The Atlanta-based LaFace Records was home to some of the top-selling pop, rhythm-and-blues, and rap artists of the 1990s and helped establish Atlanta's reputation as the new Motown. Founded in 1989 by Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds as a joint venture with Arista Records in New York, the label produced thirty-three number-one singles by such artists as TLC, OutKast, Usher, and Toni Braxton. The songwriting and producing pair have earned numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards.
In the early 1980s Edmonds and Reid started working together in Indianapolis, Indiana, when both were members of the group the Deele. After three albums with the group, the pair moved in 1985 to Los Angeles, California, where they established themselves as a songwriting and production team, working with the Whispers, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and Pebbles, among other acts.
In 1989 they relocated to Atlanta and cofounded LaFace Records as a joint-venture partnership with Arista. The first artist signed to the fledgling label was Damian Dame, whose song "Exclusivity" provided their first number-one hit. The year 1992 proved to be a banner one for the label, as the debut album from the female rap and vocal trio TLC and the soundtrack for the film Boomerang each sold well over a million copies. The soundtrack introduced another singer who would develop a successful career with LaFace, Toni Braxton. Her self-titled 1993 debut album eventually sold more than 9 million copies.
In 1993 Reid and Edmonds effectively ended their collaboration in songwriting and production. Edmonds, who had enjoyed his own success as a producer and singer in the late 1980s and early 1990s (most notably with soundtracks for the films Waiting to Exhale and The Bodyguard) moved to California, while Reid remained in Atlanta and focused on the administrative side of the company. Also in 1993 the label made its first forays into the rap genre with the signing of the duo OutKast. Their debut in 1994 added to LaFace's growing roster of platinum-selling artists, which included TLC (their 1994 album CrazySexyCool sold more than 10 million copies) and Az Yet. In 1995 the label signed Goodie Mob, an Atlanta-based rap group whose debut Soul Food helped establish the label's reputation in the genre.
Despite a few minor setbacks—most notably bankruptcy filings by TLC and Braxton—LaFace continued to thrive in the late 1990s, with successful releases in 1996 by OutKast and Braxton. The rhythm-and-blues vocalist Usher's second album, My Way, released in 1997, sold more than 7 million copies, and in 1998 OutKast released the chart-topping Aquemini. In 1999 TLC released their third album with LaFace, Fanmail, which sold upwards of 6 million copies, contributing to a combined sales total of 21 million albums—making TLC one of the biggest-selling female music groups in history. OutKast's 2000 album Stankonia was met with widespread critical acclaim, and the record sold well. In 2000 BMG (Arista's parent company) bought out Reid and Edmonds' 50 percent share of LaFace for $100 million, and the company relocated to Los Angeles as part of a restructuring deal. That same year, Reid was named president and chief executive officer of Arista Records.