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Edmonds, Kenneth “Babyface” 1958(?)—

Kenneth Babyface Edmonds 1958(?)

Producer, singer, songwriter

At a Glance

Honed His Skills with L.A. Reid

Developed Distinctive Sound

Happy With Success

Selected discography

Sources

During the last several years, Kenneth Babyface Edmonds has emerged as one of the most prolific producers, songwriters, and performers in popular music. Much of the artists success has been achieved in tandem with Antonio L.A. Reid, with whom he founded the LaFace record label in 1989; at one point, the duo was responsible for six singles appearing simultaneously in the R&B Top Ten. Described by Gordon Chambers of Vibe as clearly an architect of todays black pop scene, Edmonds has written songs for such pop luminaries as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Williams, TLC, and Madonna. A Keyboard magazine writer deemed him that rarest of creatures, a producer with a Midas touch. His style is decidedly romantic, countering, Jeff Giles and Allison Samuels asserted in Newsweek, the misogyny and disaffection that mark so much of rap and rock in the 1990s.

If record sales are to be taken as a guide, adoration for Edmonds is widespread. The 1993 soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang featured a song Edmonds wrote for Boyz II Men called End of the Road, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time, eventually breaking Elvis Presleys record for number of weeks at Number One on the Billboard singles chart, which he had held for decades with Heartbreak Hotel. Edmonds told Ken Parish Perkins of Dollars & Sense that End of the Road was a great song. I felt something when I wrote it. But I knew someone out there would be better [as a singer], and that was Boyz II Men. And I was right. They did a terrific job with the song. In 1995 another Edmonds-produced Boyz II Men hit, Ill Make Love to You, broke the record for number of weeks in the top spot of the charts, this time surpassing Whitney Houstons I Will Always Love You, which had beaten End of the Road.

Not content to remain behind the recording console, however, Edmonds, who reluctantly adopted the nickname Babyface, given to him by guitarist Bootsy Collins, has also pursued a successful career as a solo recording artist. Calling himself a hesitant artist in an Essence interview with David Ritz, Edmonds has parlayed his passionate vocals, elegant, shy manner, and matinee-idol looks into platinum sales. For his part, he told legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin in a phone conversation

At a Glance

Born Kenneth Edmonds, c 1958, in Indianapolis, IN; son of Marvin and Barbara (a pharmaceutical plant manager) Edmonds; married first wife, Denise (divorced, c 1980s); married Tracey (a record and publishing company manager), 1992.

Producer, songwriter, arranger, keyboardist, guitarist, and solo performing and recording artist, late 1970s. Member of groups ManChild, mid-1970s, and the Deele, mid-1980s; with L.A. Reid, writer and producer of recordings by the Deele, Shalamar, the Whispers, After 7, Karyn White, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, TLC, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, and others, 1987; released debut solo album, Lovers, on Solar/Epic, 1989; cofounded LaFace Records, 1989.

Selected awards: (With L.A. Reid) songwriter of the year, Broadcast Music Inc (BMI), 1989, 1990, 1991, 1995; double platinum awards, 1990, for Tender Lover, and 1994, for For the Cool in You; NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, 1992; five Grammy awards, including (with LA. Reid) producer of the year, 1993, for Boomerang, rhythm and blues vocalist, male, 1995, for When Can ! See You, and rhythm and blues song, 1995, for Ill Make Love To You; American Music Award for favorite male R&B artist, 1995.

Addresses: HomeBeverly Hills, CA. Record companyArista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Fan club Babyface, 14755 Ventura Blvd., 1710, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.

transcribed in Interview, I like to think I write romantic songs that affect people strictly in the heart, which is my only concern. I dont look to save the world. In 1995 Edmonds was recognized for his solo work when he was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including one for best male R&B vocal performance for his 1994 hit When Can I See You. At the ceremony held in Los Angeles on March 1, he was awarded two statuesone for When Can I See You and the other for his songwriting efforts on Boyz II Mens Ill Make Love to You.

