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.