L.A. Reid is the Man Behind Outkast & TLC. Listen To How It All Came to Be (Audio)
Antonia L.A. Reid stands tall as one of the most influential players in the music industry. Heads love him for introducing such acts as Outkast and TLC to a broad audience, but he’s put in more than three decades of work into the careers of others, as well. Having essentially reinvented Atlanta, Georgia’s role in the industry alongside his production partner Babyface, Reid is currently promoting his new book Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next and stopped by Shadrach “Shad” Kabango’s “q” radio program to share some of the book’s anecdotes.
Around 3:11, Reid comments on what he thinks made TLC so successful. “They were so in tune with the times…they weren’t in the pulpit preaching to you, they were entertaining you but just dropping messages at the same time,” he says. Shortly thereafter, Shad asks Reid to comment on his 1989 move to Atlanta, Georgia, which is where LaFace Records began – a move which set in motion the gears that would lead to not only TLC’s career, but the careers of other now-legendary artists. As Shad explains, that move helped put the city on the map as a burgeoning hotbed for musical talent. Part of what made such a step on Reid’s part so bold was that – as he explains – he knew nothing about the city before he arrived. “I didn’t know anything about the city. I didn’t know any of the talent there. I knew none of the producers.” When asked why he chose Atlanta as his new home, Reid says “[Babyface and I] were living in Los Angeles at the time and were having an incredible run, but we didn’t feel we wanted to be there permanently. The choices were my hometown, Cincinnati; his hometown of Indianapolis, which is basically Cincinnati, just down the street. We said ‘nope.’ Atlanta was the upwardly mobile city where there was the history of Martin Luther King and just this feeling of an incredible upwardly mobile Black life” (4:10).
Shad then steers the conversation towards LaFace’s extensive history in “pushing the boundaries” with Hip-Hop, which spurs him on to play a snippet of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” After referencing Reid’s claim that Outkast is his favorite act ever, he asks his guest to describe his reaction upon first hearing that particular record. “‘Wow. This is something.’ They’d already paved the way for this kind of song because from Stankonia they had the song ‘Bombs over Baghdad,’ so I was already used to the sound…and I was ready for it” (6:10). Shad then mentions the part of Reid’s book in which he discusses the duo’s early success as being personally important to him. Reid explains that feeling by telling Shad “It was personally important because they came about right at the time that Babyface and I had stopped working as producing partners. It was really a time for me to make a name for myself; I couldn’t ride in the passenger seat of Babyface anymore,” he quips. “I had to make noise. In walks Outkast…so there was that piece. It was also the first Hip-Hop act I’d ever signed…this was the first pure Rap act I signed, so it was very important to me that it really work (6:40).”
Further discussion is had about what Shad calls “the magic behind the scenes” of Outkast’s creative process, in addition to Reid’s thoughts on his acts like Avril Lavigne, Rihanna (including specifics on her latest hit, “Work”), Justin Bieber, Usher, and much more.