Love and music have always been inextricably combined for Edmonds. He grew up in the Midwest, the second youngest of six boys, andas he told RitzI fell in love almost every day. I fell in love at the drop of a hat. I can remember falling in love as far back as kindergarten. These episodes of infatuation always had a soundtrack. When I was falling in love with love, I was also falling in love with melody. [Soul superstar] Stevie Wonders melodies, [British pop icons] the Beatles melodiesany pretty melody might move me. Melodies spoke to me about the state of my own heart. At a young age he learned guitar. When he was in eighth grade, Edmondss father died of lung cancer, leaving his mother to raise her sons alone. At this stage, Edmonds became determined to have a career in music.

Honed His Skills with L.A. Reid

While in the ninth grade, Edmonds used this determination to devise a way to meet some of his musical idols. He confided to Jack Baird of Musician that he would phone concert promoters pretending to be his teacher, asking if the musicians would grant his gifted young chargenamely himselfan interview. Civic-minded chart-toppers like the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and funk hitmakers Earth, Wind and Fire agreed, and Edmonds was able to chat with them. Baird theorized that young Babyface made very good mental notes of whatever they divulged and stored them away for later use.

In Indianapolis, Edmonds played in Top 40 bands and then in a funk group called ManChild and another called the Crowd Pleasers. While with ManChild he realized that, as he explained in a Keyboard interview, the only way Id really be able to grow in terms of my writing was to pick up keyboards. In 1981, Edmonds first hooked up with Antonio L.A. Reid, who was performing with a group called the Deele. Edmonds later joined the band, and he and Reid soon began to attract attention. After Dick Griffey, the head of Solar Records, noticed the duos producing skills on their own work, the two were enlisted to write and produce for the Whispers and Shalamar. Soon after, they were producing big-name acts like the Jacksons and newcomers like Karyn White, After 7 (featuring two of Edmondss brothers and one of his cousins), and Pebbles (who married Reid). The pairs work with up-and-coming soul crooner Bobby Brownparticularly his hits Dont Be Cruel and Every Little Step, both of which were written by Edmondshelped Edmonds and Reid break through to the next level.

In 1987 Edmonds and Reid went out on their own and began writing and producing independently of Solar Records. Soon they were working with some of the biggest stars in pop, notably Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston, and Sheena Easton. With the exception of R&B stalwarts Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they had little competition among production duos. Two years later, in 1989, Edmonds and Reid, with the financial backing of Arista Records, formed the LaFace label to develop and produce talent and make records that Arista would distribute. With the importance that black music plays in the overall scheme of music, Reid said in a Grammy interview, to not have more successful black owned and operated record companies is really sad. We obviously have the talent and capable executives who help run so many other labels. The company, based in Atlanta, Georgia, soon attracted an impressive array of talent.

Edmonds and Reid were honored by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) as songwriters of the year in 1990. They had emerged as two of the biggest players on the music scene, but this didnt shield them from criticism. In a more delicate assessment, Robert L. Oderschuk of Keyboard called them craftsmen rather than innovators, citing their commercial savvy at the expense of risk-taking. Musician, noting some more harsh criticism, pointed out that critic Nelson George castigated the Reid/Edmonds sound as the epitome of homogenized L.A. pap. Edmonds and Reid fended off claims that such homogenization represented an attempt to soften the distinctively African American traits of the R&B form. Were black artists creating out of a black bag [of styles and influences], Edmonds insisted in Essence.

As the decade progressed, the duo launched a number of successful new acts, most notably Johnny Gill, TLC, and Toni Braxton. With TLC, it was their personalities, Edmonds told Franklin in Interview. They gave off the vibe that made you feel, O.K., these kids are stars, and you just needed to put the right music with them and let them go. Toni Braxton auditioned with her sisters, and she just shined. And I thought, I can write for her. She can deliver something emotional and get it across. Thats really what I look forsomeone who can pull off that emotion. In Dollars & Sense, Perkins wrote about Edmondss nurturing of Braxtons meteoric rise in pop and R&B. He signed Braxton to his LaFace label in 1991 and brought her along slowly, giving her a duet (Give Us Heart) before settling in for a debut album. And for that effort, he wrote Breathe Again, Seven Whole Days, Another Sad Love Song, Love Shoulda Brought You Home, and You Mean the World to Me, all hits that have established Braxton as the industrys most promising star.

