Antonio ''L.A.'' Reid and Babyface part ways -- The producing/writing team (Whitney Houston, TLC) are nearing dissolution

By David Browne
Updated September 10, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

It could be the end of an R&B era: L.A. and Babyface — a.k.a. Antonio Reid and Kenny Edmonds — are on the verge of at least a partial dissolution. If you don’t know their names offhand, you surely know their music. Since 1987, the duo has produced and/or written dozens of sharp pop-R&B smashes for Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, TLC, and Boyz II Men, among others. ”We’re trying to deal with a couple of things,” says Babyface, 34, responding to the rumors. ”And once we’ve cleared that up, there’ll be an announcement. In some instances we won’t be working together. That’s all I can say right now.”

Sounds like a breakup to us — but at least they’ll wrap it up on a high note. Their Atlanta-based label, LaFace, is going strong with TLC, Toni Braxton, and the soundtrack for Boomerang (for which the two shared a Grammy this year, with U2, as Producers of the Year). In addition, Babyface coproduced and cowrote one song on Mariah Carey’s new Music Box and two for an upcoming Aretha Franklin compilation. ”I don’t have a hit gauger that says, ‘This is gonna be a smash!”’ says Babyface, who counts the Carpenters among his influences. ”I was surprised by the success ‘End of the Road’ had — I didn’t expect that. The only thing I can gauge it on is whether it feels good to me.”

What also feels good to Babyface is being center stage himself; he has just released his second solo album, For the Cool in You. ”It’s satisfying to see Boyz II Men or Whitney singing one of my songs,” he says. ”But I’ve never given my own career as an artist 100 percent. I do wonder if I can turn it into something bigger.”