Kenneth Edmonds, professionally known as Babyface, is one of the most sought out songwriters in modern times. So, it was only fitting that when the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series wanted to kick off Black Music Month, they called the musician. Babyface didn’t hold back, giving the series one Black-ass musical family reunion showcasing his impact across nearly fifty years.
Outside of his solo catalog, as a producer, he’s worked with some of the biggest names in music, including the late Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Usher, and recently Ari Lennox. His setlist offered a tasting of those past collaborations. With backing support from fellow vocalist Tank, Chanté Moore, and Avery Wilson, Babyface opened up with his classic 1987 song “Two Occasions,” recorded as part of the group The Deele. The entertainer followed that up with his solo 1989 song, “Whip Appeal.”
Known as the woman whisper, when transitioning to Karyn White’s “Superwoman,” which he wrote and produced, Babyface shared how he’s been able to create music from the women’s perspective. “When I was a kid, I was always falling in love and getting my heart broken,” he said. “So when that would happen, I would write these really sad songs. Then I realized I probably was feeling the same hurt women were feeling.”
The remainder of the set included a cover of Madonna’s “Take A Bow,” Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry,” Tevin Campbell’s “Can We Talk,” “Change the World,” Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks fr th Mmrs,” Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You” and “End Of The Road,” and closed with Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” off of the Waiting To Exhale movie soundtrack that Babyface produced.
The band consisted of Babyface on both the keys and, at times, the guitar, musical director Erskine Hawkins II as additional support on the keys, Antoine Porter on the guitar, Walt Barnes Jr. on bass, and Reggie Regg on drums.
Although the series features Black artists throughout the year, this subsegment is dedicated to celebrating their contributions to the art form on a much grander scale. The outlet said, “Together, these artists represent the past, present, and future of Black music.”
Watch the full performance above.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.