DAR Music: 10 R&B Albums From LaFace Records

By @TrueGodImmortal

Babyface is a legend. Antonio "L.A." Reid is a legend. So, naturally when two legends combined forces to create a label, you had to know big things were coming. In the inception of their label, not much was known and there was no way to really be prepared for what to expect, but with the success of both men in the music world, surely they would be set for a big run and spot elite talent. As their label, titled LaFace got off the ground and saw millions, their artist pool kept growing and the music kept coming. They would have rappers, singers, and producers under their label, and they would crank out music at a high rate. Whether it was the popular group TLC, the songstress Toni Braxton, the greatest hip hop duo in Outkast, a legendary hip hop group in Goodie Mob, or even an underrated singer like Donell Jones, LaFace made sure to leave their mark as a label on the game. Today, I wanted to look back on their run and some of the better R&B records to come from this label, most of which feature songwriting and production from Babyface. LaFace was at the top of the genre in the 90's, and they had numerous albums released that climbed the charts. Let's take a look at 10 noteworthy R&B releases that came from LaFace Records.

*Toni Braxton- Toni Braxton (1993)

-In terms of R&B music and debuts, this might be the greatest of them all. Toni arrived on the scene during a time when the game needed a new sultry voice and star to rival those already in place. With the era of Janet still prevalent and Mary J. Blige just arriving the year before, Toni was a breath of fresh air, with her unique vocals, her natural beauty, and her overall charm that made her an instant hit. She exceeded expectations with her debut, which is still the greatest album from a female artist in the genre, at least for the 90's. There is no album that rivals it IMO, and there are many factors why I feel this way. For one, this is an album that lacks any filler, has no skips, and Babyface seemed to be at the height of his songwriting powers. Toni was the right artist at the right time, and every song here works to perfection. From "Another Sad Love Song" to "Breathe Again" to "Love Affair" to "Seven Whole Days" to "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" to "How Many Ways" and other tracks, Toni delivers each time. This album to me solidified LaFace as the force to be reckoned with in R&B without question, and gave the world its newest and brightest star in Toni Braxton.

*Tony Rich- Words (1996)

-For the success of LaFace Records to be what it was during the heyday of the label, one thing that always stuck out to me was the fact that there were plenty of artists who never seemed to get their full credit and Tony Rich is definitely one of those. This album won a Grammy, which is an amazing feat and yet, this project doesn't get mentioned nearly as much as it should. Tony Rich was extremely talented and perhaps the similarities to Babyface were what limited his potential commercially, but this album is smooth. Of course, the classic "Nobody Knows" is a highlight, as well as "Like A Woman", "Hey Blue", and "Grass Is Green". Tony Rich wasn't your typical artist and I fully believe that if LaFace put the effort in, he could have went higher. How does one go from platinum and a Grammy to their next release barely getting any attention? Some of that is his own doing and perhaps the music wasn't as good, but that one MIGHT be on the label itself. Still, this is a noteworthy release.

*TLC- Ooooooohhh... On The TLC Tip (1992)

-We have to acknowledge the greatness of TLC, but the truth of the matter is, the ladies wouldn't have been as big if they were not on LaFace. The poise and songwriting abilities of Babyface helped catapult every artist on their label that he worked with, especially the women. Now, I'm not saying TLC wouldn't have been big, but their status as the biggest female R&B group was certainly a direct reflection of having Babyface write and produce for them in his prime. This album sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and with the assistance of Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri in addition to Babyface, the group would craft a number of hit singles and anthems that included "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "What About Your Friends", "Hat 2 The Back", and my personal favorite "Baby-Baby Baby". There are many arrivals in the genre that change the game, but I doubt we expected TLC to become the force they would. Their debut is one of the seminal R&B releases of the decade and it helped put LaFace on an even higher level than before.

*Usher- My Way (1997)

-I think Usher was an artist that no one truly saw the full potential in. Sure, he could have been a star, but when he originally debuted in 1994, did we know what was coming on his next record? Not at all. His sophomore album My Way debuted in 1997 and shot up the charts quickly, on the back of the chemistry that Usher and producer Jermaine Dupri seemed to have. Babyface would contribute to the album, crafting standout tracks "Bedtime" and "Slow Jam", but this was all about Usher and JD. Highlights from this mega successful album include "You Make Me Wanna", "Nice And Slow", "Just Like Me", and the title track. The album not only continued the R&B dominance of LaFace, but also put Usher on the map as well, making this a huge moment for the genre going forward. The album would earn Grammy nominations and sell over 6 million copies, which was one of the many LaFace albums during the decade to do so. Their run was ridiculous.

