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Toni's first appearance on the pop and R&B charts came with two singles, "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" and a duet with Babyface called "Give U My Heart". Her debut LP "Toni Braxton" was realeased in 1993. The next singles released was "Another Sad Love Song" and "Breathe Again" which ruled the charts. The success didn't slow down when the 1994 hits "Seven Whole Days", "You Mean The World To Me", "How Many Ways" and "I Belong To You" was realeased. She was now a top selling artist when she went back in the studio to record her sophmore album.
Toni's second album, "Secrets", was released in 1996 and held her first nr one pop hits; "You're Makin' Me High" and "Un-Break My Heart". For the first time Toni was also co-executive producer and co-wrote two of the songs. Next Toni wanted to start an acting career and in 1997, she was close to take a role in "The Frankie Lymon Story" but turned it down because of schedue problems. In December, 1997, her sweet success started to go sour when she made a lawsuit against Arista and LaFace Records. Toni claimed that she had fulfilled her original seven year contract and that she wanted to be released from it. Arista, however, did not want to let Toni go.
It was reported that Toni had received far less per album than most artists of her status get. Toni said of the lawsuit: "I can't talk about the suit, but I love those guys very much. It's just business." In January 1998, Toni filed for bankruptcy protection with liabilities totaling more than $1 million. The filing was result of recent disputes over her contract with Arista and LaFace Records. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey Toni said that she trusted the wrong people and that it was 100% her fault. Starting over, Toni took the lead role in the Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast". In early 1999 the legal dispute with Toni's label had been settled and she was once again in the studio working on her third album. Toni's next album entitled "The Heat" was realesed in april, 2000. The first single from the album "He Wasen't Man Enough" topped the Billboard R&B/HipHop chart for four weeks. Even though "The Heat" did not sell as many copies as her previous albums Toni still had personal success when she got engaged to Keri Lewis from Mint Condition.
In April of 2001 Toni got married to Keri Lewis and it was also announced that she was pregnant. Even though she was pregnant Toni released a holiday album called "Snowflakes". The album was completely produced by Toni herself and her husband. Shortly after the release Toni gave birth to a baby boy. Being a mother slowed Toni' career down, but not for long. In the summer of 2002 she starred in the VH1 movie "Play'd" in which took the role as Shonda and she also started to record her fifth album entitled "More Than A Woman". In 2003 Toni gave birth to her second son. With deminishing record sales she decided to go back to Broadway to star as the title role in "Aida". She also released "Ultimate Toni Braxton" which is a hits compilation with two new songs, "Whatchu Need" and "The Little Things".
Baby Might Do His Famous Birdcall For Toni Braxton During Her 'Aida' Run
R&B singer working on her new LP, will appear on Big Tymers CD. When Toni Braxton begins her four-month Broadway run as star of the Disney musical "Aida" on June 30, she'll have at least one of her good friends coming out and showing support.
"I ain't never been [to Broadway, I'mma come check you out," Cash Money's Baby, who was seated next to Braxton in an MTV studio, said to his buddy and song collaborator last week. "I'mma come with about 50 of the homies, ya dig? We're gonna take [up] the whole upstairs section. I ain't trying to be down[stairs]. I'mma peep the play."
Maybe Baby will even give one of his patented birdcalls if T.B. garners an ovation.
"What's the name of [the show], 'Iesha'?" he asked with a wide grin, showing off his sparkly diamond-encrusted chompers.
"It's not 'Iesha,' " Braxton laughed, sharing in the amusement. "It's 'Aida,' dammit. That would make the play really ghetto, if it was 'Iesha.' "
"What is it, 'I'eema?' " he carried on with his ribbing, chuckling lightly. "I'll be there to peep that. Believe that."
Braxton first stepped under the bright lights of the stage in 1998 as the female lead in the Broadway production of "Beauty and the Beast" . The Grammy Award winner says she welcomes the opportunity to do a musical once again.
"Coming back, I'm really excited. I love Broadway," Braxton said. "It gives me a chance to sing [and act] at the same time. The younger audiences will come, hopefully, to see me in it. The theater is so important for younger people. It adds a little bit of culture [and] it helps in our music. Broadway is one of the reasons we do what we do. Music has so many different faces."
Braxton is once again recording music as well. She recently changed record labels, leaving her first home, Arista, for Blackground. Other than the Cash Money Millionaires, she's not quite sure about who she's going to work with, but wants to deliver a nice mixture of songs on her next LP, which is slated for a fall release.
"My albums are always kinda eclectic," she explained about her collaborations. "It can be anything from David Foster, to Babyface, to Cash Money — it can be anyone. We're just in the preliminary parts of it right now, working it out. I'm going to do my traditional sad, love song ballads, of course, and get some dance tracks in it as well."
Baby and Toni first worked together for "Baby You Can Do It" off of last year's Birdman album (see "Cash Money's Baby Makes Video Plans With P. Diddy, Toni Braxton"). Other than her next LP, the two are slated to once again team up on the Big Tymers' upcoming Big Money Heavyweights, which is due later this year.