While writing and producing for other acts as a part of LaFace, Edmonds was also working on his solo career. In 1989 he released his second solo album, Tender Lover, which went double platinum, thanks in large part to singles like the smash hit Whip Appeal. The recordings success, he told a Billboard interviewer, was so gradual, and so quiet, that I didnt realize how well it was doing. He was equally surprised, he said, by the response of concert audiences when he went on tour with Pebbles before recording the album. I was blown away by the audiences reaction, he said.

The fame that has come with Edmondss success has at times been disconcerting to the young man. He told Ritz of Essence, I wish being a public person came easier to me, but I cant change my character. I cant betray my privacy. Edmondss self-effacement in interviews has been almost proportional to his huge success. I dont call myself a keyboard player, he claimed in his Keyboard interview. Im a writer who uses keyboards to get the songs done. Im not even close to being a keyboard player. He evinced similar modesty in Musician: I dont claim to be a great vocalist, but I know how to work my voice with its limitations. My talent is I know how to work what I have. It might not always be a picture-perfect performance, but what we look for is the emotion. Sometimes the emotion comes from it being just a pinch sharp or flat.

Developed Distinctive Sound

Looking back on his quick rise in a business in which many artists struggle for years, Edmonds is philosophical. I kind of just stumbled into producing, he told Franklin in Interview. It was more that I was a writer, and the only way you were going to get your songs done was to do them yourself. Yet he and Reid synched more than sounds in the studio: Our musical souls blended, he told Ritz of Essence. We shared a similar drive for success. With Reid programming the drums, Edmonds playing keyboards and guitar and handling most of the backup vocals, their friend Kayo laying down the basslines, and Darryl Simmons providing production assistance, the team developed a distinctive and very influential style. Musicians Baird wrote, The core L.A. & Baby-face sound has always included spunky electronic textures, explosive percussion and complex, rubbery bass lines, even as its changed to stay ahead of an army of imitators. Oderschuk of Keyboard described the duos trademark sound as built on crystalline [electric piano] Rhodes-like timbres, light but stinging backbeats flicking through layers of gauzy echo, radical scratch-like gating on the snare in upbeat tunes, sparse synthetic strings, lush backup harmonies, an overall delicacy even on dance tracks.

In 1992 Edmonds, who had been married for three and a half years during his twenties, wed again, this time to Tracey Edmonds, a model whom he first met at an audition for a part in the Whip Appeal video. Edmonds recalled in People, She didnt get it because she caught chicken pox. They later ran into each other and, Edmonds explained in Jet, It was like a meant to be kind of thing. He and Tracey, who manages Yab Yum Entertainmenta record label and publishing company financed by Sonylive in Beverly Hills in a French Regency-style mansion. Married life, Edmonds told Peoples Preston, has had a positive effect on him. Im more stable, more confident, and more satisfied. Its a cool thing to know you have somebody whos there for you and youre there for them.

In 1993, after winning a Grammy Award for producer of the year for the Boomerang soundtrack, Edmonds and Reid dramatically altered the nature of their relationship and the structure of LaFace records. It was widely reported in the press as a split, but Edmonds described their partnership in 1995 to Preston, saying, We have defined our relationship. Hes an executive, so he deals with the ins and outs of the company. I deal with the creative. Edmonds is frequently asked about the timbre of his relationship with Reid, after Edmonds essentially took control of the creative end; he responded to Preston, It was a natural evolution that things would change. At the end of the day, [Reid is] probably one of the most important songwriters of all time.

Perhaps the most significant reason behind the restructuring of LaFace and the assumption of creative control was Edmondss desire to put more effort into his solo career. He predicted in Entertainment Weekly that his solo output would now take up more of his time. Its satisfying to see Boyz II Men or Whitney [Houston] singing one of my songs. But Ive never given my own career as an artist 100 percent. I do wonder if I can turn it into something bigger.

Edmonds answered that with the release of his third album, For the Cool in You, which was coproduced by Reid. The record went platinum in early 1994. Baby-face continues the nearly forgotten tradition of solo black R&B lover men, wrote Rolling Stones Touré, who generally praised the album despite taking issue with its stylistic conservatism. Chambers noted in Vibe, The subtle soul man uses his seductive falsetto, passion-over-precision phrasing, and well-timed growls to woo his listeners, and found the album a perfect vehicle for his vocal melisma. And Danyel Smith commented in the New York Times, [For the Cool in Yous] themeslove and relationshipsare commonplace, but the album is not. It is deceptively low-key, a quiet little opus etched from the duos [Edmonds and Reids] romantic sensibilities.

