R&B singer and reality television star Traci Braxton has passed away at the age of 50. A member of the Braxton family of musicians, the singer of “Last Call” reportedly died of esophageal cancer, which she had been privately suffering from for at least a year. Braxton and her four sisters were all longstanding members of the music industry to different degrees, and in recent years had starred on a reality television show called Braxton Family Values with their mother, Evelyn. The show lasted for seven seasons on WE tv, becoming one of the most popular shows on the AMC branded network; at its height, the show boasted 1.5 million viewers per episode. It was canceled just this February, after spinning off a show called Tamar & Vince (which was aired from 2012-2017).
Traci Braxton was born in 1971 to a deeply religious Methodist family in Maryland. She grew up singing in church choir, mirroring the experience of many R&B and soul singers of the past like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Traci and her sisters, Toni, Towanda, Trina and Tamar eventually formed a girl group called The Braxtons and signed with Arista Records. However, their debut single “Good Life” failed to make an impact in the highly competitive R&B market of the 1990s, and they were dropped from the label. The group managed to perform for superproducers Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who were in the process of forming their own record label. As it turns out, the duo signed only Toni Braxton and the group disbanded.
As her older sister Toni became one of the most popular singers of the 1990s and an icon of R&B music with songs like “Un-Break My Heart” and “You’re Makin’ Me High/Let It Flow,” Traci Braxton formed her own career. She did not release her own solo album until 2014, titled Crash & Burn. While it did not make a huge impact on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it was a top 20 hit on Billboard R&B Albums and number one on Top Heatseekers (Billboard’s chart for emerging singers and musical acts). The single “Last Call” became Traci Braxton’s signature song. Have a listen:
Braxton Family Values (or BFV) launched in 2011, following the life of Traci Braxton and her sisters. It swiftly became a hit for the WE tv network, and despite a number of contract and pay disputes, managed to become a reality television staple. It was very much modeled after E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians, with the marital, relationship, and family difficulties of the Braxton sisters and their mother being the central hook of the show. Traci Braxton also acted in a number of films like Sinners Wanted and The Christmas Lottery, and performed in a stage play called There’s a Stranger in My House in 2017. Aside from Braxton Family Values (and appearances on Tamar & Vince), Braxton appeared in the third season of Marriage Boot Camp along with her husband Kevin Surratt. Like many who have passed away recently, Braxton was an industry lifer who became a familiar figure without ever becoming a dominant force. Braxton is survived by Surratt and her children. Rest in Peace, Traci.