New jack swing or swingbeat is a fusion genre spearheaded by Teddy Riley and Bernard Belle that became extremely popular from the late-1980s into the early 1990s. Its influence, along with hip-hop, seeped into pop culture and was the definitive sound of the inventive Black New York club scene. It fuses the rhythms, samples and production techniques of hip-hop and dance-pop with the urban contemporary sound of R&B. The new jack swing style developed as many previous music styles did, by combining elements of older styles with newer sensibilities. It used R&B style vocals sung over hip hop and dance-pop style influenced instrumentation. The sound of new jack swing comes from the hip hop "swing" beats created by drum machine, and hardware samplers, which was popular during the golden age of hip hop, with contemporary R&B style singing.
Many songs with elements of new jack swing and similar R&B styles ranked in the top 10 of the US R&B Billboard charts or the top ten of the US "top 100" charts throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1988, Keith Sweat's song "I Want Her" was number 5 in the US charts and number 1 in the R&B charts. One of Sweat's singles, "(There You Go) Tellin' Me No Again" was on the soundtrack for the film New Jack City. The musician and record producer Teddy Riley's group Guy, a group which was one of the early pioneers of hip-hop and R&B had a hit with the song "Groove Me", which went to number 4 in the US R&B charts, and the 1988 song "Teddy's Jam", which ranked number 5 in the US R&B charts. Al B. Sure! had success with "Night & Day", "Off On Your Own", and Rescue Me", all three records went to the Top 5 of the R&B chart in 1988.
Northern California's Club Nouveau had a Billboard number one single with their cover of Bill Withers's song "Lean on Me" in 1987. The song won a Grammy award later that year. The song was included on the group's debut album Life, Love & Pain, which was released in 1986. The backing track uses a sequenced swing beat, characteristic of the "New Jack Swing" style. Club Nouveau was a later incarnation of the San Francisco Bay area group Timex Social Club who helped to lay the foundation for new jack swing.
In 1988, Bobby Brown began his string of Top 10 Billboard hits with a cut from his second album, Don't Be Cruel, which ranked number 8 in the US top 100 and number 1 in the US R&B charts. In that same year, former NBA cheerleader Paula Abdul had a number 10 US R&B hit with "(It's Just) the Way That You Love Me" and Ready for the World, a danceable, funk-infused Michigan group founded by Melvin Riley and Gordon Strozier, had a number 6 R&B hit with "My Girly". Tony! Toni! Toné! had three songs in the top ten of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, including "Little Walter" which made it to number 1. Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid" also cracked the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 and went to number 1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play.
In 1989, Wreckx-n-Effect, a Teddy Riley-produced group which garnered press attention regarding their use of bikini-clad women in their videos, released "New Jack Swing", helping to popularize the new name for the emerging style. That same year, Fenderella garnered a hit with "Mr. DJ", a song with featured Doug E. Fresh, who was known as the "human beatbox" for his realistic imitations of drum machines and other hip-hop sounds. Also, Janet Jackson released her fourth studio album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. The album included a number of very successful new jack swing tracks, such as the number one Billboard Hot 100 hits "Miss You Much" and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" as well as Alright and Rhythm Nation, both of which made the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Also in 1989, Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" peaked at number 3 on the US top 100, and key new jack swing producer Babyface had a hit with his song "It's No Crime", which ranked number 7 in the US charts and number 1 on the US R&B charts. Another Teddy Riley-produced group, Today, had a hit with "Girl I Got My Eyes On You", which garnered a number 1 spot on the US R&B charts.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had their share of contributions to new jack swing. Janet Jackson had seven top 5 singles off her 1989 Rhythm Nation album, which merged the Minneapolis sound with new jack swing. Karyn White, also produced by the Flyte Time team also had hits in the late 1980s and early '90s. Sheena Easton also had a few hits from her 1991 album What Comes Naturally produced by hitmakers Vassel Benford, Wolf and Epic, Nick Mundy. The single "What Comes Naturally" went to US number 19 on the Billboard 100 singles chart.
After the band New Edition broke up, its former members formed several splinter groups or acts, including Bell Biv Devoe, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, and Bobby Brown. In 1990, several ex-New Edition members had hit songs. Bell Biv Devoe's songs "Poison" and "Do Me!", as well as Johnny Gill's single "Rub You the Right Way", all made it to number 3 in the US top 100. Ralph Tresvant had a number 4 hit (US top 100 charts) and number 1 hit (US R&B) with his song "Sensitivity", with another on the House Party 2 soundtrack "Yo Baby Yo". Also in 1990 pop singer Whitney Houston recorded "I'm Your Baby Tonight", produced by Babyface and his new jack swing producing partner Antonio Reid. The single topped the US Hot 100, giving Babyface his first produced number 1 song while further helping to bring the genre to the mainstream.
That same year, Samuelle, a former member of the disco-infused dance-urban group Club Nouveau had a number 1 R&B hit with "So You Like What You See". Troop also had a number 1 hit with a single from their second album, Attitude, entitled "Spread My Wings". "Feels Good" by the Oakland, California group Tony! Toni! Toné! reached number 1 on the R&B charts in 1990, and it also placed on the US top 100 (number 9) and on the dance charts (number 3). Today charted again in 1990 with "Why You Gettin' Funky On Me?", which reached number 2 on the R&B charts. "Let's Chill" by Guy garnered a number 3 spot on the US R&B charts.