Happy With Success

The hit single from For the Cool in You is an acoustic guitar-based love song called When Can I See You, which the New York Times called the best cut on the album. With its acoustic flavor, it sounds like a cross between [folk musician] Tracy Chapman and the British soul singer Tasmin Archer. Summing up the Edmonds and Reid sound, the Times observed, Yes, Babyface and L.A. Reid produce mushy souls. No, it isnt Motown; its contemporary rhythm and blues. Rather than actual innocence, there is hope for it. Rather than bouncy tambourines and chirpy background vocal, there are soaring keyboards and profound bass lines.

Late in 1994 and into 1995, Babyface went on a 27-city sold-out U.S. tour, opening for Boyz II Men, whose popularity, it could be argued, was won in large part by Edmondss songwriting. One striking feature of Edmondss show is when he brings a woman from the audience onto stage with him and hands her five 100 dollar bills as he sings As Soon As I Get Home. Reviewing the San Diego show for the Christian Science Monitor, Yoshi Kato noted, He sang about treating women right and, after an exchange with a woman from the audience, elicited a roar of approval from the audience. I feel that women demand respect. Rather, I feel that women deserve respect, he announced, before inviting the woman to join him on stage. Once in the spotlight and seated atop a stool, she was serenaded and then given $500 dollars to pay her rent. People asked an Edmonds assistant about this unique promotional tool and was told that it was slated to be done at every one of the 27 shows planned for the tour.

Edmonds has grown happy with the success in both his personal and professional lives. He appears poised to conquer more frontiers of the pop and contemporary R&B world. I feel settled, comfortable, he confided to a Jet correspondent, adding, God blessed me. I dont know why. Im just blessed. Theres no particular magic involved. Edmondss tour ended in mid-February of 1995, giving him the time to do what he really enjoys: shopping, skiing, and songwriting, as he remarked in People. Reflecting on his tour, he declared, Im not like the regular artist who needs that attention, getting on-stage. They need to feel people. Thats not important to me. I feel the people when they buy the records.

Selected discography

With the Deele; on Solar/Epic

Street Beat.

Material Thangz.

Eyes of a Stranger.

Solo releases

Lovers, Solar/Epic, 1989.

Tender Lover (includes Whip Appeal), Solar/Epic, 1989.

For the Cool in You, Epic, 1993.

With others

Boomerang (soundtrack; appears on Give You My Heart; album also includes Boyz II Mens End of the Road), LaFace, 1993.

(As contributing singer/songwriter) Madonna, Take a Bow, Bedtime Stories, Maverick, 1994.

(With Jon B.) Someone to Love, Yab Yum/550 Music, 1995.

As contributing producer/songwriter

The Whispers, Just Gets Better with Time, Solar, 1987.

Shalamar, Circumstantial Evidence, Solar, 1987.

The Boys, Message from the Boys, Motown, 1988.

Pebbles, Pebbles, MCA, 1988.

Karyn White, Karyn White, Warner Bros., 1988.

Bobby Brown, Dont Be Cruel (wrote and produced title song and Every Little Step), MCA, 1988.

Dance Ya Know It!, MCA, 1989.

Sheena Easton, The Lover in Me, MCA, 1989.

Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl, Virgin, 1989.

After 7, After 7, Virgin, 1989.

Whitney Houston, Im Your Baby Tonight, Arista, 1990.

The Boys, The Boys, Motown, 1990.

Johnny Gill, Johnny Gill, Motown, 1990.

Bobby Brown, Bobby (wrote and produced Humpin Around), MCA, 1992.

TLC, Oooooooh! On the TLC Tip, LaFace/Arista, 1992.

Boomerang (soundtrack), LaFace/Arista, 1993.

Toni Braxton, Toni Braxton, LaFace/Arista, 1993.

Boyz II Men, II (wrote and produced Ill Make Love to You and Water Runs Dry), Motown, 1994.

Sources

Billboard, December 1, 1990; June 15, 1991; August 28, 1993; March 26, 1994; May 27, 1995.

Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 1995.