Toni Braxton Celebrates Return To The Stage, Looks To First LP For Inspiration
Singer at work on first release for Blackground Entertainment, due in December.
It wasn't exactly what you might have expected from Toni Braxton's return to the stage.
Instead of hitting an arena to roll out her catalog of hits to an audience of thousands, Braxton returned to Broadway last month.
"I feel relieved," Braxton said, her opening-night performance freshly behind her. One hand holding her husband's and the other trying to keep her long dress from touching the grimy streets, Braxton entered the Laura Belle restaurant to celebrate her return to the Great White Way. "I loved it. I haven't worked [onstage] in five years — I've been pregnant for two — so it feels good to be back out there."
Braxton, no stranger to Broadway, began her live theatrical career in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" in 1998. And through November of this year, she's playing the role of a Nubian princess forced into slavery and trapped in a love triangle in Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida" (see "Baby Might Do His Famous Birdcall For Toni Braxton During Her 'Aida' Run").
"I'm more comfortable performing," she said. "But the acting is a little more challenging for me. Doing 'Beauty and the Beast' helped me exercise that muscle, so I'm a little more comfortable than I was the first time."
With a high-profile Broadway run and her second child — Diezel Ky Braxton Lewis, born in March — it might seem like her recording career is on the back burner. But Braxton is marching ahead, and plans to have a new album in stores in December. The album will be her first since parting ways with her longtime label, Arista Records, and inking a new deal with Blackground Entertainment.
"It was just time to move on," she said. "It was just time."
Although Braxton's era with Arista was thick with hits, her move to Blackground was not a huge jump. For the past several years, Aaliyah's uncle/Blackground CEO Barry Hankerson managed Braxton's musical career, the singer's publicist said.
"It's going to be more like the first album," Braxton said of her first Blackground release. Braxton's 1993 self-titled debut LP sold 10 million copies worldwide.
Toni Braxton: In Control
"Over the last three years I've been broke, dumped, and pimped," writes Toni Braxton in the sleeve notes to her third album, "The Heat." Candid words, indeed, especially coming from a woman best known for crooning tasteful, soulful ballads suggesting either satin sheets and candlelight or bemoaning a broken heart.
Propelled by the unstoppable hits "You're Makin' Me High" and "Un-Break My Heart," Braxton's second album, "Secrets," went seven-times platinum. It's no wonder we were shocked when Braxton wound up filing for bankruptcy and embroiled in a label squabble. A slow road to a comeback followed, with Braxton filling the role of Belle in Disney's "Beauty And The Beast" on Broadway while the business end got sorted.
Suddenly this year, Braxton sneaked back into view, unleashing the already-platinum "The Heat" in May and dishing out a new edge on her singles "He Wasn't Man Enough" and "Just Be A Man About It." Money, power, and respect followed.
Consider her score settled.
MTV News' Elon Johnson recently sat down with Toni Braxton, who talked about how she took control of her life and career and steered herself back on track both personally and professionally. Here's her story...
MTV News: Not a lot of artists can make such an incredible comeback as you have this time around. Were you in any way fearful about doing this album?
Toni Braxton: Yeah, very fearful. I'm still nervous, still have my fingers crossed. I was gone for so long, longer than I anticipated. In the two years I was gone, music has changed, like, twenty years. It's like twenty years passed. Since music has changed, I didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure what music to do. I had to be true to myself, but I wanted to make the music still sounded current.
MTV: You also worked with Dr. Dre on "Just Be A Man About It" and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes on "Gimme Some." Why these two in particular?
Braxton: Well, Lisa was great, because we knew each other. We were on the same label. Dr. Dre, I'm just a huge fan; I love him, and I got an opportunity to work with him. I didn't think it was going to happen. And he said, "I'm really busy, [but] I can do it; I'd love to do it. Let me do it, and I'll send it to you and you tell me what you think." So we weren't together at the same time when we recorded the song. He did it in fifteen minutes and sent it to me. I was like, "It's great, I love it." He was like, "I can change anything." I'm like, "No, keep it exactly like that." Then he said I'd love to do the video. It was good working together. [RealVideo]
MTV: You have a really broad audience -- everything from teenyboppers to adult contemporary listeners. What is it about your sound that permits that, do you think? Why does everyone love Toni Braxton's music?
Braxton: Well, I think people identify with my music, because I try to keep it eclectic. I may do songs like "You're Making Me High" and "Don't Break My Heart," so that will reach two demographics right there alone. ["The Heat"] is more similar to the last album, "Secrets." The first album ["Toni Braxton"] was very AC, which was on purpose. They said, "OK, we have her, she's young, she's like 22, 23. Her voice is deep as Barry White. It won't make sense if she gets up there singing and dancing, so we'll make her more AC." Now people are saying, "Oh, you really changed your image and your style." I'm like, "No, I'm more my age now." Where as before I was [made to appear] a little older than I was. I'm still trying to be able to wear jeans sometimes, as well as the sequin dresses.
