The First Time I Heard…Kashif
Early to mid-80’s and the late 90’s are the eras in R&B that are dearest to my heart. There are two producers in those eras who are responsible for that: J Dilla, who I credit for one of the main reasons I love the late 90’s and Kashif for when it comes to my love for the early to mid-80’s. I truly believe that they are similar; mostly due to the fact that while both outstanding artists in their own right, they are two of the most innovative producers of our time who defined their respective eras. Both of these producers’ influences are so far reaching that it’s difficult to think of what R&B was like in my generation before they were on the scene.
To this day whenever I hear Kashif I am immediately put in the mindset of a Saturday afternoon in the early 80’s. That’s because when I was a kid, it really wasn’t difficult to get me to do chores as long as the radio was on. Whether I was doing chores or grocery shopping with my parents, the Kashif sound was everywhere and I knew it even before I knew who he was. To me he is The Master of the Smooth Up-tempo.
Hits like his solo single “I Just Gotta Have You” or his hits for George Benson (“Inside Love”) and Michael Johnson (“So Fine), just have this groove that is funky enough to make you want to dance but smooth enough to make you want to take a long drive on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Kashif’s music wasn’t just the sound of R&B in the 80’s. It set the mood for that era. He was a virtuoso when it came to the synthesizer keyboard and synth bass, which made his sound so distinct. I may not have known the man responsible for my favorite grooves at that time but I sure knew his sound.
Kashif started his musical career at just 15 years old when he joined the funk band BT Express. Later on as a producer, he added his magical touch to a number of artists such as Evelyn “Champagne” King (“Love Come Down”, “I’m In Love”) and Melis’a Morgan and Dionne Warwick who he had duets with on “Love Changes” and “Reservations for Two” respectably. Arguably most notably, Kashif is responsible for introducing the world to a young Whitney Houston with the song he originally penned for Roberta Flack, “You Give Good Love’.
Kashif also produced other songs off of her multi-platinum debut album Whitney Houston including my personal favorite “Thinking About You”. On the jazz side, he also collaborated with Al Jarreau and helped launch the career of saxophonist Kenny G.
It is with great sadness that I report that on September 25, 2016 Kashif unexpectedly passed away in his home in California. It is reported that he was producing a 10-part series documentary entitled “The History of R&B Music and Its Influence on World Culture”. I sincerely hope that this project gets finished and distributed because our culture needs the knowledge and passion that this man had for the genre he helped create.
Check out my Spotify playlist of my favorite songs written and produced by the legendary Kashif: