Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds is an icon. No doubt about it.
Whether you’re cognizant of his many contributions to the music and entertainment world, or you just so happen to rock out to one the many songs you may not know he was credited with, you’ve definitely felt his presence in one way or another.
Babyface is an artist, a musician, a multi-instrumentalist, a songwriter, a record label owner, a producer and so much more. His music credits include more than 200 top 10 R&B hits and more than 50 top 10 pop hits (including 16 No. 1s). He’s an 11-time Grammy Award winner who has generated cumulative single and album sales of more than 500 million units worldwide. He’s worked with everyone in the business from the late Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson to Mariah Carey, P!nk and Beyoncé. And as a singer, his timeless hits, including “Whip Appeal,” “Tender Lover,” “It’s No Crime,” “For the Cool in You,” “Never Keeping Secrets,” “When Can I See You” and countless others, have touched the hearts of many worldwide.
Babyface is also the co-founder of LaFace Records along with L.A. Reid, and together they were responsible for nurturing the careers of TLC, OutKast, Toni Braxton, Usher, Goodie Mob and others. Babyface has produced for Bruno Mars, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Ledisi, Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande, as well as The New Edition Story on BET, and most recently, the highly anticipated Bobby Brown Story, which is set to air on BET in September. In his lifetime, Edmonds has achieved quite a bit, and at this point in his career, he simply desires to make people feel good.
With all that Babyface has amassed and accomplished, one thing’s for sure: he’ll go down in history as one of the most prolific, most important, most influential and well-respected cultural creators of all time.
Rolling out’s Porsha Monique sat down with the living legend to talk about everything from launching the careers of megastars like Toni Braxton, Usher, OutKast, TLC and more, to how he feels about the state of the Black music industry, to his current tour, including his upcoming concert with Patti LaBelle in Detroit on Saturday, July 14, at the beautiful Chene Park Amphitheatre. Check out the exclusive below and chime in on the comments section. What was your favorite Babyface song or entertainment experience? We want to hear from you!
It’s so wonderful to talk with a living legend such as yourself. You’ve contributed so much to the music industry as a whole. We’re excited to have you coming to Detroit for your upcoming concert. Please let us know what we can expect.
I’m going to be playing at Chene Park with Patti LaBelle, which is a great thing because I love Patti LaBelle. I’ve been a major fan of hers for years. I’ve actually done some work with her a couple of times, but most notably on the Waiting to Exhale album as well. I got a chance to really hang with her and know her back then. So, it’s an honor and a pleasure to actually share the stage with her.
For those who may not know, tell us what a Babyface Kenny Edmonds concert feels like.
I go through the songs that I’ve done in my career, you know a lot of love songs. But then I’ll also go through a medley of songs that I wrote and produced for a number of people, so it takes us further down memory lane because there are a lot of artists that I’ve worked with over the years. It’s always a lot of fun. I think people are usually surprised about the kind of energy that the band has and everything, so we have a good time.
That sounds wonderful. I’m sure your fans are in for a treat. Now, you created a label LaFace Records, but you also created a sound. You have TLC, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Toni Braxton and Usher, to name a few. What was it like creating a musical soundtrack, so to speak, for Black America?
I think L.A. and I went there with the purpose of creating an important label, and we wanted to mimic Motown Records to a certain extent. We wanted to find artists that would be lasting. And that’s the kind of thing that you can wish for, but you’ll never know whether you’re going to get it. We were just very lucky and fortunate to run into the artists that we signed up [during] the early times, from TLC, to Toni Braxton, to Usher, to OutKast, to Goodie Mob, to P!nk to Tony Rich. I’m sure I’m forgetting names, but we had a really good run. It was an amazing thing to do. It was an amazing experience that we had.
The world has definitely benefited from your experiences as you’ve introduced us to some incredibly talented artists and some very timeless music. So, thank you for that. You’ve successfully been around for a very long time. How important would you say Black music is to the world?
I think our culture has certainly advanced the world and because of Black music, there are artists that probably wouldn’t even be as big as they are because [those artists] always borrowed from Black musicians. And that starts from the biggest groups that you know of, from The Beatles, to The Rolling Stones, to Elvis Presley. We’ve influenced the world with our music for centuries. So, that’s how important it is. It touches everyone In one way or another, it touches everyone.
In your experienced, expert opinion, what should aspiring artists, songwriters and others know if they want to make it in this business?
That it takes hard work. It’s not something you can just phone in. You have to put the hours in so that you can be better. Be determined and committed to it. Don’t give up on it. Keep going at it. And don’t think because you wrote one good thing means that’s it. You have to always try to better yourself. You’re only as good as your last hit.
Well, we’ve definitely seen hit, after hit, after hit, after hit with you, and you’ve definitely experienced longevity in the business. But as an artist, how do you continue to remain relevant?
It’s a lot of fun to do it. I think, ultimately, the reason why I’m able to do that is because throughout my career I’ve been a musician. I’ve always tried to stay versatile and not do one particular style of music but try to do all styles of music, whether that’s in scoring or in actually creating the music. I think if you can pick up an instrument — not just pick up a computer but actually learn how to play the piano, actually learn how to play the guitar — that can serve you well in the future.
Babyface is currently on tour and will be in Detroit on Saturday, July 14, at Chene Park Amphitheatre along with the incomparable Ms. Patti LaBelle. Find more information and future tour dates on his website, http://www.babyfacemusic.com/