R&B Bridgez: 30 Years in The Game: Keith Sweat
Keith Sweat, born Keith Crier on July 22, 1961 in Harlem, New York, is celebrating 30 years in the industry this year. Keith Sweat is not just an R&B singer, songwriter and producer. Keith Sweat is the undisputed King of New Jack Swing, the hugely popular and influential merging of melodic R&B with hip-hop’s rhythms and production techniques.
A remarkably prolific artist, Sweat was unstoppable as the ‘90s got underway, dominating the “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles” chart with such #1 singles as “Make You Sweat,” “I’ll Give All My Love To You,” and “Keep It Comin’.”
Before becoming a recording artist, Sweat worked for the commodities market in the New York Mercantile Exchange. He sang at nightclubs throughout New York City until he was discovered and offered a recording contract with Elektra Records in 1987.
Keith Sweat is known for his distinctive “whining” vocal style, co-produced 1984/1985 singles by GQ and Roberta Gilliam and issued independent singles of his own (“Lucky Seven” and “My Mind Is Made Up”), but he didn’t release his debut full-length album until November 1987. He released “Make It Last Forever,” to instant acclaim and RIAA three-times platinum certification. Highlighted by the #1 R&B/Hip-Hop hit, “I Want Her,” the album reached #1 on Billboard’s “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums” chart.
The album included the hits “I Want Her” (number one R&B, number five pop), “Something Just Ain’t Right” (number three R&B), “Make It Last Forever” (number two R&B), and “Don’t Stop Your Love” (number nine R&B).
We talked to Keith recently about the 30th Anniversary of “Make It Last Forever” and asked him his goals when he recorded that album
“To make it do what it’s doing right now, Make it last forever. Those were my goals, I was just speaking it into existence. They always say speak what you want into existence. So when I said make it last forever, I kind of hit the head right on the nail. Pretty much because I’ve been doing it every since then.”
As for if he was surprised by the success of I Want Her, “I wanted it to be another single as the lead. I thought it should have been Don’t Stop Your Love. Now that I look back, hey every song on that album was hits,” Keith added “I’m happy it had the success because it opened the door for every other song that was on that album.”
His sophomore-release 1990s “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” was another million-seller, which featured the hits “Make You Sweat” (number one R&B, number 14 pop), “Merry Go Round” (number two R&B), “I’ll Give All My Love to You” (number one R&B, number seven pop), and “Your Love, Pt. 2” (number four R&B). “I’ll Give All My Love To You” hit #3 on the Billboard 200 chart.1991’s “Keep It Comin,” his third album release debuted in the Top 20 of the album chart and featured the smash “(There You Go) Tellin’ Me No Again” from New Jack City. Sweat released his fourth album “Get Up On It” in the summer of 1994, which included the Top 10 hit with the late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, “How Do You Like It.”
His 1996 self-titled fifth album hit #5 on the Billboard 200, carrying the singles “Twisted” to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Nobody” to #3.
Keith talked to UB about the success of “Nobody.” “I didn’t know that “Nobody” was going to be as big as it was when I recorded it. It just felt good and when I was singing it to people, they were like wew that’s my joint (laughs)!” Keith went on to say, “What’s funny about the record is it wasn’t suppose to be a single, I went to Europe and London and performed the song and I had people crying in concert when I performed it. Then the people in London told the people here in the states, listen if y’all don’t release that “Nobody” record then you’re crazy! People going crazy over that crazy, it’s a phenomenal, people are loosing their mind. So I released it after “Twisted” and it just made the album blow up even more, I just think it set a whole other standard.”
We also talked to Keith about working with Left-Eye on “How Do You Like It,” apart of our 90’s R&B Interview Series.”
“Well Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez when I worked with her on “How Do You Like It,” she was down with TLC and I was like I wanna do something with TLC (laughs). But she was like a real good friend of mine and I loved her to death. She came into the studio and we created a song together that people loved so yeah I miss her dearly, like I miss Gerald LeVert.”
In 1992, Sweat discovered the group Silk and helped craft their debut album, “Lose Control,” which hit #7 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album’s single “Freak Me” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993. Keith reunited with Silk last year for their “Quiet Storm” album, we asked them then what was the best advice Keith had ever given them. “When we would be in the studio recording, he would always tell us if you can’t perform it live on stage, don’t record it.” Timzo stated and went on to say “so we’ve always stuck to that when it’s came to our recording and getting on stage doing it live.”
In 1995, Sweat discovered the Atlanta-based female R&B group Kut Klose. Sweat also produced the group’s debut album “Surrender,” including the hit single “I Like”, which peaked at #8 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. Sweat also formed the R&B supergroup LSG with Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill. Their self-titled 1997 debut “Levert.Sweat.Gill” featured the #1 single “My Body.” Keith Sweat has also produced song for artists such as Men At Large, Ol’ Skool, Dru Hill, Immature, The Isley Brothers, and The O’Jays.
In 2008, Sweat released Just Me, followed by Ridin’ Solo in 2010. Til’ the Morning debuted in 2011 via eOne Music, and the title track was the #1 most added at Urban AC radio the week of release. In July 2016, the American Music Award winner released his 12th studio album, Dress To Impress and the single “Good Love” reached the coveted #1 spot on the Urban AC National Airplay chart. To date, the R&B icon has delivered five straight #1 albums, sold more than 25 million records, and is widely recognized as one of the Godfathers of R&B.
During the 2000s, he hosted a syndicated radio program called The Sweat Hotel and starred in the Centric channel’s reality program Keith Sweat’s Platinum House, in which he facilitated a turbulent Dru Hill reunion.
Sweat also released a relationship book titled “Make It Last Forever: The Do’s and the Don’ts” in 2012. In the book, Sweat provides advice on how to keep a relationship fresh and exciting, including tools on everything from how to communicate needs and desires more effectively to tips for mending and reinvigorating partnerships that have gone stale.
His last album “Til’ The Morning” was another Keith Sweat classic as well as his newest release “Dress to Impress.” Sweat just recently completed his first ever Las Vegas Residency which turned out to be a huge success and featured many of Keith‘s famous friends as surprise guests.
Keith Sweat’s first five albums all debuted #1 R&B, and throughout his career, all of them have debuted Top 50.
For his work, Sweat was honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 2013 Soul Train Awards.
Check out our gallery of Keith Sweat album covers.
Make It Last Forever – Elektra; 1987; 3X Multi-Platinum
I’ll Give All My Love to You – Elektra; 1990; 2X Multi-Platinum
Keep It Comin’ – Elekra; 1991; Platinum
Get Up on It – Elektra; 1994; Platinum
Keith Sweat – Elektra; 1996; 4X Multi-Platinum
Still in the Game – Elektra; 1998; Platinum
Didn’t See Me Coming – Elektra; 2000
Rebirth – Elektra; 2002
Keith Sweat Live – Elektra; 2003
Christmas of Love – Sweat Shop/Real Hip; 2007
Sweat Hotel Live – Shout! Factory; 2007
Just Me – Atco; 2008
Some More – Atco; 2008
Til’ The Morning – eOne; 2011
Dress To Impress – RAL/Sony; 2016
We’ve put together a Playlist for Keith Sweat that includes his hits as well as remixes and unreleased gems.