Color Me Badd had a number 1 hit with "I Wanna Sex You Up". That same year, Christopher Williams released a single "I'm Dreamin'" from the New Jack City soundtrack, which became a number 1 single on Billboard′s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Boyz II Men's song "Motownphilly" was a number 1 R&B hit and top five U.S. pop hits. "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)" by Hi-Five garnered the US number 1 and R&B number 1 spots. Jodeci's debut album Forever My Lady garnered three number 1 R&B Hits in the fall of 1991 ("Forever My Lady," "Stay," and "Come and Talk To Me"). "Exclusivity" by Damian Dame charted as number-one R&B single, spending two weeks at the top position, a position also achieved by The Rude Boys with their song "Are You Lonely For Me". In 1992, Michael Jackson's single "Remember The Time" placed at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the Hot Dance Music/Club, and number 1 in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop category. Joe Public's single "Live and Learn" hit number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, number 3 on Billboard′s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and becoming the group's most successful single. Chuckii Booker scored a number 1 R&B hit with his song "Games". That same year, "She's Got That Vibe" by R. Kelly and Public Announcement reached the number 7 position on the R&B charts. "Weak" by SWV (Sisters With Voices) hit the number one spot on both the US top 100 and the R&B charts. In 1993: "Don't Walk Away" by Jade made it to number 7 and number 3 in the US top 100 and R&B charts, respectively. The New Jack R&B group II D Extreme scored a hit in 1993 with their New Jack ballad "Cry No More". TLC's debut album, "Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip" (1992) had several hits, including "What About Your Friends" and "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg". In 1995, Montell Jordan had a number one new jack swing hit, in "This is How We Do It".
Young artists were given the spotlight during this era. They included Tracie Spencer with her hit album Make the Difference (1990) and groups like The Boys with The Boys (Motown, 1990), Redhead Kingpin and the F.B.I., whose Teddy Riley-produced debut album A Shade of Red contained the hit single "Pump It Hottie", which reached number 2 on the US Hot Rap Singles Chart in 1990, and Another Bad Creation with Coolin' at the Playground Ya Know! (1991).
Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue incorporated a strong new jack swing sound into her 1991 album Let's Get to It, most notably the lead single "Word Is Out". Although the album and single releases did not chart in the US, they did achieve success in the UK, Australia and throughout Europe. This exemplified the growing international popularity of the new jack swing genre.
Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio also incorporated a strong new jack swing system into her debut 1992 album La Chica Dorada and second album 24 Kilates and most notably her hit lead single "Mío", one of the best songs in the '90s in Spain, third single "Amor de Mujer" which also entered the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks, peaking at number 8.
Madonna's 1992 album Erotica featured new jack swing sounds on several tracks including the singles "Erotica", "Fever" and "Bye Bye Baby", as well as combining the genre with house music.
A collaboration between former members of Minneapolis music group The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson originated the style that came to be known as new jack swing with Jackson's third studio album, Control. Jam and Lewis used similar influences with hip-hop influenced drums with smoother R&B stylings in the production. Though Jackson had previously been popular in R&B music, Control established her crossover appeal in the popular music market. Musicologist Richard J. Ripani Ph.D., author of The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999 (2006), observed that the album was one of the first successful records to influence the rise of new jack swing by creating a fusion of R&B, rap, funk, disco and synthesized percussion. The success of Control, according to Ripani, bridged the gap between R&B and rap music. He asserts that "[s]ince Jackson's album was released in 1986 and was hugely successful, it is not unreasonable to assume that it had at least some impact on the new jack swing creations of Teddy Riley." Mantronix's early records in the mid-1980s also had new jack elements.
The term "new jack swing" was coined in a 1988 Village Voice profile of Teddy Riley by Barry Michael Cooper. "New Jack" was a slang term used in a song by Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, and "swing" was intended by Cooper to draw an "analogy between the music played at the speakeasies of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time to the crackhouses of Teddy Riley’s time."
The term "new jack swing" describes the sound produced and engineered by R&B/Hip hop artist and producer Teddy Riley. Riley is an American R&B and hip hop singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. He led the band Guy in the 1980s and Blackstreet in the 1990s. Riley said, "I define the term [new jack swing] as a new kid on the block who's swinging it."
Music website VH1.com notes that while in the 2000s, "hip-hop and R&B are kissing cousins," in the early 1980s, "the two genres were seldom mentioned in the same breath." However, in the late 1980s, "during the era of high-top fades, and parachute pants, producer Teddy Riley and label boss Andre Harrell successfully fused and marketed the two sounds in a sexy, exclamatory music that critics termed new jack swing. It sparked a revolution." Riley stated that before new jack swing, "Rappers and singers didn't want anything to do with one another," because "Singers were soft, rappers were street." Riley's new style blended "sweet melody and big beats". The sensibilities of Riley's fusion of the styles would forever change pop music/hip-hop music pairing and was further popularized with Bad Boy's dominance of the late 90's through much of the same techniques. Riley, a 19-year-old kid from Harlem, quickly became an A-list producer and commanded big fees to add his sound to major artist projects. The aesthetic of the culture also spread to mainstream white audiences through popular groups such as New Kids on the Block.
New jack swing is mellifluously soulful solo or harmonizing vocals addressing romantic themes and lyrics, sung over rhythms and "street" beats derived from urban musical influences. This style of music melded with hip hop, which also gave it elements of aggression of swaggering on some songs. Some songs consisted of rhythmic beats with music, while others had singing alternating with rap sections over this same type of music.
According to the 2004 New Rolling Stone Album Guide, when Michael Jackson recorded his album Dangerous in 1991, he wanted to update his sound, so he replaced his previous producer Quincy Jones with Teddy Riley.