Dollars & Sense, September/October 1994.

Ebony, May 1995.

Entertainment Weekly, September 10, 1993.

Essence, September 1990.

Grammy, December 1992.

Interview, March 1994.

Jet, July 16, 1990; March 14, 1994; May 8, 1995.

Keyboard, November 1990.

Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1993.

Musician, October 1990; March 1994.

Newsweek, January 16, 1995.

New York Times, August 5, 1993.

People, January 23, 1995; February 27,1995; May 8, 1995.

Rolling Stone, October 28, 1993; December 1, 1994.

Upscale, June 1994.

Vibe, September 1993; December 1993; September 1995.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Epic Records publicity materials, 1993.

Simon Glickman, updated by Jim Henry

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Edmonds, Kenneth “Babyface”

Kenneth Babyface Edmonds

Producer, singer, songwriter

Learned Production With the Deele

Developed Distinctive Sound

Conquered R&B World

Split With Reid, Released Cool

Selected discography

Sources

A s half of the R&B production team of L.A. and Babyface, Kenneth Babyface Edmondsaccording to Gordon Chambers of Vibe is clearly an architect of todays black pop scene. Together with longtime friend and collaborator Antonio L.A. Reid, Edmonds helped forge the smooth R&B sound that has dominated the charts since the late 1980s, writing and producing hit records for Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, TLC, Toni Braxton, and many others. A Keyboard magazine writer deemed him that rarest of creatures, a producer with a Midas touch.

Not content to remain behind the recording console, however, Edmonds has also pursued a successful career as a solo artist. Calling himself a hesitant artist in an Essence interview with David Ritz, Edmonds has parlayed his passionate vocals, elegant, shy manner, and matinee-idol looks into platinum sales. For his part, he told legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin in a phone conversation transcribed in Interview, I like to think I write romantic songs that affect people strictly in the heart, which is my only concern. I dont look to save the world.

Love and music have always been inextricably combined for Edmonds. He grew up in the Midwest, the second youngest of six boys, andas he told RitzI fell in love almost every day. I fell in love at the drop of a hat. I can remember falling in love as far back as kindergarten. These episodes of infatuation always had a soundtrack. When I was falling in love with love, I was also falling in love with melody. [Soul superstar] Stevie Wonders melodies, the Beatles melodiesany pretty melody might move me. Melodies spoke to me about the state of my own heart. At a young age he learned guitar. And while he was still an adolescent, Edmonds lost his father, leaving his mother to raise her sons alone. Edmonds became determined to have a career in music.

Learned Production With the Deele

While in the ninth grade, Edmonds used this determination to devise a way to meet some of his musical idols. He confided to Jack Baird of Musician that he would phone concert promoters pretending to be his teacher, asking if the musicians would grant his gifted young chargenamely himselfan interview. Civic-minded chart-toppers like the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and funk hitmakers Earth, Wind and Fire agreed, and Edmonds was able to chat with them. Baird theorized that young Babyface made very good mental notes of whatever they divulged and stored them away for later use.

For the Record

Born Kenneth Edmonds, c. 1958, in Indianapolis, IN; married and divorced, c. 1980s; married Tracey (a model), 1992.

Producer, songwriter, arranger, keyboardist, guitarist, and solo performing and recording artist, late 1970s. Member of groups ManChild and the Deele; with L.A. Reid, wrote for and produced recordings by the Deele, Shalamar, the Whispers, After 7, Karyn White, Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, TLC, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, and others; released debut solo album, Lovers, on Solar/Epic, 1989; co-founded LaFace Records, 1989; appeared on TV show Beverly Hills 90210, 1994.

Awards: (With L.A. Reid) producer of the year, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), 1990; platinum awards, 1990, for Tender Lover, and 1994, for For the Cool in You; (with L.A. Reid) Grammy Award for producer of the year, 1993, for Boomerang.

Addresses: Home Beverly Hills, CA, and Lake Tahoe, NV. Record company Epic Records, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, and 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 100223297; Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Fan ClubBabyface, 14755 Ventura Blvd., 1-710, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.

