90′s R&B Interview Series: Balladeer Keith Sweat Speaks to UrbanBridgez.com
Keith Sweat, is a Harlem, N.Y born songwriter/ record producer/ vocalist / actor/ radio personality, with a career that spans 24 years of record breaking and trail blazing contributions to the Pop and R&B genre. He is coined the genius behind the New Jack Swing phenomenon of the late 1980’s. Keith Sweat’s timely transition to the R&B mecca of Atlanta in 1992 added “label impresario” to his roster of talents. Keith has dominated the Pop and R&B worlds with an indefinable presence. His debut and now classic album Make It Last Forever sold more than three million copies, producing four R&B hit singles, including “I Want Her,” which also landed at #5 on the Pop charts. The album stats also include a nomination for the 1989 Soul Train Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Song of the Year award. Keith Sweat has delivered five straight #1 albums, selling a worldwide total of 25 million records. His self-titled 1996 effort, Keith Sweat gained quadruple platinum status. His critically acclaimed collaboration with fellow superstars Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill on the double platinum LSG, was launched a decade after he first landed in the music business.
He has thrived as one of Atlanta’s first record industry moguls, building his own recording studio and discovering new artists such as Silk and Kut Klose – signing both multi-platinum groups to his Keia Record label. Sweat has become one of Atlanta’s leading mentors for young talent, its principle purveyor of R&B music. The unflappable Sweat points to his consistency as the key to his success and achievement of a dozen top ten R&B singles including seven #1’s, four top five Pop singles and frequenting Billboards Top Charts.
UrbanBridgez.com recently caught up with the legendary artist and Tishelle spoke with him about his new album, why he decided to work with who he did for his latest release, why he will never be able to top “Make It Last Forever“, he speaks on the late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes & Gerald LeVert, his biggest obstacle he’s faced in his career, his favorite songs from his catalog and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell your fans everything you want them to know about the new album?
Keith Sweat: Everything? It’s sexy, grown and sexy. It’s me (laughs), it’s you, it’s in stores and you can download it on iTunes (laughs). That’s everything I want my fans to know about the new album. And it has great, great features on it with Coko from SWV, Johnny Gill and T-Pain!
UrbanBridgez.com: “High As The Sun” is classic Keith Sweat, do you have any plans to release that in the future?
Keith Sweat: Do you want me to release that record?
UrbanBridgez.com: I do (laughs).
Keith Sweat: (laughs) “High As The Sun” is definitely a classic Keith Sweat record, there are a few classic Keith Sweat records on there. You’re like the third person to tell me you like that record who’s listened to it, so I might have to release it. People keep telling me, “yo that record is crazy!” I didn’t say that, somebody else said that (all laugh). So you know, I may have to release that. But you know what the best part about it now, with the first record being out and it’s getting some buzz I’m able to put the album out and let people decide and hear what they like on the album. And then I can really make a good decision on what the second single should be. Because right now the best part about putting out an album is you get peoples feedback.
UrbanBridgez.com: How did the duet with Coko come about, she’s one of our favs?
Keith Sweat: Well you know I wanted to work with people who I was fans of and I am a big fan of SWV, they have great music. Same thing with Johnny, you know I worked with him on the LSG projects. So my whole thing is, I love the music people are putting out right now, but I’m stuck in a certain time zone (laughs). So I just got to do certain things that make me feel good musically! And working with Coko, Johnny and people like T-Pain and Charlie Wilson the people doing R&B, well good R&B! Those are the people that I love to work with!
UrbanBridgez.com: We mentioned in our UB review that this album is almost just as good as your debut, but in current terms. Did you set out to capture that original Keith Sweat sound with this one?
Keith Sweat: I don’t think no album can compare to my first album, no album! And I’m not being egotistical but I don’t know of anybody who can touch that first album (laughs). That’s just like the go down in history type of album, I can’t even top that first album. So no matter how many albums I do, it will never be topped! But I can come close and have songs that sound similar, I can try to top it. But realistically will I top it, nah because I was in a certain frame of mind and place. I was just so musically thirsty, that I wanted to put something great out and that was something that I came out with. I wasn’t thinking about, I got to top this the next album or the one before because I didn’t have anything out before that. So I was like what do I have to loose? Let me write what I feel, sing what I feel, do what I feel, let me just do something that just really feels good to me. It’s crazy, because what felt good to me, felt good to everybody else obviously.
