1. Essential BeginningsSource:Getty
Though most didn’t start hearing the name Antonio Reid until the 1980s, L.A. actually got his start in the ‘70s in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio as part of funk band Pure Essence. During his tenure with the group, they only managed to gain regional fame after releasing one record in 1976. However, 28 years later, producer RJD2 sampled their song “Third World,” reigniting interest in the group.
2. You Know The DeeleSource:Getty
“When I started The Deele, it was my way of putting together a team of singers I thought could have success,” Reid said to GRAMMY.com. “And I wanted to be the guy behind that. My band was cast. I cast Babyface as a member of my group. He had that tender voice, he could write songs, [he was] an amazing producer [and] capable of sharing the mic with the other two singers.”
3. Every Little Step He TakesSource:Getty
After crafting hits for the likes of The Whispers and Pebbles (whom Reid would eventually marry), he and Babyface hit it big working with former New Edition member Bobby Brown on his 1988 sophomore album, Don’t Be Cruel. “We didn’t spend a lot of time in the studio. But listening to Bobby Brown record those songs, it was obvious that he had star power,” Babyface said of he and L.A.’s experience.
4. A Big ‘Baby’ of a SuccessSource:Getty
After the hit parade that was Don’t Be Cruel, Reid and Babyface were in high demand. Perhaps no demand was higher than that of Whitney Houston. When she and her mentor, Clive Davis, came calling, L.A. and Babyface answered, delivering four songs for Whitney Houston’s third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight. “We’d produced a lot of records by then, but I had never heard anybody sound that good, ever,” Reid recalled.
5. LaFace of MusicSource:Getty
With their track record, the next logical step was for L.A. Reid and Babyface to have their own record label. In 1989, the twosome formed LaFace Records and based it in the burgeoning music hub of Atlanta, Georgia. In 1992, the label made one of its first big splashes with the Boomerang motion picture soundtrack, which produced Boyz II Men’s chart-topping hit “End of the Road” and introduced Toni Braxton.
6. Ushering in the Next GenerationSource:Getty
One of the youngest signees to LaFace Records was Usher. After signing the youngster (and sending him to live with Sean “Diddy” Combs for “Flavor School”), the label released the 14-year-old’s self-titled debut in 1994. On why he signed the singer, Reid told NewsOne, “I saw steel in his eyes, I saw desire, I saw a commitment from him, I saw a charismatic young singer who understood how to seduce the women.”
7. And The Hits Keep ComingSource:Getty
Reid created Hitco Publishing Group in 1996 in the interest of fostering songwriting for the next generation. “My commitment is really to songwriters and producers and opening up the door of opportunity to them,” he would later tell Music Industry Quarterly. “Songwriting is the life-blood of our industry. Without songwriters we don’t have an industry.” The company would go on to sign Shek’spere and Beyonce.
8. Boss MovesSource:Getty
In 2000, Reid and Babyface sold their remaining stake in LaFace Records and the imprint was merged with parent company Arista. With the merger also came news that Reid would succeed his mentor Clive Davis as the company’s president and CEO. It wasn’t an easy go at first. “They hated me,” Reid told New York in 2000. However, he saw success with Pink, Avril Lavigne and Outkast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” album.
9. Fresh to DefSource:Getty
After leaving his post at Arista Records, he took over as chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group. During his tenure there, Reid was able to help steer the careers of Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Bon Jovi and even oversaw the creation of Janet Jackson’s first and last album for the label, Discipline, in 2008. He also hired Jay Z to be president of Def Jam, thanks to Mariah Carey’s suggestion.
10. Reviving MimiSource:Getty
While serving as the head of Island Def Jam, Reid shepherded Mariah Carey’s return to chart dominance with The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005. Though the diva had been signed to the label since 2002, it wasn’t until then Carey showed the commercial spark she exemplified before her infamous public breakdown in 2001. And it was all because he was adamant about Mariah reuniting with Jermaine Dupri.
11. ‘Diamonds’ in the RoughSource:Getty
Meanwhile, Rihanna signed to the label in 2005 after being introduced to Reid by Jay Z. “I saw her determination, her commitment. I saw someone who was going to be a big star someday,” he said. Justin Bieber was brought to the label by manager Chris Hicks via his client Usher. “I could see immediately that Justin’s hair would be every bit as important as his songs, his voice, his face, or his presence,” Reid wrote.
12. ‘X’ Marks the SpotSource:Getty
After stepping down from his position at Island Def Jam, Reid did the unexpected and joined the judge’s panel on FOX’s music competition The X Factor in 2011. He served as the judge on the show for two seasons. “It was fun and I’m really appreciative,” he told WBLS’s Lenny Green about his time on the show. “What I really loved was just the idea of discovering talent.”
13. An Epic ComebackSource:Getty
Reid also made another major career move when he was named chairman and CEO of Epic Records, assuming the role in July of 2011. He remains in the post to this day. “This latest chapter of my career is the most difficult,” he said of starting at Epic. “When I started LaFace, I didn’t have my first hit for two years and nobody noticed. Now, everybody’s watching.” He’s currently mentoring X-Factor stars Fifth Harmony.
14. How a Yes Becomes ‘No’Source:Getty
One of Reid’s biggest successes thus far at Epic has been the rise of young pop star Meghan Trainor. The singer made her mark with her hit “All About the Bass” and debut album Title. Reid told Billboard, “I said ‘yes,’ then, ‘Don’t mix it. Don’t touch it. Let’s put it out as it is.’ A song like that is lightning in a bottle. As arrogant as it sounds, I knew Meghan was going to explode at that moment when I met her.”