Wow, Keith Sweat. 1996. It's hard to believe that it's been that long since you've had a number one hit ('Nobody") on the Billboard (R&B) charts. It's also hard to believe that you're turning 48 today. I mean, sure you always looked like an elderstatesman of sorts, but still... you're getting up there. We watched you go from the nightclubs of New York City to selling out buildings during your apex. You went from Harlem to having harems of women screaming your name during concerts. Hell, even rappers shouted you out.
See, we tend to wait until the artists that impacted our lives pass on before we praise them. We tend to listen to their music, recite all the words verbatim, even emulate dance moves and vocal inflections like a champ, but never really take the time to acknowledge what they mean. Not anymore. Not today.
The late 80s/early 90s was the New Jack Swing era; the Teddy Riley-is-my-main-man era; the listen-to-my-music-as-you-pull-back-the-sheets era. The Keith Sweat Era. And now, 13 years after your last major success, here we stand. With R&B and soul music at somewhat of a crossroads. With so many singers wanting to be rappers and vice versa. With auto-tune (which you probably could've used to supplement your voice from time to time, but I digress) becoming so prevalent it needed to be slaughtered. At a time when we are so nostalgic for what we had, we keep "Make It Last Forever," "Giving All My Love To You," "Keep It Comin'," "Get Up On It," and even "Keith Sweat" in rotation to the point of scratching the CDs. At a time when we need our music to last forever.
Your ballads made babies. Period. You mastered the sensual whine, making it so en vogue, people may have made fun of it, but really, no one questioned it. Your proteges Silk and Kut Klose stayed true to the KS formula, providing ballads that defined many a midsummer night. Your collaboration with LSG, while short-lived, was so enthusiastically received, we were more than a little upset when you broke up prematurely.
You made us dance with "I Want Her," nod our heads to "Twisted," and slow grind to "Right and A Wrong Way." You did your thing at the recent BET Awards, reminding us how a true showman does his thing, moving around the stage like it was the 1988 Summerfest all over again. We see you with the Sweat Hotel DVDs and quiet storm radio show. We see how you've moved on from your ex-wife and continue to be a father. We acknowledge that we smile a bit when we find out you're on tour coming to a town near us. For all that you did, giving all of your love to us through music, s appropriate to salute you today.
Happy 48th Birthday, Keith Sweat.