One of the most appealing male Soul singers to emerge in the late '90s was Kevon Edmonds. Known principally as the lead singer for the young Soul group After 7, Edmonds became the bright tenor voice behind a number of hits for that group before emerging as a solid solo performer at the end of that decade.
Born and raised in the very un-soulful state of Indiana, Edmonds grew up with a deep love of the Motown sound and other classic soul music. He attended Indiana University, where he teamed with his brother Melvin and college mate Keith Mitchell to form After 7 and played local gigs in the Bloomington area. Meanwhile, his older brother Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds became part of the funk group the Deele, and ultimately joined with bandmate L.A. Reid to become the top songwriting and production team in modern music, working with Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston and dozens of other top acts as well as forging a successful solo singing career.
In 1988 Babyface and Reid signed an artist development agreement with Virgin Records and approached After 7 about signing with the label. With some trepidation the trio signed, and the resulting self-titled debut recording became a smash on both Soul and Pop radio, yielding three hits including the chart topper "Ready or Not." After 7 went on to become a consistent, if understated, charting act, scoring moderate hits with "Nights Like This" (from The Five Heartbeats soundtrack) and a nice cover of "Baby I'm For Real" before landing a major crossover hit in 1995 with the wonderful midtempo number "Til You Do Me Right." And while After 7 boasted solid harmonies and generally strong material, the highlight of the group's recorded performances was Edmond's bright, upbeat vocals. However, the changing landscape of music combined with Virgin Records' inexperience in the R&B world caused a premature end to After 7's reign near the top of the charts, and the group split in the late 90s.
Edmonds was involved in a fair amount of session vocal work during the period, working on many of his brother's productions, and most importantly becoming part of the one-performance group Milestone (along with K-Ci and Jojo) on the smash hit "I Care About You" from the Soul Food soundtrack.
In 1999, Edmonds released his solo debut album, 24/7, on RCA Records. It was a terrific spotlight for his exciting voice and was filled with strong material and classic arrangements (one of Babyface's better projects of that era) -- happily out of place in the hip-hop drenched world of that year. It also included a top notch set of musicians and backing vocalists, including Tommy Sims, Daryl Simmons, Nathan East and Marc Nelson. The title cut hit both the Soul and Pop top 10, but it was Edmonds' performance of the consistently solid material on the disc, especially the big ballad "Baby Come To Me," the midtempo "Love Will Be Waiting" and the Babyface/Kevon duet "A Girl Like You," that made it one of the year's best discs.
Unfortunately, after 24/7 came an unusually quiet period, and it was nearly a decade later that Edmonds emerged with new music, releasing the new album, Who Knew. It was a lesser album than its predecessor and came and went fairly quickly on the charts. Fortunately, around the same time, he reunited with Mitchell and brought in Jason Edmonds (Melvin's son) to create a new version of After 7 that continues to record and perform to this day.
By Chris Rizik