Hailed as the "new voice of ghetto soul" and the first act signed to basketball great Magic Johnson's Magic Johnson Music, Cleveland native Avant (born Myron Avant) debuted in 1998 with the song "Separated," released on Payton Entertainment -- the label operated by his manager, Eric Payton. The single received airplay on top-rated Chicago radio station WGCI prior to being selected for inclusion on the 1999 MCA compilation Summer Heat. This set the stage for the May 2000 release of Avant's debut album, My Thoughts, released on Johnson's MJM label via MCA. A couple months later, "Separated" -- aided by regular play on BET and The Box -- topped the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. A cover of René & Angela's 1983 classic "My First Love," featuring KeKe Wyatt, reached the Top Five and helped increase My Thoughts' popularity with lovers of sophisticated R&B.
Avant released three more albums through MJM, all of which were distributed by Universal and featured one major single. Ecstasy (2002) was propelled by "Makin' Good Love," the singer's third Top Ten R&B single. The sprawling Private Room (2003), weighed down by some substandard material, nonetheless produced yet another Top Ten R&B hit in "Read My Mind." Director (2006) repeated the feat with the equally successful "4 Minutes." Avant subsequently signed to Capitol -- a move that did not impede his momentum. A self-titled album (2008) peaked in the Top Ten of the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, just like Avant's first four albums, yet he moved once more to Verve Forecast, where he issued The Letter (2010). On Face the Music (2013), an EMI-distributed release, he reunited with Wyatt, with whom he scored another duet hit ("You & I"). The singer celebrated 15 years in the business with The VIII (2015), his seventh Top Ten R&B/HipHop hit. ~ Ed Hogan & Andy Kellman