Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds once walked a tightrope between being a musician, producer and record executive. But ultimately, Edmonds had no choice but to focus on being creative and ultimately, side with recording artists.
In a recent interview with the “Toure Show,” Edmonds revealed the complexities of being a record executive with LaFace Records and a musician.
“I didn’t like the games that would come with being on the executive side where artists could be hurt,” Edmonds said. “There were decisions made that weren’t in the artists’ favor.”
One of LaFace’s biggest artists was Toni Braxton.
Her first two albums sold more than 15 million copies. According to court documents, Arista and LaFace earned an estimated $170 million. Braxton, however, was only making .33 cents per album in royalties. When contract negotiations between Braxton and the label failed, she filed a lawsuit requesting that she be free from her contractual obligations with the record label. Braxton had been under contract with the label since 1989, and cited a California labor law stating that employers cannot enforce labor or service after seven years. The label countersued her for breach of contract, leading to Braxton filing for bankruptcy.
By 1998, Braxton and LaFace settled the lawsuit. Although details of the settlement are not clear, Edmonds’ testimony during the trial might have contributed to the settlement and Braxton resuming work as an artist on the label.
“I was put in an awkward position,” he said. “The judge said, ‘I don’t want to ask you as a label, I want to ask you as an artist. Is Toni Braxton’s deal fair?’”
Edmonds admitted that the deal was not fair, and added, “If I sold the records that she sold, no question, it wasn’t fair.”
Edmonds, who reportedly has a net worth of $200 million, got his start in the music business by performing with funk musician Bootsy Collins. He went on to perform with several groups, including Manchild and The Deele. During this time, Edmonds also began receiving songwriting credits for artists such as Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston.
In 1989, Edmonds launched LaFace Records with L.A. Reid. The label was a joint venture with Arista Records and launched the careers of artists such as Usher, TLC and Toni Braxton. While the label was successful in its sales, some of its practices did not sit well with Edmonds, who believed strongly in the rights of artists.
“The whole idea was to help artists. When you get in the business of making records, there are things you won’t be able to do,” Edmonds said during his interview. “You choose one side. I chose to be on the creative side. People get hurt and taken advantage of. I’m not that dude.”