In Indianapolis, Edmonds played in Top 40 bands and then in a funk group called ManChild. While in the latter ensemble he realized that, as he explained in a Key-board interview, the only way Id really be able to grow in terms of my writing was to pick up keyboards. It was in the Cincinnati group the Deele, howeverformed with his friend Reidthat Edmonds first got noticed. After Dick Griffey, the head of Solar Records, noticed the duos producing skills on their own work, the two were enlisted to write and produce for The Whispers and Shalamar; soon after they were producing big-name acts like the Jacksons, not to mention newcomers Karyn White, After 7 (featuring two of Edmondss brothers and one of his cousins) and Pebbles (who married Reid). Their work with up-and-coming soul crooner Bobby Brownparticularly his hits Dont Be Cruel and Every Little Step, both of which were written by Edmondshelped Edmonds and Reid break through to the next level. Soon they were writing for and producing some of the biggest stars in pop, notably Paula Abdul and Whitney Houston. With the exception of R&B stalwarts Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they had little competition among production duos.

Developed Distinctive Sound

I kind of just stumbled into producing, Edmonds insisted to Franklin in their Interview dialogue. It was more that I was a writer, and the only way you were going to get your songs done was to do them yourself. Yet he and Reid synched more than sounds in the studio: Our musical souls blended, he declared to Ritz of Essence.We shared a similar drive for success. With Reid programming the drums, Edmonds playing keyboards and guitar and handling most of the backup vocals, their friend Kayo laying down the basslines, and Darryl Simmons providing production assistance, the team developed a distinctive and very influential style.

Musicians Baird wrote that the core L.A. & Babyface sound has always included spunky electronic textures, explosive percussion and complex, rubbery bass lines, even as its changed to stay ahead of an army of imitators. Robert L. Oderschukof Keyboard described the duos trademark sound as built on crystalline [electric piano] Rhodes-like timbres, light but stinging backbeats flicking through layers of gauzy echo, radical scratch-like gating on the snare in upbeat tunes, sparse synthetic strings, lush backup harmonies, an overall delicacy even on dance tracks.

During this time Edmonds was also tasting his first success as a solo performing artist, as his 1989 album Tender Lover went double-platinum, thanks in large part to singles like the smash hit Whip Appeal. The recordings success, he told a Billboard interviewer, was so gradual, and so quiet, that I didnt realize how well it was doing.

He was equally surprised, he said, by the response of concert audiences when he went on tour with Pebbles before recording the album. I was blown away by the audiences reaction, he said, though he confided to Ritz of Essence that I wish being a public person came easier to me, but I cant change my character. I cant betray my privacy.

Edmondss self-effacement in interviews has been almost proportional to his huge success. I dont call myself a keyboard player, he claimed in his Keyboard interview. Im a writer who uses keyboards to get the songs done. Im not even close to being a keyboard player. He evinced similar modesty in Musician: I dont claim to be a great vocalist, but I know how to work my voice with its limitations. My talent is I know how to work what I have. It might not always be a picture-perfect performance, but what we look for is the emotion. Sometimes the emotion comes from it being just a pinch sharp or flat.

Conquered R&B World

Late in 1989 Reid and Edmonds established their own company, LaFace, which would develop and produce talent and make records that its parent company, Arista, would distribute. With the importance that black music plays in the overall scheme of music, Reid opined in a Grammy interview, to not have more successful black owned and operated record companies is really sad. We obviously have the talent and capable executives who help run so many other labels. The company based itself in Atlanta, and soon attracted an impressive array of talent.

Edmonds and Reid were honored by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) as songwriters of the year in 1990. They had emerged as two of the biggest players on the music scene, although this didnt shield them from criticism, some of it delicate (Oderschuk called them craftsmen rather than innovators, citing their commercial savvy at the expense of risk-taking) and some harsh: Musician noted that Critic Nelson George castigated the Reid/Edmonds sound as the epitome of homogenized L.A. pap. The pair fended off claims that such homogenization represented an attempt to soften the distinctively African-American traits of the R&B form. Were Black artists creating out of a Black bag [of styles and influences], Edmonds insisted in Essence.

