Q&A: Keith Sweat
It’s been almost 30 years since Keith Sweat’s triple-platinum debut album, Make It Last Forever. During those 30 years, the R&B veteran, who grew up in Harlem, has managed to release more than a dozen albums, produce some of the biggest names around, among other things on his extensive resume. He spoke with Las Vegas Magazine’s Chanelle Hayes about coming up in the game, what he thinks about R&B music today and what fans who have yet to see his Vegas show, Keith Sweat: Last Forever can expect.
What do you have in store for fans coming to see your Vegas show?
Of course the basic Keith Sweat hits, but I plan on doing other songs as well. Basically, when you do Vegas it’s not just about doing a concert, it’s about gravitating the people. I’m going to make it a nice, intimate setting along with all of the hit records. The show will definitely be, as all my shows are, entertaining.
Would you consider doing something long-term in Vegas?
Hopefully, it’ll turn into that. Right now, I’m doing shows Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So I’m just going to take it as it comes. If the fans want it and if the fans come out and support, then I will consider how long I want to extend my stay in Vegas. This is the first time, so when you’re dealing with something for the first time you just to play it by ear.
Take me back to 1987 when the album Make It Last Forever was released.
It was a time of a new artist coming out with new music trying to make an impact on the music scene. So me dropping an album in 87, or music in 87, was to make a statement and somewhat different than what was out because you had a harder drum beat in the back of R&B music and sultry type of music. The music scene at the time when I came out was good but I helped to make it better. I don’t take credit for it because you had people like the O’Jays out and New Edition, those type of people. I just added to what was already out there with a different type of vibe. I kind of flipped the script a little bit along with people that I worked with like Teddy Riley.
What was it like working with him?
Me and Teddy knew each other from back in the day so it wasn’t like I just went and grabbed him. We grew up in Harlem. We were already friends.
You have so many hits to date. What’s your all-time favorite song to perform live?
It varies. It definitely varies because I wrote basically every song. It’s not like I’m singing someone else’s music. I’m singing my own music. It really has a lot to do with the audience. Every show you might have a different audience who has their favorites. I might get screams from a song like “Nobody” and other places I go it might be “Twisted” or “Make It Last Forever.”
What was it like working with Johnny Gill and Gerald Levert during the LSG days?
It was great because they were two artists who had their own niche in the music industry. For me to be working with people who had been accomplished and out before I was out...I was a fan of Johnny Gill and I was a fan of Gerald Levert so working with people that I was a great fan of and for me to put together a group like LSG was phenomenal to me because I never thought I would be able to do anything of that sort ... putting a supergroup that millions and millions of people would enjoy.
What do you think about the R&B scene today?
It’s less R&B and more pop-driven. It’s not as R&B-ish as it was back in the day. It’s not the R&B that I know it to be, and the people that grew up in my era or before my era, or even a little bit after my era, knew it to be. Everything pretty much sounds very simple. Like back in the day, you knew who Dru Hill was, even though they had their own sound they were similar to Jodeci or Silk or even New Edition, everyone had their own identity in terms of music and everything sounded kind of different. Nowadays you get confused because all of the artists sound alike, and have the same producers. Back in the day you had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, you had Teddy Riley, you had Quincey Jones, you had so many different producers, producing for different people that everyone had their unique sound.
Who are you listening to nowadays? Are you more old-school or into some of the new artists?
I’m more of an old-school fan. If I happen to be in the car and the radio is on I’ll listen to people. If somebody makes a great record, I might say that’s a great song but am I actually listening to one person, no I’m not. It’s not like back in the day like a Dru Hill album where you listen to the whole album or someone taking my album and listening to the whole album. I don’t think it works like that nowadays.
Chris Brown sampled your song “Nobody” on his last album (Royalty). How did the collaboration for you two to work together on the remix come about?
I got a call and for me it was an honor to want to do a song that I wrote and to ask me out of respect so that’s basically how that happened.
That’s awesome. That’s a great collaboration.
Yeah ... yeah. Chris is really a great entertainer and really talented. Not only on a singing tip but also on an acting tip as well. He has a lot to be thankful for.
You’ve been in the industry for quite sometime. What’s your biggest career achievement?
Being Keith Sweat, the artist (he laughs). Most definitely, because I wouldn’t be able to do Vegas if I didn’t brand Keith Sweat. So that one of my biggest achievements is getting into this music scene and selling 25 million albums worldwide. That’s an accomplishment in itself. I definitely owe all of that to my fans and the blessings from God up above.
What’s next for you? New music? New projects in the next year or two?
My latest album Dressed to Impress came out in July. I’ve done that along with trying to do the Vegas thing. Me doing Vegas will probably open up a lot of doors for me to be able to do other things.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the show?
I want everybody to come out and enjoy the show and have a great time. It’s important for fans to support me on this so that we can have other R&B artists come and do their thing. But I’m glad that I’m one of many outside of Toni Braxton, outside of Boyz II Men, to being able to come into Vegas and make some kind of an impact or impression.