Keith Washington burst onto the scene in 1991 with his debut album Make Time for Love featuring the classic ballad “Kissing You.” Given the strength of Keith’s voice, one would think that the Detroit native would have been next in line to become one of R&B’s premiere next generation of balladeers. Washington made a memorable appearance on Martin as himself, earned a role in the film Poetic Justice and released his second album, You Make It Easy, in 1993. Keith then spent the next few years quiet. To concede with his Unsung airing this Sunday on TVONE, let us look back at Keith Washington’s third album, 1998’s KW.
For his third album, Keith switched labels from Qwest to Silas Records and underwent a style change. Revisiting the album, it appears that Washington wanted to keep with times and possibly appeal to a younger demographic.
Super producer Fred Jerkins provides the albums opening track “I Warned You,” which has a mellow Hip Hop vibe. The Hip Hop groove continues “No Matter,” where Washington samples Bill Withers “Who Is He (And What Is He To You).” Finally, “I Warned You” finds Keith working with former AZ Yet member Marc Nelson for a jazzy-inspired groove.
Thankfully, Keith does not stay in the up-tempo material too long and starts with the balladry. The slow jams begin with “Tell Me (Are You With It).” Produced by Fred Jerkins III, the song is a sexy groove featuring background vocals by Kelly Price. Washington also collaborates with Jerkins and Price on “Smile” and “You Let Me Down.” Both songs are solid, and I wish that Price and Washington had given us a duet.
No strangers to duet with female singers, Washington reunites with the lovely Chanté Moore for “I Love You,” which was the album’s second single. Both singers perform the track with a sensual yearning to set the mood for an intimate night. Washington then shows off his production skills on a smooth cover of Marvin Gaye’s “You Sure To Ball.”
Keith loses some of the momenta on “Long Ago” and “I Can’t Put You Down,” as both songs come across as filler. The tracks are not bad, just a bit underwhelming considering Keith’s vocal strength. Before closing out the album with the Darkchild remix of “Bring It On,” Keith gives a great ballad in the form of “Only You,” which shows off his pristine buttery vocals.
KW reassures listeners that Keith Washington had a capable voice, and given the right material, he is a force. Sadly, I think Washington may have just gotten lost in the shuffle when he released his third album. Through no fault of his own, he could not compete with the changing landscape of music in 1998. Nevertheless, though, KW is worth the listen for R&B fans.
Final Grade: B
Top Songs: “Bring It On,” “I Love You,” and “Smile”
KW is available on all streaming platforms
Be sure to tune in this Sunday, April 11 at 9P/8C on TV One for Keith Washington’s Unsung.