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The Cookout of Cookouts: Teddy Riley vs. Babyface & The HBCU Takeaway


The cookout of cookouts finally happened. Teddy Riley and Babyface came together and gave us everything we wanted and more. Yes, there were still some old black man technical difficulties, but ultimately, over 500,000 Instagram accounts logged in to watch – MAGIC. These two legends have produced, written, and been at the helm of creating hundreds (if not thousands) of undeniable hit records. The financial value of their catalogs possibly exceeds $1 billion. The music, event, and the gentlemen themselves provided a world of observations to behold. We tapped a few of our favorite HBCU intellects on their take from the night and what if anything they believe HBCUs could take away from such an amazing night for the culture.

Christen Turner, Alumnae of Spelman College, Founder of Matchmaking for Millennials & Janelle T Designs, @isthatchristen

“The battle itself was amazing. Never thought I’d feel so connected to my people through a social media platform. With that being said, we have to figure out a way to create our own hugely successful platforms AND/OR get a cut from the platforms that we literally keep relevant.”

Brandon Bellamy, Alumnus of North Carolina A&T State University, Associate Director (Student Services) and Adjunct Professor at Howard Community College, @ProfBellamy

“Like HBCUs, the Teddy Riley vs Babyface battle faced adversity from within, but also from external threats. Both artists brought an exceptional background, respect and similar perspectives on the transcendent nature of music. They are competitors in their work, but contemporaries like DuBois and Washington, whose approaches to the purpose of education varied – but the goal was the same, the improvement of our people. HBCUs can learn from this battle that there is nothing wrong with competition, but we must also be able to work together and strive for the common goal of success for all through education.”

Dr. Keneshia Grant, Alumnae of Florida A&M University, Author & Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University, @keneshiagrant

“On Monday night, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds came to Instagram to slay prepared to remind the world of his distinction in music. When Babyface’s preparation was met by Teddy Riley with a lack thereof, he calmly stayed the course and encouraged Riley to rise to the occasion. HBCUs could learn two important lessons from last night’s battle (and by battle, I mean tutorial in genius, excellence, and professionalism—taught exclusively by Babyface). First, professionalism in the presentation and delivery of our work is as important as the work itself. Second—and critical to many HBCU missions—we must balance patience and maintenance of high standards in our interactions with others (people, organizations, other HBCUs, etc).”

William A. Foster, IV, Alumnus of Virginia State University & Prairie View A&M University, Economist/Financier & Founder of HBCU Money, @astroeconomist

“It was an extraordinary night. For those of us who grew up with these two men, having them together in these times – I am not sure we could have asked for much more, technical difficulties aside. I will say for a budding HBCUpreneur, especially in technology, these moments have provided a clear opportunity for a need to provide a platform for moments such as these given the numerous issues and limitations. If I was managing an HBCU’s endowment, I would be courting them (Teddy Riley & Babyface) to see if they would donate a percentage of their catalog. Even a small percentage of the royalties would bring in millions over the years from these living legends.”

Charlyn Anderson, Alumnae of Howard University, Founder of Starting With Today, @startingwtoday

“But what immediately came to mind is too often our institutions (HBCUs) are compared to the bells and whistles of PWIs when the actual core of our education is stronger even in its simplicity. The lack of the extraneous has often worked to the benefit of the HBCU community because they don’t rely on bells and whistles as props but actually prepare to execute consistently on a high level regardless of amenities. Clearly siding with BabyFace, and even with that knowing your value and who you are brings a certainty in all spaces that doesn’t require you to move outside of your lane for approval and validation.

Marcus King, Prairie View A&M University, Founder of Hardly Home, @marcuskxng

“I’d like to say it’s another example of the need to elevate and promote a younger and more technologically advanced workforce to meet the needs of today’s digital world… but I’m a dreamer…”

Ultimately, there will be a lot to take away from this pandemic. There will be a plethora of academic studies that will need to be done, entrepreneurial opportunities, and HBCUs should try their best to be at the vanguard of them for our community. Moments like this are case studies that can help us learn, prepare, navigate, and shape the post-Covid world that we will eventually find ourselves in. Teddy Riley and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds gave us an amazing evening from the chaos outside, lessons within, and as always music to fill our souls with.