RnB Magazine caught up with R&B’s OG Keith Sweat during a recent visit to New York and performance at B.B. Kings to discuss his love of R&B and his latest contribution to the genre, Dress To Impress, which the Harlem native is releasing on his birth date of July 22 and is primed to raise the bar of R&B this summer. With the first single off the new album, “Good Love” making its mark on the R&B charts, Keith Sweat is primed to prove exactly why he is R&B royalty.
What are your favorite places to go to in Harlem, where you grew up, when you visit New York?
Basically I go to my man Denny Moe’s Barbershop, and then I go to Sylvia’s, I still go by there, and I just go by and look at the changing, all the little things that’s going on there. I remember when I used to walk down the streets of Harlem, and think about things back then when I was thinking about performing at the Apollo.
What do you want folks to know about your new album?
I want people to know that I’m back, I’m still doing what I do, I’m still doing what I love to do, and the music that I’m giving them is still great, great music, and that my voice hasn’t changed – nothing about me has changed in terms of my music and things that I’m doing. That feel-good music is definitely back!
What are your thoughts about the state of R&B music right now?
Like I said, it’s never gone away. I’ve been doing songs and people like myself, like Johnny Gill, Dru Hill and all of us, we have made new material. It’s just that with the state of R&B music and the way music has gone we weren’t getting the airplay and the things we were supposed to be getting so the younger generation who actually does the music, they’re not privy to really hear what new R&B sounds like. So they’re doing pretty much what the pop music is because that’s where they’re getting their airplay, from mainstream radio. But in terms of R&B music, it hasn’t gone anywhere – that’s why I’m back, that’s why Johnny Gill is back, because the real measure of R&B is kinda like where the state of R&B is. We’re tired of hearing watered down R&B and we’re just trying to get it back to where it was. Where when Marvin Gaye was out, Donny Hathaway, the O’Jays, the Isleys – back in the day that was considered the mainstream music if you think about it. Today I call it disposable music. You listen to what’s going on and half the songs you listen to today are here today and gone tomorrow. You don’t even remember half the songs that are played. They will never be catalog songs. If you take all the people that are performing in Vegas like a Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, all of those, those are the artists that have catalog material. After their careers have gone down, they can always go to Vegas and do an hour and a half show, nothing but hits, because the music is great music. So if you take somebody like New Edition, or the O’Jay’s, or people like that, or Boyz II Men for instance, they can always go to Vegas and do a show because of the catalog music that they have, which is R&B soulful music.
Are you working on any other projects?
Well I wrote a book called Make It Last Forever: The Do’s and the Don’ts and I have a syndicated show on radio, so I’m still relevant (laughter).
How do you maintain your grown and sexy?
I think that hygiene is very important, and as you get older you have to keep yourself looking a certain way. And the reason why I feel I keep myself looking the same why I looked back in the day is because I can’t hide behind people onstage. When people see me, they see Keith Sweat, and if you come to my show and look at an old CD or old picture, you want to make sure I’m the one singing. You want to know it wasn’t no imitation Keith Sweat up there (laughter). A lot of people don’t even look the same because they haven’t taken care of themselves. I don’t do a lot of drinking and smoking and I try to eat healthy and watch what I eat. I think that’s very important in what you’re trying to do in life and maintaining a certain look. I watch what I put on my skin… it’s just very important to me how I look because that’s what people first see when they see me anyway. They know that I’m the person behind the music so I can’t… how am I gonna be singing love and sex songs and songs that I sing if I look like “Man, that dude can’t do nothing. He ain’t sexy.” So I gotta make sure I look right.
Speaking of sexy, how do you define sexy? What do you find sexy in a woman?
Her smile, how she carries herself, her conversation. Cause every woman that I would say is fine or attractive to me is not sexy. Sexy is the way you carry yourself. Your swag about yourself. It’s like, some women you can look at them and be like, “Oh my God, she’s sexy,” just because of the way she’s carrying herself, and it has nothing to do with how long her hair is or how beautiful her skin is.
Did you write any of the songs on the new album?
Pretty much more than half of the album, definitely.
What would you say are your top three priorities in life?
To live a good happy life, family, and to make sure that my family is taken care of and I hold it down for them and show them the values of what life is really, really all about. And to make sure my children will follow in they daddy footsteps and make sure their quality of life and the way they treat people is a number one priority and their education. I think those are very important, for me.
Are you currently in a loveship or relationship, or are you single.
Hmmm, I’m in a relationship (laughter). I’m not married, but I’m definitely in a relationship though.
With the recent passing of musical icon and genius Prince, do you have any insights or thoughts on him and how he influenced you as an artist?
Well he has influenced me as an artist because of his business savvy, as well as his live performances. I think he was an incredible performer live, everybody knew that. And his business sense on how he changed the game in terms of owning your masters and not having a slave mentality. He took himself out of that slave mentality that the record companies used to love to hold people down on. He changed the whole game of that telling people you should put your own albums out, own your own masters, and those type of things, so all the things he brought to the music game was essential in how people today go into the business of putting records out, owning their own publishing, and things like that. He was really one of the people if not the person that really made us think about how we should be in the game of music, and how we should conduct ourselves in the music game.
About the Author:
Samantha Hunter is a multimedia journalist whose experience covering music, lifestyle and entertainment spans over 15 years. Samantha’s work has appeared in Essence, Inner City Magazine, Hype Hair and VH1.com, and when she is not putting her heart and soul into freelance stories, Samantha is grinding and growing her own blog, Sapodillic.com featuring music, personal musings and intimate reflections on life. Connect with Samantha on Instragram @sapodillic or on Twitter @sapodillic1.
Photo/Video Credit: Raymond Hagans/daraseans