In the summer of 2017, I was at my mother’s house for a family dinner, and we watched the BET awards.
One of the centerpieces of the show every year is the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. This particular year, the 80's boy band New Edition was getting the award. It served as both tribute to the “Candy Girl” crooners and as promotion for the original New Edition lineup and their upcoming reunion tour.
It seemed like a standard lifetime achievement segment, except my view was suddenly blocked by oh-so-fly moves of my mother and little-big brother.
Sure, everyone loves the Bell Biv Devoe hit “Poison.” Or Tony Toni Tone’s “Feels Good.” Or “Just Got Paid.” Or “This Is How We Do It.” However, I wasn't aware of was the commonality of people breaking out in song and dance to the entire New Edition catalog.
Looking up at my brother and his curly fade moving with the tenacity of a backup dancer in Guy’s “Groove Me” music video, I was shocked.
The bounce was there. The timing was on point. And the kicks were (almost) perfect.
It made sense for my mother and her half-a-beat-behind moves, because that was her time. But seeing the generation-z Migos fan “freak it” left me baffled.
It was truly amazing to see a sub-genre that was created almost forty years ago bridge together two vastly different generations.
Following the awards, I began to see fragments of Teddy Riley’s influence come to life. 90’s-themed parties became a thing, as did the attire that accompanied them. Up and down Twitter and Instagram feeds and plastered in department-store ads, new jack swing was alive again.
Two-piece (almost) silk suits, rayon button-downs, the Gumby haircuts, and the Kid and Play kick step were all back like it was a summer night in Harlem.
Bandeaus, slip dresses, high-top fades, box braids, bright colored outfits, and denim overalls all made a comeback. Bobby Brown too.
The looks and attitude of new jack swing were also accompanied by their sounds making a comeback to pop radio waves.
According to Billboard, Bruno Mars' 24k Magic was also the most listened to album of the year 2017. While collecting his 2018 Grammy’s for the categories of Records of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year, Mars made sure he thanked Babyface and Teddy Riley for laying the foundation that allowed his album to exist.
Moving on to today's charts, Ella Mai’s synthesized drum-heavy “Boo’d Up” just recently topped Hot R&B 100’s and is still climbing to Hot 100’s chart.
Connecting like my brother’s high kicks to my mother ’s porcelain figurines, new jack swing is still touching music nearly 40 years later.
And that same connection can be found in this year’s Richmond Jazz Festival’s lineup.
From P-funk to G-funk, there’s something for every generation.
Hip-hop, R&B, soul, blues, funk, and of course Jazz – will bring together three generations similar to the new jack swing influence in today's culture.
You can catch all of the cross-generational vibes—including new jack swing gods Tony! Toni! Tone!--on August 11th and 12th at the 2018 Richmond Jazz Festival.
Don’t miss the chance to enjoy some of music’s finest performers of the past 50 years! Tickets are on sale now at richmondjazzfestival.com.
And for a sprinkle more of new jack swing fun, here’s our unofficial 2018 Richmond Jazz Festival New Jack Swing Top 5:
5. Rhythm Nation/ Remember the Time
“Rhythm Nation” is timeless in itself because of Janet’s choreography. Same can be said for “Remember the Time”, but Mike gets bonus points for casting Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson.
Coming in at number four, “Poison” was the earliest new jack swing song that I can remember. It’s mostly here because of its cultural staple, but from gender reveals to club scene, it’s every DJ’s pick to keep a party going.
Boyz II Men don’t get enough credit for what they did in the 90’s. They took the style, made it theirs and had fun while doing so. In addition to being on this top 5 list, “Motownphilly” should have a home on every road trip playlist.
2. Groove Me
It’s the first new jack swing song. Written, produced and performed by Godfather Teddy Riley and his band Guy, it should hold a place on every new jack swing list. Setting the bar high for the mini-era, the “Groove Me” music video looked as good as the song sounds and everyone brought their A-game because of this. Thank you for the sauce, Uncle Teddy.
1. This Is How We Do It
You should start your new jack swing set with this. It’s in that perfect mid-tempo range where you won’t tire yourself out and you can only go up from there. You know the words even if you don’t know the words and a feeling of nostalgia falls over the room as if you’re at a party on the Hillman campus. All the other new jack swing songs are great and probably rank higher on everyone else's lists, but music that can create a feeling should be valued above all.