Payne was born Allen Roberts in Harlem, New York to Allen Roberts and Barbara Reeves. Payne is the oldest of two children although he has many close family and friends he considers to be siblings. Roberts attended Pennsauken High School in Pennsauken NJ. His first exposure on television was in 1990 on The Cosby Show. During two seasons, he made several appearances in which he played Lance Rodman, Charmaine's boyfriend. He also appeared as Marcus Stokes in an episode during the second season of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. He made a guest appearance on Malcolm & Eddie as Preston.