Catching Up With: Keith Sweat

He’s got a distinctive voice with music that has been the soundtrack of romance for many of our lives over the years.  Now, he’s ready to give fans even more.

Keith Sweat, the multi-platinum, award-winning singer, is back with his 12th studio album, Dress to Impress, which will hit stores on July 22nd. And according to the crooner, the project will be all about the ladies.

“This album is a collection of songs about how a man should treat his woman,” Sweat explained to JET, “how to woo and romance her, and make sure you put in the effort to treat that special person right; bringing more to the table than just what you see on the outside.”

JET caught up with the R&B legend to chat about his new music, legacy, and what he really thinks about making so-called “begging music.”

JET: Can you explain the idea behind the title of your album Dress to Impress?

Keith Sweat: The first thing people see when they first meet you is your outer appearance. So, Dress to Impress really means not only is it the clothes that you have on, it’s how people perceive you when they meet you. It’s how you talk, how you act, whatever cologne or perfume you have on. So, it’s just a statement that I wanted to make. When people think of the phrase “dress to impress,” they always think about the clothes. When you meet anyone for the first time you have to put on your best look, and that’s not necessarily the clothes you are wearing, but your attitude.

JET: What can we expect on the album? Is this going to be your signature Keith Sweat style we are accustomed to or are you trying new things? 

Keith Sweat: It’s the Keith that you know, so I try to stay true to that. I made my claim to fame by basically sticking to what I do. I built my own niche in the music game, so that’s why people say that I’m a living legend because of the songs that I put out. I thank people for saying that because I made a mark on the industry. I try to stay true to what people want, and that’s what they want to hear from Keith Sweat. 

JET: Speaking of carving out your own niche, how do you feel about people referring to your style as “begging music?”

Keith Sweat: Everybody has a niche. I mean I’m going to go down as “Keith Sweat the Beggar” (laughs). People referred to both Teddy Pendergrass and Gerald Levert as teddy bears; so if I go down as a beggar, then I’m cool with that (laughs).

JET: The first single off the album is “Good Love,” why do you think it’s really resonating with people?

Keith Sweat: I think it resonates with people because of the melody, the music, and the lyrics. Today with music you might have a great beat but the lyrics are lacking. So I just happened to catch some great music and put some great lyrics to it. It’s a feel-good record. That is what has allowed my career to have longevity because I put out feel good records.

JET: How about the new single, “Just the 2 of Us” featuring Takiya Mason?

Keith Sweat: People have known me for doing duets, so not putting a duet on the album didn’t feel right. Most people know me for songs like “Make it Last Forever,” “Nobody,” or “Get Up On It.” So I think people look for those duets with me and whoever.

JET: What’s your definition of R&B and what are your thoughts on the state of the genre today?

Keith Sweat: That’s why records from people like myself, Johnny Gill, or Joe does well because it is true R&B. The industry has gotten away from real R&B. To me, real R&B is artists like Levert, The O’Jay’s, Ron Isley, and going back even further to Marvin Gaye. That’s the music I grew up listening to. The younger generation may not have grown up listening to that type of music, so their R&B is more pop generated.

For me, I just feel R&B music is very watered down with the younger people that are coming out now. When you listen to a Keith Sweat record, or say even the Isley Brothers, you miss that feeling. When you hear those songs, it puts you in a time or a place in your life, from who you were dating to how you were feeling at that time. Songs are supposed to take you down memory lane. That’s what real R&B does for you.

For more information about Keith Sweat’s new music and tour dates, check out his website.