Responsible for crafting more than 100 Top 10 R&B and pop singles, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is often called the Quincy Jones of the '90s.
A 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-producer, Edmonds wrote some of the 1990s' most successful R&B jams and worked with the decade's top artists.
Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Boyz II Men, Pink, TLC, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and Toni Braxton are just a few of the stars whose music was infused with his classic blend of pop melody and soulful R&B grit.
Born on April 10, 1959 in Indianapolis, Edmonds started his music career as a teenager backing funk legend Bootsy Collins — who gave the youthful-looking teen his moniker — and the soul group Manchild.
His break came when he joined R&B/post-disco outfit the Deele as a keyboardist in 1981.
The sextet scored a handful of hits throughout the 1980s for S.O.L.A.R. Records, but Edmonds and drummer Antonio "L.A." Reid started to break out as they wrote and produced for other artists, penning smash hits for the Whispers (“Rock Steady”), Pebbles (“Girlfriend”) and Bobby Brown (“Don’t Be Cruel,” “Every Little Step”).
Edmonds launched his career as a solo artist in 1986, issuing his debut “Lovers” while on break from the Deele. It was his sophomore album, “Tender Lover,” that truly broke through thanks to its smooth, seductive hits, including the album’s title track, “Whip Appeal” and “It’s No Crime.”
In 1988, Babyface and Reid left the Deele and founded LaFace Records in 1989. They helped shape the new jack swing sound that dominated radio throughout the 1990s.
LaFace ushered in an era of acts that helped define '90s R&B, including TLC, Usher and Braxton, whose eponymous 1993 debut (executive produced by Edmonds and Reid) sold more than 8 million copies.
Babyface’s profile continued to rise as his partnership with Reid yielded smash hit after smash hit. Houston’s 1990 single “I’m Your Baby Tonight” was their first Top 40 No. 1 hit, and Babyface helped Boyz II Men shatter chart records with “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” Madonna sought out Edmonds for production work, as did Eric Clapton.
Among Edmonds’ career highlights is the soundtrack for the 1995 film “Waiting to Exhale.” He produced and wrote or co-wrote all but one of the 16 tracks on the critically acclaimed soundtrack, which produced hits for Braxton, Houston, CeCe Winans, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Franklin. The album sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and scored 12 Grammy nominations, the most since Michael Jackson's landmark 1982 “Thriller” album.
Having amassed a formidable stable of hits, particularly during the mid-'90s, Edmonds won the Grammy Award for producer of the year for three consecutive years, from 1995 to 1997.
Edmonds reached outside music, launching Edmonds Entertainment Group alongside then wife Tracey Edmonds and produced films such as 1997’s “Soul Food,” which spawned a hit TV series and 2001’s “Josie and the Pussycats.”
"I don't mean to downplay what I've accomplished, but I know I can always do better," he told The Times in 1997. "People ask where do you go from here, and the answer is you try to keep growing. Writing is the most important thing I do and I still haven't written a song I can be totally proud of the way Paul McCartney can be proud of 'Yesterday.' That's what keeps you going. The dream that you can some day write something so good that you can say to yourself, 'This is my 'Yesterday.'"
Edmonds continues to balance his role as a producer with his solo career, working with a new generation of acts including Fall Out Boy, Lil Wayne and Ariana Grande. In 2009 he launched his own imprint, Soda Pop Records. His last solo album, “Playlist,” was issued in 2007 and a duets album with Braxton, “Love, Marriage, Divorce,” is set for release in 2013.