“5 Things You Didn’t Know About Kashif”
“5 Things You Didn’t Know About Kashif”
By Matthew Allen
The music community and soul music fans alike are saddened by the passing of Kashif. The multiple Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/producer was – as his name translates – a “pioneer” in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s Boogie movement, penning classics like Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “I’m in Love,” and his own “Stone Love.” While he never quite got the mainstream notoriety of singer/producers like Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds or R. Kelly, his mark on music was no less impactful. That influence can be measured by the events that Kashif fans know about of the late star, from the stories of his rough upbringing in the foster homes of New York City, to his production credits with the likes of George Benson and Whitney Houston. Even with all that, there are still things you may not have realized about him. As a tribute to his amazing life and work, here are five things that you may not have known about Kashif:
1. His biggest influence was Art Tatum
The influence of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock is clear, given Kashif’s innovation as a keyboardist and champion of the synthesizer. But he cited Art Tatum as his favorite pianist. If you listen hard enough, you can spot Tatum’s rapid, yet melody technique within Kashif’s arrangement style. Just listen to the frenetic mini-moog bass and electric guitar splicing at the intro of Howard Johnson’s “So Fine.”
2. He was in a band with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid
After his stint as a keyboard prodigy with funk outfit B.T. Express, Kashif founded and led a band called Stepping Stone in the late 1970’s. With Kashif serving as the lead singer and songwriter, on guitar was Vernon Reid, the future guitar god in Rock band Living Colour. In fact, some of the songs that the band created wounded up becoming demos for the disco group Tavares, like “Loveline” and “Keep On.”
3. Kashif was a producer for Kenny G
Right before Kashif released his debut album in 1983, he worked with a young saxophonist named Kenny G. He was a co-producer and composer on his second and third albums, G Force (1983) and Gravity (1985). His contributions to Kenny’s sound, evident in songs like “Hi, How Ya Doin,” expanded Kenny beyond the smooth jazz realm of his first album and helped him crossover to Billboard’s Pop and R&B album charts.
4. The smash Whitney Houston track he produced, “You Give Good Love,” was originally meant for Roberta Flack
In 1984, Arista Records President Clive Davis recruited Kashif to do some production on the debut LP of label’s newest singer’s, Whitney Houston. He found a couple songs from a songwriter named La La to use. One of them, “You Give Good Love,” La La wrote with intentions to give it to Grammy-winner Roberta Flack. When she realized her song would die in a pile of rejected demos, Kashif offered to use it for young Houston. The rest is history. The song hit number one on the R&B charts, number three on the pop charts and kickstarted the Whitney Era.
5. Kashif was creating a 10-part music documentary when he died
While Kashif is best known for his amazing music, he spent the last two decades of his life as an educator and mentor. His last big project was a massive documentary called “The History of R&B.” Pegged to be 10-part series, Kashif started a crowd-sourcing campaign in 2014 to help what he called his “dream project,” that he was producing and directing himself. This was his way of preserving the heritage of R&B. “R&B music has been one of America’s most incredible exports,” he said in an EBONY interview. “If we’re going to hold on to what is ours, we have to be able to identify and prove that it’s ours.”
Matthew Allen is a Brooklyn-based music journalist and television producer. In addition to soulhead, his work can be found on EBONY, JET and Wax Poetics Magazines. To keep up with his work, follow him on Twitter and visit his blog, The Well-Dressed Headphone Addict. Check out some of his work for soulhead.