Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds has a timeless presence within the music industry. From his innovative ear when it comes to production, to his one-of-a-kind vocal ability, gripping songwriting skills and overall coolness, he’ll forever be identified as a staple and one of our many icons.
As one-half of the business and artist duo – LaFace Records – that brought us hits and a talented roster inclusive of Tevin Campbell, OutKast, Shanice, Goodie Mobb and a host of others, as a songwriter, Babyface is a wiz with the pen.
On a solo level, his success continued to soar with 10 studio albums, including his 1989 triple-platinum debut Tender Lover the 1993 standout and 3x platinum selling record For The Cool in You. These days the mega-producer is still hitting the stage performing his lengthy catalogue of hits – both his and those penned for other artists.
Anytime you have the opportunity to speak with one of the icons within the industry, you are destined to grab hold of a few gems and memorable stories. Below, is a snippet of the conversation between Babyface and Questlove to kick off the return of Pandora’s ‘Questlove Supreme’ radio show.
The Building and The Split…
L.A. Reid and Babyface were a music pair made in heaven. Under their LaFace Records, the talented duo curated and launched the careers of Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher and that’s just naming a few highlights of their roster. Their entrepreneurial endeavor would eventually be the guiding light to individually successful careers. But, in the beginning, Face admits that L.A. had to make a decision between being an artist and being a businessman.
“The label became the thing for L.A., he had to run the label. It was a little hard for him to keep producing and be a writer and actually run the label… He couldn’t really do that. You have to make a choice. Are you going to be a businessman? Are you going to be an artist? And the truth is, is L.A. was always kind of the businessman. That was his role. Going way back to the Deele, he was the guy that made sure everybody got to eat. He’d made some deals with some people at Church’s Chicken to make sure they could eat every night [laughter]. So that was his gig. And he basically became the manager of LaFace Records. He had to make sure everybody got chicken [laughter].”
Before he became the baby Bad Boy and rolled the high life with Puffy, Usher Raymond was nurtured in the game under the guise of Babyface and L.A.Reid. But as mentioned in our previous Pandora Exclusive with the “My Way” crooner, his entrance with LaFace came during a time of their interpersonal turmoil. What he wanted was a “Babyface hit”…that didn’t happen.
“And I certainly thought he was an amazing kid. He came at a time when me and L.A. were kind of like, had our issues. And so I kind of like ended up being out here in LA a lot. I got a call from Quincy Jones to write a song for Tevin Campbell. And it’s Quincy Jones. I was like, “It’s Quincy Jones.” So I wrote Can We Talk, and did a demo of it. And L.A. had heard the record I think and he wanted it for Usher but I had already given it to Tevin. And it was a question of “Well, you know, Usher can sing better, and he can’t sing as good,” and I said, “Well, but I kind of already did this deal with Quincy. And I ain’t going to tell Quincy no at this particular point.” So the song ultimately went to– and so the song was never really for Usher but from the way that probably L.A. talked about– I’m sure L.A. said it differently at the time.”
Mr. Cool meets the King of Pop
It’s a known fact that when Michael Jackson summoned you, there were no second thoughts about meeting him where ever, whenever. THIS was instantly an opportunity for the records. When MJ was looking for a new sound and to experiment with fresh material, he called upon Babyface. The thing was, though, LaFace had JUST signed Mike’s brother Jermaine and the single “Word To The Bad” was blowing up. It was a crazy time. Was Michael really wanting to work with the LaFace duo or was it trying to mess with his brother and get him shook? Below is an excerpt from Babyface’s breakdown of the scenario.
“…we got a call from the gloved one and wanted to meet us. And I’m like, I admit, I had met Michael in my younger days. He didn’t know that but– so we got the call, that, “I’d like to meet with you guys.” So he sent a helicopter.
…”And we went out to Neverland. And we were like “All right, we gotta go. We can’t not go. I know we decided Jermaine but we can’t not go. This is Michael.” And Jermaine was like “This is crazy. This is”–No. This is no, this is my brother, he’s trying to, he’s purposely–” “Whatever [laughter].”
Follow the link to get the rest of this story and the full interview: www.pandora.com/QuestloveSupreme.