When Keith Sweat returns to the Bell Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, he’ll be entering Augusta backed with a new album he released a year ago, Dress to Impress.
Tickets are $39.50-$89.50 from georgialinatix.com, (877) 428-4849 or the James Brown Arena box office. Special guest will be Jon B.
Sweat is also fresh from a recent tour last month on the Las Vegas strip, where he performed a residency show July 18-22 at the Donny and Marie Osmond Theater inside the legendary Flamingo Hotel.
Meanwhile, he still hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Keith Sweat Hotel, which airs from 7-midnight nightly on WKSP 96.3 Kiss FM, an iHeartMedia-Augusta station. Sweat’s quiet storm R&B format airs in 60 markets nationally.
While Sweat’s success is notable these days, it was not an easy road for the native New Yorker.
The product of five children born to Charles and Juanita Sweat, the elder Sweat died in 1973 – leaving Juanita a single mother. To help keep the household financially stable, after high school graduation, Keith worked several day-jobs, before starting his music career.
While developing a side-career as a financial advisor, he worked as a night stocker at Macy’s, a mailroom clerk at Paine Webber and eventually, became a brokerage assistant on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and supervisor for the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Sweat started his musical career as a member of a Harlem band called Jamilah in 1975. He honed his craft as a lead singer by performing regionally throughout greater New York.
After leaving the group in 1984 for a solo career, he sang at nightclubs throughout New York City and landed a chance to record for the independent label, Stadium Records.
In 1987, he was discovered by Vincent Davis and offered a recording contract with Vintertainment Records. Later in 1987, Sweat’s life changed forever, after releasing his debut LP titled Make It Last Forever, lt sold three million copies.
The biggest hit from the album was the song that introduced the New Jack Swing era I Want Her. The tune was nominated for the 1989 Soul Train Awards’ Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Song of the Year award, while the title track from the album hit No. 2 on the R&B charts. New Jack Swing is often described as an edgy mix of hip-hop beats with traditional R&B melodies.
Today, Sweat remains on top of his game, and continues to record new music. He made his acting debut in the iconic ’90s gangster flim, New Jack City. In addition to his 1991 movie debut, Sweat has appeared in two other films. To date, he still remains the King of New Jack Swing era, though in an interview from his Las Vegas tour, he humbly rejects that status.
“Others like Teddy Riley are still very much so in the game and thriving. But I’ve been very blessed to have the fans that I have that continue to support me after all these years,” he said.
Sweat managed to record and release singles that earned him hit-status throughout the 1990s. He also earned the reputation as a “Beggar” – a gentleman whose lyrics consistently ask women for love, devotion and appreciation.
In a recent radio interview with New York’s The Breakfast Club, 105.1-FM, Sweat said he initially denounced the “beggar” rep, but has now learned to embrace the image considering it has been a lucrative one, that helped generate record sales among his male and female fans.
In addition to a successful solo career, Sweat has earned awards as a hit songwriter for such groups as SILK and the girl-group Kut Klose. He’s also written for Atlanta-based girl group, Xscape and he formed the R&B super group, LSG featuring himself, Johnny Gill and the late Gerald Levert, who died in November 2006.
“Gerald was like a brother to me. We were very close. His father Eddie (Levert), is like my father. I’m still close with his family. I really miss him,’ he said.
Sweat says he’s been able to succeed in various aspects of the industry by focusing on his music career as a business, first.
“I’ve always written and produced my own music, making it easy to produce others,” he said. “I’m a business man first,” he said.
He credits his instinctive relocation from Harlem to Atlanta as quite pivotal to his career success.
“At the time, Atlanta wasn’t the mega music location it is now. Moving down South allowed me to be a part of their growing music scene. Also the cost of living was a lot better compared to New York,” added the financial planner. “ATL has worked out well for me. I discovered SILK and other promising artists,” he said.
Meanwhile, he’s written several hit tunes with his writing mate, Teddy Riley – the producer who’s often credited as the creator of the New Jack Swing genre. Sweat has co-written such hits as Let’s Chill for GUY, and other tunes for Immaure, The O’Jays and GUY.
“Well Teddy and I started in this industry together, he’s another brother to me. He and I wrote and produced my entire first album together. We also wrote songs for other artists like Just Got Paid for the late Johnny Kemp.”
In reflecting on his musical career, Sweat says his parents were always playing records at the house, but none of his siblings have acquired the musical gift, like he. Of his four children, his two sons are musically-inclined; one is a rapper and the other a singer.
Concerning his future, having turned a “young” 56 on July 22, Sweat says he’s interested in “remaining in Vegas and selling my CDs after the shows and meeting my fans at meet and greets.”