As the decade progressed, the duo launched a number of successful new acts, most notably Johnny Gill, TLC, and Toni Braxton. With TLC, it was their personalities, Edmonds told Franklin in Interview.They gave off the vibe that made you feel, O.K., these kids are stars, and you just needed to put the right music with them and let them go. Toni Braxton auditioned with her sisters, and she just shined. And I thought, I can write for her. She can deliver something emotional and get it across. Thats really what I look forsomeone who can pull off that emotion. In addition, LaFace scooped a number of larger labels in obtaining the opportunity to release the soundtrack album to the movie Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy. The albums single End of the Road, written by Edmonds and performed by Boyz II Men, won a Grammy.

Split With Reid, Released Cool

In 1992, Edmonds, who had been married for a brief period during his twenties, wed again. Tracey Edmonds was a model who auditioned for the Whip Appeal video, and when the couple met again at a later date, Edmonds explained in Jet, It was like a meant to be kind of thing. Having begun this new partnership, however, Edmonds elected to endor at least scale backhis longtime relationship with Reid.

Just after earning a Grammy for producer of the year for the Boomerang soundtrack, the two decided to go their separate ways, a move that first reached the press in rumor form before a formal announcement in 1994. You dont want anyone to have preconceived notions that because you did it as a team that it cant be done separately, Edmonds insisted in Jet.Its still about music. Its not really that different. Im just bouncing things off myself at this point. Edmonds and Reid vowed to work together on LaFace, but the former told Entertainment Weekly that his solo output would now take up more of his time: Its satisfying to see Boyz II Men or Whitney singing one of my songs. But I ve never given my own career as an artist 100 percent. I do wonder if I can turn it into something bigger.

Edmondss second album, 1993s For the Cool in Youco-produced by Reidturned his career into something bigger when it went platinum in early 1994. Babyface continues the nearly forgotten tradition of solo black R&B lover men, wrote Rolling Stones Touré, who generally praised the album despite taking issue with its stylistic conservatism. Chambers of Vibe noted that the subtle soul man uses his seductive falsetto, passion-over-precision phrasing, and well-timed growls to woo his listeners, and found the album a perfect vehicle for his vocal melisma. Edmonds announced in Jet his plans to produce an album by R&B veteran El deBarge. Happy with his home life, he appeared poised to conquer more frontiers of the pop world. I feel settled, comfortable, he remarked, adding God blessed me. I dont know why. Im just blessed. Theres no particular magic involved.

Selected discography

With the Deele; on Solar/Epic

Street Beat.
Material Thangz.
Eyes of a Stranger.

Solo releases

Lovers, Solar/Epic, 1989.

Tender Lover (includes Whip Appeal), Solar/Epic, 1989.

For the Cool in You, Epic, 1993.

With other artists

Boomerang (soundtrack; appears on Give You My Heart; album also includes End of the Road), LaFace, 1993.

As contributing producer/songwriter

The Whispers, Just Gets Better with Time, Solar, 1987.
Shalamar, Circumstantial Evidence, Solar, 1987.
The Boys, Message from the Boys, Motown, 1988.
Pebbles, Pebbles, MCA, 1988.
Karyn White, Karyn White, Warner Bros., 1988.
Bobby Brown, Dont Be Cruel (wrote and produced title song and Every Little Step), MCA, 1988.
Dance... Ya Know It!, MCA, 1989.
Sheena Easton, The Lover in Me, MCA, 1989.
Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl, Virgin, 1989.
After 7, After 7, Virgin, 1989.
Whitney Houston, Im Your Baby Tonight, Arista, 1990.
The Boys, The Boys, Motown, 1990.
Johnny Gill, Johnny Gill, Motown, 1990.
Bobby (wrote and produced Humpin Around), MCA, 1992.
TLC, Oooooooh! On the TLC Tip, LaFace/Arista, 1992.
Boomerang (soundtrack), LaFace/Arista, 1993.
Toni Braxton, Toni Braxton, LaFace/Arista, 1993.

Sources

Billboard, December 1, 1990; June 15, 1991; August 28, 1993; March 26, 1994.

Entertainment Weekly, September 10, 1993.

Essence, September 1990.

Grammy, December 1992.

Interview, March 1994.

Jet, July 16, 1990; March 14, 1994.

Keyboard, November 1990.

Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1993.

Musician, October 1990; March 1994.

Rolling Stone, October 28, 1993.

Upscale, July 1994.

Vibe, September 1993; December 1993.

Additional information was obtained from Epic Records publicity materials, 1993.

Simon Glickman

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