot. There were a lot of restaurants out there and we’d hang out at the clubs. I hung out a lot with [UK singer] Mark Morrison and he always showed us a good time. He was a real baller. We’d go out and he’d buy up the bar – even though I don’t drink! But hanging out with him was a lot of fun and the people there were so cool.”
So it goes without saying the super-producer is grateful to his British fans.
“I want to say a big thank you to the UK. I really am appreciative of the way you’ve received the music that I’ve put out and I look forward to doing more and more.”
For more information, visit www.teddyrileypresents.com