Guy – Guy (1988)

Guy album cover
Guy album cover

Yesterday’s entry Blackgirls may have come about as a counter response to one of the biggest R&B styles of the ’90s. That style New Jack Swing along with Grunge are what a lot of people remember about ’90s music. Both styles re-invigorated their respective music genre. Thanks to the small shelf life of musical styles in R&B, New Jack Swing’s initial effect on was contained in a small window.
The style was first introduced with the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced Control for Janet Jackson.

While the nameless style was young it would not have a true face and definitive sound until after Teddy Riley met a bunch of like-minded friends in a clothing store. The result of that meeting was the formation of Guy.

While Janet Jackson’s Control was a huge crossover hit, the work of Teddy Riley with Guy and later Blackstreet would be the style refined for the R&B community. With no pressures of crossover appeal, Guy would dominate R&B if only for a few years. The album that started it all was the groups self titled debut.

By the time the term New Jack Swing  (coined by a Village Voice music writer in 1988) gained traction, there was already a slew of sound alike acts who’s biggest appeal was their looks and dance moves. The disposable nature of R&B meant that these bands would come and go in an attempt to cash in on the latest thing.

Guy was different. Engineered by Tony Bennett’s son Dave, Guy sounds somewhat dense if not busy. Where most NJS bands sounded cheesy with simple rhythms built around a few keyboards, Guy had mixes of drum machine and synth funk combined with choice samples from James Brown, George Clinton. Much of the syncopation and choppiness associated with funk was washed over in favor of sweeping grooves, but enough trace elements of funk existed to make Guy one of 1988’s best R&B/dance albums.

The dense mix gave the music a kind of sophistication and substance much of the genre was lacking. The vocal style of the Hall brothers (Aaron and Damion)and Riley borrowed the harmonies and intensity of the black church while mixing street metaphors from rap.

In the spirit of hip hop, Teddy Riley and crew were not at all modest. Bostorous claims and over confidence ruled the day and like M.C. Hammer, they were able to deliver on most of the hoopla.
“Round and Round” was the first of five singles (all to 30 R&B) that ranged from simple dance funk to “Spend the Night”, one of the few slow jams on Guy. With 5 weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, Guy’s effect would outlive the album’s chart life.

The next release The Future, would do even better and ever so slightly move Guy to the mainstream. Of course by the time that happened Guy had run its corse, Riley had moved on to Blackstreet. After that, he would find his niche producing for everyone from Micheal Jackson to Jane Child.


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