The Underrated: Keith Sweat

(Editor's Note: Make It Last Forever, Sweat's debut album does not appear on Spotify in the United States)

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-When talking 90's R&B and the New Jack Swing Era, one name that was always in the conversation is Keith Sweat. He was one of the more consistent artists of the late 80's and 90's and built up a legacy for himself over time. The New York native embodied what R&B was all about, and while some would say he didn't really sing (the running joke is that all he did was whine), Sweat would take his slick brand of music to the top of the R&B world and his image was that of a suave, smooth brother just trying to win over the hearts of the ladies. His story however, started before his solo music career took off. He was a part of the band Jamilah, starting way back on 1975, as a young lead singer. He would go on to craft a classic debut in Make It Last Forever, which is still one of my favorite R&B albums period. Make It Last Forever spawned the title track as a hit, and the New Jack Swing anthem "I Want Her", and from there, Keith's career took off. Make no mistake about it, Keith was well on his way to being a star, and his run would continue throughout the years. In many ways, he's a pioneer who is slept on. His I
impact isn't fully appreciated it seems. Today, we take a moment and honor Keith Sweat and his career and accolades.

Keith Sweat, oh man his music is feverish. His work is solid and the amount of work he puts into each album can be heard. I especially like “Keith Sweat”, “Make It Last Forever”, and “Keep It Comin", when it comes to albums from him. His albums are composed of gentle, R&B love-making production. Although his production is stellar, it's the way the music comes together with his vocals, the meaning in his vocals, and how the beat supports him that captures you. You can't resist jamming out to his R&B loveman vibe. He has that swagger with his innovation of the New jack-swing and when you listen to him, you will slowly increase the volume because he’s that good. Modern R&B isn’t the same without him, as you don’t get that consistently like Keith. His work is that old-but gold type and is perfect for that special someone in the bedroom or when you’re just chilling at home. “Nobody” is such a great song, especially with Athena Cage’s vocals layer into his vocals throughout the track. Overall, that song stands out to me. “Twisted” is also one of his best works. I praise Sweat because this is the type of R&B I like. It’s not the same in the modern day of R&B as everyone is looking for the one-hit-wonders. Put some respect on his name if you talk about Keith Sweat, because he is influential to the genre of R&B.

It’s not an easy task to write about someone who has been making music for about 40 years, and it’s even more difficult when they had a hand in shaping a genre that is so near and dear to many of us. I’m talking about R&B and I'm certainly talking about Keith Sweat. Now what fascinates me about this guy is he was an R&B powerhouse for ten years, and it all began with the release of his solo debut. It was his first album which solidified his ranking as one of the best R&B artists IMO. Keith Sweat captured the very essence of R&B, he brought emotion, melody and an incredibly unique nasal-like whiny voice that somehow managed to captivate audiences. Let’s take a quick look at the reasons this man stays in my favorite R&B artist category.

1987 was the year that his infamous debut album “Make It Last Forever” dropped. It was one of the first exposures I had to this genre and I remember hearing the singles as they were being released on the radio, specifically the title track. The song had absolutely everything from the slow tempo to the alternating male & female vocals and of course the words. Even as a kid I remember I liked it, and I liked that it incorporated all the elements of “love” that I had been taught, so much so that this album stuck with me throughout the years. He put together a short and very sweet album with this one, and the fan receptivity was great. It’s like everyone was waiting for exactly what he brought. Seeing as though Keith Sweat was a pioneer of the new jack swing era, this album would serve as a testament to that. The success of it was fantastic and there was no stopping him.

A couple years later he would release “I’ll Give All My Love To You”. This album stays true to the beats and production styles that were popular at the time. It had a longer tracklisting, but seemed to be even more heartfelt and sincere than the first. People were connecting with his music and sure enough he was right back in the studio recording yet another and another. '92 and '93 proved to be a busy year for the artist as he would be the reason the R&B world would know Silk. He discovered them and had a hand in creating their debut, which was also received well by fans.  If that wasn't enough, the following year he would discover Kut Klose and he had a hand in their debut also. Both Silk and Kut Klose would see incredible rankings in their singles and it would be a direct influence of Keith Sweat. It's at this point that we not only see his involvement in all aspects of music, but that whatever he did becomes successful. A true mark of a pioneer in the genre.

It wasn’t until 1996 when he released his self titled album that he personally took a new route with his music. He had a whole lot of collaborations on this album, which is funny seeing as though it's SELF titled and should highlight himself, but rather it created variation for the listeners. As much as we loved his solo work, the featured artists were nice. It definitely took focus away from himself, but the album was a hit nevertheless. “Twisted” and “Nobody” were phenomenal and although people will say they are incredibly “nasal” and “whiny” sounding, they would be amongst his most memorable tracks and definitely became his signature.

Keith would go on to release another 6 albums after '96. It wasn't until 2000 when R&B started to evolve, that he saw a shift in his success. This is a bittersweet reality. Music changes, people's receptivity changes, and it's difficult for artists who have seen incredible success change their strategy and approach to fit the evolutionary process, so Keith's  popularity starts to decline. Eventually in 2011, he releases his last album. As sad as that is, I like to think of what he did bring while in his prime. Apart from singing, Keith Sweat is known for his songwriting, producing and his involvement in radio (as a host). His impact on the genre continues to be seen, and the fusion of Hip hop in R&B can be attributed to him in some ways. His music speaks to those of us who still appreciate the classic melodies of past years and it's for this reason Keith Sweat will always be an R&B pioneer. He brought the "new jack" sounds and made us love it. He spoke honestly and sincerely about matters of the heart and any fan of R&B will undoubtedly appreciate his work.

I'll just say what most of the audience out there is thinking. Without artists like Keith Sweat, most of these 90s babies wouldn't have even been thought of. Without artists like Keith, some of your favorites, whether they want to believe it/admit it or not, may just be randoms in a local choir somewhere. Why? Simply put, Sweat's mix of "begging" lyrics, sexual energy without being too straight-up "let's spread your legs and put that D in there" about it, and harmony make him one of the greatest artists of his era.

His work with LSG, although brief (RIP Gerald Levert), stands as some of my favorite R&B from the mid-to-late 90s. Plus, who hasn't been "Twisted?" Like many older R&B legends, he's been able to carve out a great niche for himself. And that niche has allowed for him to touch a new generation of fans. So, next time you hear some classy sexy R&B and want to get it in with your significant other, thank Keith Sweat for keeping the classy sexy going. There's nothing wrong with the raunch. The Weeknd and others like him are some of my favorite singers out. But, sometimes, you need a dude singing about making love and the like versus, well, you know.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-To be fair, my favorite thing about Keith Sweat is his ability to find talent. Not only is he one of the biggest artists of the late 80's and 90's, but he discovered my 2nd favorite R&B group, Silk. Silk was an amazing discovery and their music is just as timeless as Keith's, if not slightly more so. He would utilize the girl group Kut Klose to make his hit "Twisted" that much better, and throughout his career, he maintained the smoothness that made him popular. As far as his albums go, my two favorites will always be Make It Last Forever and his self titled album, but Still In The Game and Rebirth were solid albums later in his career. Keep It Comin and Get Up On It were pretty good, and I'll Give All My Love To You is an underrated R&B album as well, but I'd be lying if I said I was a fan of his music post 2007. It's not bad, it's just his voice isn't quite the same and the music doesn't hit the same. Regardless, Keith is a legend in this game, and shall remain that forever. From his solo work to his discoveries to his group work with LSG, the man did it all. Put some respect on his name.



Popular Posts