R&B singer Tevin Campbell has a rare interview on the State of Black Music podcast at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee. In the episode, he shared a glimpse into his musical sanity, his Mount Rushmore of Music, and which of his hits LA Reid wanted Usher to sing.
The five-time Grammy-nominated singer said the 1993 Billboard-charting single that hitmaker Reid wanted for his new child star was “Can We Talk,” confirming an industry rumor that’s been circulating in the industry for years.
“Well, that’s true,” Campbell recalled. “That’s actually true, LA wanted [Usher] to record it, but Babyface wanted me to do it and they had a big argument about it.”
Usher also spoke about it in a 2017 interview with Ebony Magazine, saying he signed to LaFace Records because he “wanted to do an album with Babyface and LA Reid.”
“So LA Reid wanted Babyface to work on me, and they went through a lot of drama back then,” he continues. “They kind of severed their ties… he got mad… and he built a whole album for me and he gave the whole album to someone else… Tevin Campbell!”
“‘Can We Talk’…was my song…” explained the Tiny Desk performer of Black Music Month 2022.
Despite Campbell and Usher’s memories of that fight, some fans believe the facts may be skewed since Usher didn’t sign to LaFace Records until 1994 and the star producers were around the time of I’m Ready, the album the song was featured on appeared, met, was published.
In Reid’s book Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next, he tells a story and timeline of when he met the “My Way” singer.
The passage reads in part: “When this fourteen-year-old boy walked into my office that afternoon in 1993, I could tell that there was nothing remotely childlike about Usher Raymond IV. He was already Usher. He was confident and composed well beyond his years.”
In 1993, the same year they met, “Can We Talk” was recorded and charted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Many tried to antagonize the two former child stars. However, Campbell had nothing but flowers for Usher and said that while he loves his colleague’s music, he can’t do justice to one of his favorite songs. He said it’s the same way he feels Usher wouldn’t have been able to bring his song to life the way he did.
“Usher’s ‘I Got It Bad’ is one of my favorite R&B songs,” Campbell admitted. “I couldn’t sing it the way he sings it. I don’t think Usher could sing “Can We Talk” the way I sing it. Not every song is meant for everyone.”
While Campbell believes no one can deliver the R&B anthem like he did, thousands have flooded the internet to try Campbell’s signature #CanWeTalkChallenge.
Celebrities from Tank, Tamar Braxton, Laila Ali, Evan Ross, Wanya Morris, Anthony Anderson, Avery Wilson, Kelly Price, Mario, RL, Lil Mama and more hopped on TikTok and Instagram to pay tribute. The song is so popular that the song’s co-writer, Babyface, has now included it in his concert series.
Neither Babyface nor Darryl Simmons (the silent partner) have ever spoken out about the Usher or Tevin Campbell scandal.
Regardless of the truth behind the original intent for the song, it remains one of American music’s greatest gifts — in fact, it’s celebrated during Black Music Month.
https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/07/01/they-had-a-big-fight-over-it-tevin-campbell-confirms-that-l-a-reid-wanted-usher-to-sing-can-we-talk-babyface-disagreed/ Tevin Campbell confirms LA Reid wanted Usher to sing “Can We Talk,” Babyface disagreed