‘Good music never dies’
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | KEITH SWEAT
The R&B legend on his new album, his dream collaborations, and why legacy matters.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Keith Sweat became synonymous with a sexy style of R&B music that has endured to the present day. From “Make It Last Forever” to “Twisted,” the American Music Award winner and multiplatinum- selling artist has been behind some of the most indelible songs in the genre. He hopes to build on that legacy with his twelfth album, “Dress to Impress,” and we spoke to him about his uncommon longevity in the music business.
Tell us about your new album.
“Dress to Impress” captures the R&B musical sounds that I am known for. It has great lyrics along with great melodies. My last album came out in 2011, and it’s good to be back with something new. I hope everyone goes out to pick it up.
What was the inspiration for “Dress to Impress”?
I felt like the R&B game today has changed drastically, so I just tried to bring R&B back with good music with great lyrics. My music is something very emotional, something that makes you feel. It makes you feel like back in the day — when music made you feel some kind of way and puts you in a certain time frame.
So there is a resurgence of R&B music?
Yes, good music never dies. Everything evolves in time. It has always been like that. People feel differently according to the times and the music. It is just like clothing: One minute people are wearing tight clothes, and the next they wear loose clothes with stripes and plaid. It all comes back around and evolves.
Is it important to “dress to impress”?
It’s not just about the clothes from an external standpoint. More importantly, it is about how you present yourself in conversation when a person first meets you. The first impression is the lasting impression. The way you speak to someone, or maybe it’s about the perfume or cologne you wear. When I say “dress to impress,” I don’t mean just the clothes you wear. I mean how you present yourself when someone meets you. Put your best foot forward when you meet or talk to someone.
Why were you in Las Vegas recently?
I was in Las Vegas for Steve Harvey’s Neighborhood Awards and to celebrate my birthday. I performed live with Charlie Wilson, and it was an epic event.
Before your music career, you worked at Macy’s and you were a stockbroker?
I don’t know why everyone keeps bringing up the time I worked at Macy’s. I was very young when I worked there. As a stockbroker, I was into commodities before I started my musical career.
Who would you like to collaborate with musically that you haven’t already worked with?
The only people I can think of right now are Mary J. Blige and Maxwell — because I have already worked with many other artists. Some of the rap artists I would like to work with include Kendrick Lamar, Snoop and Drake.
To what do you attribute your longevity in the music business?
It’s because I stay in my lane and stay true to what I know — which is R&B music, and understanding what people enjoy hearing. That all comes back to music and putting great lyrics into songs. This is what makes me stay relevant. Everyone falls in love or out of love. People get married and divorced. My songs talk about all that type of stuff.
You have a syndicated radio show?
I play new music and back-in-the-day music on my Sweat Hotel radio show. We have call-ins and they use my radio platform to apologize to their love interests or profess their love. We talk about maintaining good relationships as well.
Who is Keith Sweat outside of the music industry?
I am very low-key and a real laid-back person. I really don’t like to go out much — I am more of a homebody. Everybody tells me I need to go out more and travel and enjoy life. I am really a workaholic, and consider touring my vacations. But I agree that I need to go out more and travel outside of my career. I need to be more adventurous and I am working on that.
How would you like to be remembered? What is your legacy?
My legacy are the many, many timeless love songs that I gave. I want to be remembered in the same musical vein as Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder. I want to be lumped in with those icons.