Keith “make you sweat” Sweat has carved a niche for himself in the two decades since he first hit the music scene as one of the kings of new jack swing. He has become something of an R&B legend, and yes, he was married to one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, but anyone who really knows Sweat and his music knows he was, and forever shall be, a begging man.
“I have been known as the dude of begging in R&B,” said Sweat, who has lived in Atlanta since the early ’90s. “Test Drive [the single from his latest album] is one of those songs where I want to get with a young lady.”
The song, which features Sweat’s label-mate Joe, follows Sweat’s unbeatable formula…begging for love, begging for attention, begging for…well, everything. His latest album, “Ridin’ Solo” which comes out Tuesday finds Sweat up to his old tricks.
“People expect and look for me to do things they grew up listening to me doing. They hate when I go outside of that. I try to stay in my area where people have known me,” he said.
Still, he says he has matured as an artist becoming stronger vocally and becoming more comfortable as a stage performer. Rather than feeling trapped in a role he has played for decades, Sweat says the fact that people want the Keith Sweat they know and love from his ’90s heyday is a benefit.
“I am still relevant in this day and age. I have 18-year-olds to 50-year-olds who know who I am. That is because the parents play my music and kids grow up hearing it,” Sweat said.
He says he also feels less pressure to push out albums because his catalog of music is what people want to hear.
“I have a fan base that is built-in,” he said. “They know they are going to hear “Make it Last Forever” and “How Deep is Your Love.”
The music scene was a different world in the late ’80s when Sweat, then linked with writer/producer Teddy Riley, hit the R&B scene with his freshman release, “Make it Last Forever.” The album spawned top hits on the R&B charts, but Sweat would see his biggest hits in the mid-90s with songs like “Twisted” and “Nobody” from subsequent albums.
By 2000 however, the new jack swing sound was on the downswing and Sweat began the process of reinvention. After a stint with the group, LSG [the late Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, and Johnny Gill], Sweat focused on branding himself behind the scenes. He still worked on albums, but also branched into radio. He currently hosts a show that is syndicated in 48 markets as well as doing another show broadcast direct from the Sweat hotel, aka his house.
In 2008, Sweat was thrust into the tabloid limelight when ex-wife, Lisa Wu Hartwell appeared on Real Housewives of Atlanta and much of their private lives became public. Sweat declines to talk about that. Any of it. When pressed, he listens to questions about the topic, but his response stays the same – “No comment,” he said.
Though Sweat has expressed concerns about reality television in the past [Wu Hartwell has said publicly that Sweat did not want their children to appear on RHOA], that is the latest frontier he is set to conquer with a show premiering on Centric TV.
“Keith Sweat’s Platinum House,” which debuts Monday, features the group Dru Hill as they go through the mental, physical and emotional paces of getting back together.
“I am an active part of the show, but I’m not acting a fool. I don’t care how much money they are paying me, at the end of the day I have responsibilities [Sweat has full custody of his four children] and I have a mother I have to answer to,” he said.
Sweat said he can live and die without putting all his business out there for public consumption. But a business move is a business move, and Sweat has been making those since his early days working the stock market in his native New York.
“I am able to do what I do and stay relevant because I have been on top of my business,” Sweat said. “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Keith Sweat featuring Joe – “Test Drive”