UrbanBridgez.com: We’re celebrating 90’s R&B on UB this month & your single “Nobody” was one of the biggest R&B singles of that time, take us back to when you and Athena recorded that, did you know what a gem it was?
Keith Sweat: 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)! 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. I was feeling then, I gotta find a record to out do that record because I felt like I had found a record to out do the “Make It Last Forever” album, that’s how I felt then. It’s crazy how my career has taken it’s course and how things have played into my career, it’s been a great ride! For real, for real!
UrbanBridgez.com: You also worked with the late Left-Eye in the 90’s on your hit, “How Do You Like It,” can you share anything about Lisa and or recording that song that stands out?
Keith Sweat: 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. Those were both good friends of mine, but life goes on and we have to move on beyond that. But they’re both here with me spiritually definitely! And they left alot of good music here behind them.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s one of your best memories from being back on the road on one of the many big tours you were apart of back in the day?
Keith Sweat: Best memories, girls throwing their bras at me on stage (all laugh)! Hey that’s what happens, they throw their bras at me and I be like, yo this isn’t your real size (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: But why does that have to be the best memory (laughs)?
Keith Sweat: Well it’s not the best, but it’s just fun and makes me laugh. I just had to say that, but to be honest with you. My best memory of being on stage, is when I got my first big record and I was able to do Madison Square Garden. I think that’s my best, because I use to always go there to see other people perform, watch the Knicks play but I never thought I would be performing at the Garden. That wasn’t anything that I even thought about, so when I did I was like man I’m doing Madison Square Garden! I just never thought, that’s when I knew I had hit the big time baby (laughs)!
UrbanBridgez.com: Take me back to this bra thing, what goes through your head when you see a bra fly across the stage (laughs)?
Keith Sweat: That I’m making good music, when I see a bra hit the stage! I’m like my music must be touching alot of women (laughs)!
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s been the biggest obstacle as an artist for you since the late 80’s on trying to stay relevant?
Keith Sweat: I would say the music business changing the way it is. You don’t even know how many fans you have because you can’t tell by the record sales. These days people that don’t sell alot of records, doesn’t mean you don’t have a fan base or people don’t like your music. It’s just so many other ways for people to get your music other than them buying it these days. So I think that’s one of obstacles because you can’t really determine how good you’re doing in this industry or the market place anymore.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this industry?
Keith Sweat: I think I already knew alot of things before I got in the industry, because I’ve always been on top of my business, you know what I’m saying. I think the biggest lesson I knew then and still know now is make sure your business is straight! Make sure you’re on top of your business game and don’t trust everybody in this game because everybody is not to be trusted! Just because you want to do business on a fair level, that doesn’t mean everybody else is going to do business on a fair level!
UrbanBridgez.com: What made you want to do the reality show with Dru Hill?
Keith Sweat: Well honestly what made me want to do the reality show with Dru Hill is I was executive producer and I created it. So it was more like entrepreneurship and something else to do, to show people I could wear another hat. So that was something that I knew about, groups that don’t make it because of their different personalities and different things they have going on within themselves. So it made me want to do something to show people that I’m not just one-sided, I don’t have a one track mind I can do more than one thing. And hopefully be successful at it!
UrbanBridgez.com: From your catalog, what are your top 5 favorite songs you’ve recorded?
Keith Sweat: “Make It Last Forever,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “I’ll Give All My Love To You,” “Nobody,” what else and “Don’t Stop Your Love!”
UrbanBridgez.com: What else can fans expect from you in the near future?
Keith Sweat: For me to keep putting it down! I’m not going away (laughs). They can expect me not to go away, I’m going to still come up with something to be all up in their face and that’s what they can expect from me!
UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to share before we go?
Keith Sweat: Go to my Twitter and my official site “The Sweat Hotel” that’s my syndicated radio show and I have a book coming out in May called “Make it Last Forever: The Do’s & The Don’ts!”
Today on CENTRIC, Keith presents Soul Sessions, which will focus on Keith’s top videos. On Saturday, November 12th, Centric will air The Sweat Hotel at 9 PM, followed by the debut of As Written, a 30-minute special introspective documentary of Keith’s life and the making of his new album!