Babyface (born Kenneth Brian Edmonds; April 10, 1959) is an American R&B musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer. He has written and produced over 26 No. 1 R&B hits throughout his career, and has won 11 Grammy Awards.
Edmonds was born on April 10, 1959, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Marvin and Barbara Edmonds. Barbara was a production operator at a pharmaceutical plant. Edmonds, who is the fifth of six brothers (including future After 7 band members Melvin and Kevon Edmonds, the latter of whom went on to have a modestly successful solo career), attended North Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and as a shy youth, wrote songs to express his emotions. When he was in eighth grade, Edmonds' 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.
Edmonds later played with funk performer Bootsy Collins, who tagged him "Babyface" because of his immature face while he was still a teen. He also performed in the group Manchild (which had a 1976 hit "Especially for You" with band member Daryl Simmons), as he was a guitarist for the band. Then, as a keyboardist in the light-funk and R&B group The Deele (which also included drummer Antonio "L.A." Reid, with whom he would later form a successful writing and producing partnership). One of his first major credits as a songwriter for outside artists came when he wrote the tune "Slow Jam" for the R&B band Midnight Star in 1983. The tune was on Midnight Star's double-platinum No Parking on the Dance Floor album, and while it never was a single, it received massive radio airplay and the song is still played on quiet storm radio stations. Babyface remained in The Deele until 1988, when both he and Reid left the group.
His album Playlist consists of eight cover songs and two original works. It was released on September 18, 2007. It was the first album on the newly re-launched Mercury Records label.
On February 4, 2014, he released a duets album with Toni Braxton titled Love, Marriage & Divorce on Motown Records after numerous release date changes.
Writing and producing
In the late 1980s, he contributed to the creation of new jack swing, writing and producing music for the likes of Bobby Brown, Karyn White, Pebbles, Paula Abdul and Sheena Easton.
In 1989, Edmonds co-founded LaFace Records with Reid. Three of the label's early artists TLC, Usher, and Toni Braxton were successful, the former becoming one of the best selling female groups in music history. Braxton's eponymous 1993 debut album went on to sell over eight million copies, and earned her the 1994 Grammy Award Best New Artist. TLC's first two albums on LaFace—1992's Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and 1994's CrazySexyCool—combined to sell more than 15 million copies in the U.S. CrazySexyCool won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B album.
Babyface helped form the popular late-90s R&B group Az Yet. Edmonds also helped to mold and work closely with some of his former wife Tracey Edmonds acts such as Jon B and producer Jon-John Robinson.
Edmonds works with many successful performers in contemporary music. "I'm Your Baby Tonight," produced for Whitney Houston, was his first No. 1 Top 40 hit in the US. He also wrote and produced Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" and "I'll Make Love to You," both of which established records for the longest stay at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He co-wrote, co-produced, and provided backing vocals on Madonna's 1994 Bedtime Stories, which featured the 7-week No. 1 hit "Take a Bow," and shared billing with Eric Clapton on the chart-topping Grammy winner "Change the World" from the Phenomenon soundtrack. He also wrote and produced the No. 1 hit "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" for Whitney Houston as well as the rest of the critically acclaimed 10 million selling Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in 1995, which spawned additional hits for Houston, Brandy and Mary J. Blige.
Additionally, Edmonds has produced and written music for many artists including Carole King, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Faith Evans, Al Green, Beyoncé, Diana Ross, Sheena Easton, Toni Braxton, Michael Jackson, Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, Eric Clapton, Pebbles, Tevin Campbell, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Tamia, Shola Ama, 3T, Sisqó, Dru Hill, Fall Out Boy, Céline Dion, Honeyz, Katharine McPhee, Mariah Carey, Vanessa L. Williams, Chanté Moore, En Vogue, Kenny G, Kristinia DeBarge, Lil Wayne, Japanese singer Ken Hirai, P!nk, Marc Nelson, TLC, Ariana Grande, Jessica Mauboy, and Phil Collins among others. He received three consecutive Grammy Awards for Producer of the Year in 1995–1997.
Babyface was in the studio for about two years with Ashanti to produce her album The Declaration.
He worked on the Lil Wayne album Tha Carter III, on the Kanye West-produced "Comfortable." He also worked with R&B singer Monica for her sixth studio album Still Standing.
In 2013, Babyface served as producer for Ariana Grande's debut album Yours Truly, producing majority of her songs, including her second single, "Baby I".
In September 2014, Babyface served as collaborator for Barbra Streisand's album Partners, performing duet for "Evergreen" track and background vocals for other album tracks.
Acting career and film producing
In 1994, he appeared and performed on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 entitled "Mr. Walsh Goes to Washington (Part 2)".
In the mid-1990s, Edmonds and his then wife Tracey Edmonds expanded into the business of motion pictures, setting up Edmonds Entertainment Group and producing films such as Soul Food (1997), Josie and the Pussycats (2001), and also the soundtrack for the film The Prince of Egypt, which included contributions from numerous artists, including Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. They also executive produced the BET reality series College Hill. Edmonds also worked with David Foster to compose "The Power of the Dream," the official song of the 1996 Summer Olympics, performed by superstar Céline Dion. Linda Thompson provided the lyrics.
Babyface also participated as a duet partner on the Fox reality show Celebrity Duets.
Soda Pop Records
Edmonds founded his record label Soda Pop Records in 2009. Since founding the label he has signed R&B icons K-Ci & JoJo, releasing their first album for the label entitled My Brother's Keeper. In 2013 Babyface secured a distribution deal with E1 Music for the label.
K-Ci & JoJo
Babyface married his first wife during his young adult years. Later on, in 1990, Babyface met Tracey Edmonds when she auditioned for the music video "Whip Appeal". They married on September 5, 1992 and they have two sons, Brandon and Dylan Michael. In January 7, 2005, Tracey filed for divorce in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. In October 2005, Babyface and Tracey finally announced that they were ending their marriage of thirteen years.
In 2007, Babyface began dating his backup dancer Nicole "Nikki" Pantenburg (former dancer and personal friend of Janet Jackson). In September 2008, Babyface and Nicole welcomed a daughter, Peyton Nicole Edmonds. The pair married on May 17, 2014.
On December 2, 2012, Babyface worked at a local Nathan's for charity. All proceeds went to Toys for Tots.
In 1999, a 25-mile (40-km) stretch of Interstate 65 that runs through Indianapolis was renamed Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds Highway.