*Society Of Soul- Brainchild (1995)

-One of those albums that tends to go ignored or forgotten, Society Of Soul was a part of the Dungeon Family movement that we should remember positively. With Organized Noize, Big Rube, and Espraronza working together, they would craft their one and only album, the smooth yet soulfully funky Brainchild. After their excellent "Funky Ride" on Outkast's classic debut, the group would deliver an album that showcases the greatness of Sleepy Brown, and features T-Boz from TLC as well as George Clinton and Cee-Lo Green. Highlights on the album were the classics "Blac Mermaid", "Pushin", "Peaches N Erb", "Changes", and "It Only Gets Better". This wasn't a classic album overall, but it was a very good album that deserved more recognition.

*Damian Dame- Damian Dame (1991)

-Many probably don't even remember Damian Dame but they should. This group was never the most popular and their rise to minimal fame was solely due to their time on LaFace Records, but being backed by some of the best in the business helps and as a result, the debut and only album stands as a significant release on the label. With Babyface behind the pen on just about every song, naturally the music worked well, as the hit single "Exclusivity" was all over the charts and one of the greatest New Jack Swing era songs, along with other solid tracks like "Gotta Learn My Rhyhtm", "Right Down To It", and "Don't Remind Me". This album was interesting from start to finish, and while it wasn't in the top tier of releases in terms of LaFace, it was noteworthy on the R&B side of things. RIP to both members of this duo/group.

*Donell Jones- Where I Wanna Be (1999)

-We know this album well. It stands as one of the best albums of late 90's in the R&B genre and it made Donell a star for a brief period of time. This album was his sophomore release after his LaFace debut My Heart, and it exceeded all expectations by far. With the first single "U Know What's Up" driving the sales by far, Donell would see platinum success with this project, following up his worldwide hit with the title track, which is seen by many as a true R&B classic. The rest of the album is solid and while I might be slightly partial to his debut personally, who could deny tracks like "This Luv", "All Her Love", "Pushin", and "He Won't Hurt You", which are all standouts on this album. Donell got his name put on the bigger stage with this album and Where I Wanna Be is one of the most important R&B releases of the late 90's.

*Az Yet- Az Yet (1996)

-I often wonder why this group wasn't a little bigger than they ended up being. Perhaps the group looking like a parody of an actual R&B group was a part of the reason, as their image was totally generic, or maybe it was the hilarious video that accompanied their hit single, but whatever the case, Az Yet just never managed to fully breakthrough and as a result, they had a short career on LaFace. Regardless, this album is solid, with production and songwriting from Babyface of course, as well as Brian McKnight and Jon B. The highlights include the iconic single "Last Night", as well as songs like "Secrets", a cover of "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", and "Sadder Than Blue". Az Yet was your typical R&B group, but with Babyface backing them, they were able to see some success with this album and could have gone slightly further I believe.

*Toni Braxton- Secrets (1996)

-The second album from Toni is a huge seller, but it might be just a tad bit underrated considering the level of success, legacy, and acclaim her debut got. While this sophomore release wasn't as good as her iconic debut, it was still a very good release, one that slightly updated her sound and image, while also enforcing the same traits and charisma that made us fall in love with her in the first place. Armed with new songs produced and written by Babyface, along with her beautiful appeal, Toni would take over everything once again, seeing an album that has amassed over 14 million copies in sales worldwide and is certified 8X platinum in the United States. That alone says a lot about this album, and it is easily the second best release in her catalog. Toni was on top of the world it seemed, and with the popularity of tracks like "Un-break My Heart", "You're Makin Me High", "I Love Me Some Him", and "Let It Flow", Toni delivers another classic album that should be included in the discussions of the best female R&B album of the decade much more. Secrets is one of the highest selling albums ever by a female R&B artist and it is easily a LaFace classic.

*TLC- CrazySexyCool (1994)

-The biggest album on this list has to be the sophomore album from the legendary group. At a time in music where it seemed like the biggest stars were women, TLC took the top spot from them all. They bypassed Mary and their own labelmate Toni Braxton (briefly) to take the crown with this hugely successful album. Their debut was amazing honestly, but this album sees the group maturing and crafting anthems that focused on honesty, empowerment, and other issues that were important, including romance and sexuality. The sound of this album was much more soulful and a little funky as well, bridging the gap in some way between R&B and hip hop with some of the songs. With Babyface, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Organized Noize, and Puffy contributing to the sound, the group was in good hands and this album doesn't disappoint. Highlights include "Creep", "Sumthin Wicked This Way Comes", "Waterfalls" (of course), "Red Light Special", and my favorite "Diggin On You". The album would sell 15 million copies worldwide becoming one of the most successful albums by a female group, and putting the group and LaFace Records at the top of the world.



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