EXCLUSIVE: Keith Sweat Talks 13th Studio Album, State of R&B, New Jack Swing, Longevity, More

Keith Sweat is definitely NOT a stranger to R&B music. Since the mid-1980s, the veteran R&B artist released several classic singles such as “I Want Her,” “Twisted,” “Nobody,” “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” “Something Just Ain’t Right,” “Keep It Comin’,” and his signature hit, “Make It Last Forever.” He was also a part of a pivotal and vital era in R&B music: the New Jack Swing.

For three decades, Sweat has been a major force in R&B. Along with releasing his own music, he discovered other R&B acts including, Silk and Kut Klose. Sweat also teamed up with two other R&B heavy hitters, Johnny Gill, and the late Gerald Levert to create LSG. LSG’s debut album, ‘Levert. Sweat. Gill,’ will forever remain a classic in the R&B archives. Their voices were so prolific on the opus and fans can still sing their number one hit, “My Body.”

In addition to music, he is a songwriter, producer, a talented performer, and a radio personality. Sweat has a nationally syndicated radio show, “The Sweat Hotel,” where he plays adult contemporary R&B music and classic soul music. On the show, he interviews other artists in the industry and shares his personal experiences.

Sweat is a working man, but he still takes the time to record new music. On Friday, October 26th, he released his 13th studio album, Playing for Keeps. “Boomerang,” the lead single from the project, is classic Keith Sweat while giving off some contemporary vibe. ‘Playing for Keeps’ is an album for the grown and sexy with 90’s flavor. Available on Amazon, Google Play Music, Deezer, Apple Music, and Audio CD, the album has already received favorable reviews from fans.

The R&B veteran took time from his busy schedule to speak with Singersroom about his new music, the single “Boomerang,” the key to success in the business, and more. Check out our interview! Let’s talk about your new album, Playing For Keeps. This is your 13th studio album. What makes this project different from your other albums?

Keith Sweat: It’s not really different; it’s just me, continuing to keep my legacy alive and making music that I enjoy. As I said before, this is my 13th album and music has changed a lot. So, it’s all about being up to date with the music and staying relevant in this game of R&B. For me, it’s all about being consistent. The fact that I can do my 13th album and people are interviewing me is an accomplishment in itself. Everybody is not able to do a 13th album. I called it ‘Playing for Keeps’ because that’s what I’ve been doing; everything I do is for keeps. In my career, I’ve been playing for keeps. ‘Playing for Keeps’ was an easy title to come up with. I might do a movie called, Playing for Keeps. When you’re doing something, you want to play for keeps.

SR: What was it like working with the singer, Candace Price on the new single, “Boomerang?”

KS: It was great. Candace sounds like the other young lady that’s out now, H.E.R. They have a similar vibe or element. I just felt like I wanted someone who had that similar vibe without going to grab someone. Once there’s a sound out there on the radio, people gravitate to that sound. I felt like I can get someone like Candace who people would gravitate to. Her voice represents what everyone is doing right now.

SR: I know you’ve worked with legendary producer and arranger, Teddy Riley in the past and also Tank. What was the collaboration process like for the new album?

KS: Well, you know, I worked with Teddy on my first album. I’m already familiar with Teddy and Tank is a good friend of mine. I mean, it wasn’t like I was working with people that I don’t deal with on the regular. It’s no different from me collaborating with LSG back in the day. Johnny and Gerald are friends of mine. When you collaborate in the studio with your friends, it’s not a hard process. It’s easy because everyone is having fun and joking around. We’re making things musically for the public.

SR: In 2017, the single, “Make It Last Forever,” peaked at its 30th year. How does it feel that you still have a groundbreaking single from the New Jack Swing Era three decades later?

KS: I mean, I do say to myself, I’m apart of history. There were things in my career that was unheard, and a lot of people don’t receive that at all. So, Teddy and I started the “New Jack Swing” era, and it’s still relevant musically after all of these years. Most people don’t get that, especially in R&B. So, that’s an accomplishment in itself. It’s truly a blessing. It’s a gift from God above. As I said before, most people don’t get that. Sometimes, I have to take a deep breath, and say, “Man, this is something, man somebody is really praying for me hard up there.”


SR: What are some of the fondest memories in the music business?

KS: I mean, me, coming out with my first album, being able to take the world by storm. And then being one of many to release a hit. And, then, coming out of Harlem, knowing I grew up two blocks away from the Apollo. Then, play at the Apollo and having my name up there, so that was one of my fondest memories.

SR: How do you manage to adapt to the new music era despite the changes in R&B music?

KS: Every year, when I put out new acts, that kept me relevant. When you have hip-hop artists talking about me on their record, that keeps me relevant. So, there’s a number of things that kept me relevant in the game. I think I’m one of the most talked about artist in hip-hop music. So, when you have hip-hop artists talk about you in their song, the young kids will ask and say, “Who is Keith Sweat?” They’re going to research the music and the name. That’s what we do now and days; that’s what social media allows you to do these days. You go and look me up, and people understand the history behind my name. Fortunately, I had records that crossed over in a major way. People still mess with me because the parents are playing my music and then the kids start listening to me too. That’s what makes me relevant, too.

SR: What is the best part about touring? What are some of your favorite records you like to perform on stage?

KS: Well, it’s always good when people know your songs and singing with me. I also know that these songs touch so many people in so many ways. When you create music that will last forever or create music that people will always listen to; it shows that people are still with you. To me, that says so much. I mean, touring and watching people sing songs that help them get married or had kids to my music, those type of things make me feel good.

SR: 21 years ago, you worked with Gerald Levert, and Johnny Gill and created the trio, LSG, which was a huge success. What was so special about working with these two talented men?

KS: Gerald and Johnny are my friends. I don’t look at it as a project. I look at it as friends getting together, making good music. We were just hanging out and doing something we love together. We put the record out because we enjoy each other’s music. So, we got together and made some hits together. All the egos were left at the front door. We did what we had to and created an album that people love to this day.

SR: What do you think is missing in R&B music today?

KS: I think the foreplay of our music is missing. Everything is like cut and dry, no foreplay. There’s no buildup; I think we are missing that piece. But it’s getting better because Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, and all of them know the music.

SR: Which artists would you like to work with in the near future, young or old?

KS: It doesn’t matter, as long as they’re about the music. I’ll work with anybody. Working with anybody means it doesn’t matter what you bring to the table as long as you do good.

SR: How does it feel that you’re known for your “whining” vocal range?

KS: Well, I can sing any kind of way I want based on whatever song I’m singing. When you hear me sing certain LSG songs, I’m singing in a certain way. So, I basically tell people I do what I do so I can fit that particular song. I might sing one way, and people will say, “Damn, that’s you.” On the new album, I’m singing in a certain way because that’s the way I want to sing. It’s like I play a character on the song and I may have this type of tone on the record. On “I Want Her,” I’m singing one way and then on a slow song, I’m singing in a different range. But, I’m fortunate enough to change my voice in different ways.

SR: What do you want to say to fans and your supporters?

KS: To my fans, I’ve been here for a long time, and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and dropping these hits. I’m here, and I’m making it last forever. So, I’m telling the truth.

SR: What would be your words of encouragement to the younger generation of artists?

KS: Just be true with what you’re doing. Be true to what you feel. Be true to what you want. Don’t just get in the game just to make a lot of money. You won’t really love what you do, and you’re in it for the wrong reasons. It’s not going to last if you don’t love what you’re doing. Most artists who are in this industry should love it and feel good about it.