Lana K. Wilson-Combs

During the mid 1980s and '90s, you couldn't turn on an R&B radio station without hearing Keith Sweat belting out songs from his chart-topping 1987, debut CD, "Make it Last Forever." The CD, which sold more than three million copies, spawned the enormous hit singles, "I Want Her," "Something Just Ain't Right" and the title track. Sweat's sophomore release, "I'll Give All My Love to You," was met with equal fanfare.

With just two albums to his credit, this Harlem born singer had ushered in a new genre of music known as "New Jack Swing" and put the industry on notice that he had arrived.

Now, nearly 21 years later, Sweat's music has not only withstood the test of time, it is being re-discovered by a new generation of fans. He's currently capitalizing on the "old school" craze and headlining a "Ladies Night Out Tour" this summer which features Bell Biv Devoe and Tony! Toni! Tone!
While some might be surprised by the singer's longevity in the music game, Sweat sure isn't.

"It's all about making music with substance," explained Sweat during a recent telephone interview while navigating his car through early morning Atlanta traffic. "I was never one to go in for fads and the latest trends when it came to my music," he added. "For me it was always about making music that was heartfelt and just very good and memorable music. Anything that you have that's good, that's what people crave."

Judging by his sold out shows and the hype surrounding his new album "Just Me" which arrived in stores May 6, lots of folks are craving for some Sweat. His tour and CD could not have come at a better time particularly since it seems as if much of today's R&B music is in need of some creative and inspirational infusion. Still, Sweat is optimistic about the genre's future.

"I don't really see R&B music as a lost cause like some people do," he said. "There are still a lot of musicians out there making amazing music. Some of them are the more obvious ones like Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. But there are also lots of others we haven't heard from in a while. That has to do with radio more than anything else. Radio stations came to a certain point and decided that they would only play certain artists and certain records. This limits the scope of what audiences hear. It doesn't mean that's all the music that's being made although it seems like it is."

Sweat admitted that's one of the reasons why he made the leap into radio and hosts his own syndicated radio show, "The Keith Sweat Hotel" ( through Premiere Radio Network which is currently heard in twenty-two markets. "It puts me in touch with the people," he said of the show, which airs from 7 pm to midnight daily. "People call in, they talk, and they confess…it's great. I play music from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and today. I even introduce audiences to new performers. Doing the radio show helps me in everything I do. On the weekends I go out and tour, during the week I'm on the air. It's another platform for me to perform."

And performing is something Sweat can't get enough of. He says many people thought that he had stepped away from music but that wasn't the case. "I've always been performing but just on a smaller level, he said. "Then I thought about going on tour with some of the groups that I liked. And that's how the "Ladies Night Out Tour" came about."

Sweat, whose last CD was 2007's "Sweat Hotel Live," and his first studio set since 2002's "Rebirth," said he's also excited about "Just Me." On it he collaborated with producers The Ambassadorz, Nite & Day and Roy Battle.
Sweat wrote virtually every song on the disc and that he kept in mind the sound that his fans have come to love and expect from him.

"I'm really conscious of the people who have followed me the whole time, since day one," said Sweat. "It's important to me that I maintain my signature style but still keep my music contemporary. That's why I called the album "Just Me" because that's what it is, a record that pleases me and pleases my audience."

For Sweat, love and lust are the cornerstones of his music. And "Just Me" follows in that fine tradition. "I do love songs because people are always going to be falling in and out of love," he said. "My songs whether performed by me or that I've written for someone else always fit that concept."

On "Just Me" Sweat has a few guest artists such as Keisha Cole who duets with him on the song "Love You Better." The first single from the CD is the sexy jam "Suga Suga Suga" (featuring Paisley Bettis). "Just Me" also reunites Sweat with longtime friend and "New Jack" collaborator Teddy Riley, with whom he first worked on his 1988 debut LP. Another special reunion on "Just Me" includes "Butterscotch," which features vocalist Athena Cage who originally was part of Sweat's group, Kut Klose and who Sweat performed with on his 1996 million-selling No. 1 R&B smash. "Nobody."

"Hey, when you find something that works, why not do it again?" said Sweat. "I love Athena's voice and the musical chemistry between us really works."
At this stage of his career, Sweat, 46, said he has worked with just about everyone in the music business. "Well almost everyone," he said with a laugh. "I think to work with Mary J. Blige would be interesting. Maybe that's another tour."

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