MTV: You've been taking control of your life and taking more responsibility for what happens in your career. What are you doing differently this time around?
Braxton: When you're a new artist, you don't know anything about the music business. It's very new to you. It's like a corporation you're coming into, and others direct you and tell you what to do. Most of them make sense, because they know the music business, but a lot of it is personal. For me, as an artist, I think now I'm coming of age, and I'm understanding what I like and what I don't like. Now I'm having my say, whereas before, it was like... well, believe me. And it was supposed to be that way.
I think there comes a point in every person's career [to take control]. I look at artists like Madonna, how she has taken control, but it took her a second. It wasn't like this from the very beginning, and I just use them as examples of how I want to be; how they become corporations after a while. Like Madonna has [her label,] Maverick. She has so many different things, so many subtitles under her name. I think you evolve, and you grow to that. [RealVideo]
MTV: You've mentioned that your highly publicized bankruptcy had provided a major learning opportunity for you. Based on what you learned from that experience, what advice would you give to other artists out there, like someone who's just about to be signed?
Braxton: I don't know if I could give a new artist advice, only because whenever you sign your first contract to get in the music business, it's fair, because the record company -- they're making all the initial advancements, they're paying all the money, they're taking a chance on you. However, I think once you prove yourself and you sell lots of records, you should be compensated. If you worked at Motorola and you were in sales and your market did exceptionally well, you would get perks, you would get bonuses, you would get everything. But unfortunately, the music business is not a simple as that, and it's a sales-driven business. I think employees, probably, at record companies get the perks and the bonuses, but the artists don't necessarily do that. That's the part that people don't know.
[People seem to think], "Well, I saw them on MTV and 'TRL' and they did all these concerts and I paid $75 for a ticket, so I know they must have money." But I don't think people understand that when you go to a concert, [the artists] rent the building. Every musician who is on stage, they paid for. Every light you see, they paid for. Every thing you see is a production. Like, if you go to "Beauty And The Beast" or something like that, and you see that whole production, someone has to pay for it. [In my case], the artist pays for it, and then they get what's left over, and if you can count "one plus one is two," all day long, it's not eleven. It doesn't really pan out.
MTV: But things are better now between you and your label.
Braxton: Yes, things are great now. I was one of the lucky ones, one of the fortunate ones. We fought, we had our boxing gloves on, but I think in the end, it worked out very well for both of us. I'm happy, they're happy, and we're working together and relationships sometimes. It was challenging initially, but it's a lot better. I think the respect level is different for both of us. My record label, they were responsible for a lot of great songs, and I will never take that from them. I've always been very grateful and thankful. However, I helped them make [a lot of money].
MTV: You recently wrapped your first movie role in "Kingdom Come." Did you take any sort of like acting lessons or anything to prepare for it?
Braxton: Yeah, I was taking acting lessons for about a year before I did "Beauty And The Beast" [on Broadway], and then when I started recording the album, I started taking them again. Which is a lot harder than you think. You see these people on stage or in the movies, and you're like, "Oh God, they can't act," or, "They're not that good." Trust me, it's really hard to be vulnerable and open yourself up in front of people and allow them to see another side of you. It's a little more difficult than you'd imagine.
MTV: Did you play any piano on your album?
Toni: I play piano only on one particular song, which is a song I wrote called "Speaking In Tongues." I wrote this song a couple of years ago, and I was sitting there playing it, and my gentleman friend, [Mint Condition's] Cary Lewis, was like, "That's a great song. That's a great melody. Let me hear you sing it," and I sung, and he said. "Let me put it down for you. Just play it." I played the piano, and he put all the other music around it and produced it. He said, "You should play more often. I don't think people know you can play that well." I've been playing since I was, like, 14 years old, but when I played in concerts, people would say, "She's not really playing." I think when I tour, I'm going to hit some wrong keys and some right keys so people will go, "Oh, she's really playing."
MTV: You mentioned Cary Lewis. For the gossip factor [TB laughs], are there any marriage plans in the works?
Braxton: Well, we're talking about it. Yeah, the conversation is going very well, actually. Sooner than later. No date yet, though. It's not official yet, but I'll accept that.
MTV: Congratulations! Now, back to the album, one of the main things about it is, you're really speaking for women in all different sorts of situations. Is that something that you did on purpose, or did it just happen that way?
Braxton: Definitely on purpose. As a matter of fact, most of my songs on that record are for women, because we get dumped a lot and heartbroken. We just love so hard, and even though I sing a lot of sad love songs, I always try to show strength in my voice -- that, "OK, I'm hurt, I'm sad, but I'm going to make it through. I'm going to meet someone else who's going to treat me much better than you could ever treat me." I always try to show strength. A friend of mine called me "the Lifetime Channel for women." [laughs]
MTV: What are your future plans?
Braxton: Nothing yet. Up for some movies, but they haven't gotten OK'd yet, so my fingers are crossed. I've just been happy; I'm just glad that people are asking for me, so I can get a job and work again. I got my pay raise. Everything has worked out great for me, and I am really, really happy at this point in my life. I can't deny it.