10 essential Kashif productions… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it visually with trends applying to social if not political categories, such as brilliantly illustrated on ‘Car Wash’. As musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound. Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards (Chic, Sister Sledge, Norma Jean…). Jacques Fred Petrus & Mauro Malavasi (Change, BB&Q Band, High Fashion…). Willie Lester & Rodney Brown (Sharon Redd, Bobby Thurston, Gayle Adams). But also Quincy Jones (Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson, Patti Austin). Tommy LiPuma (George Benson, Eumir Deodato). Or Arif Mardin (Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Mann, Chaka Khan)… As many names who stand as the pioneers of the modern sound. Just as Kashif does too…
Born Michael Jones on Dec. 26, 1959 in Harlem, NY, Kashif (Saleem) taught himself to play a $3 song flute at the early age 7, then later the piano in the basement of his church. He would soon after do the same with trumpet, saxophone, and tuba with the encouragements of his school teacher. By age 12, he had mastered several musical instruments and began performing in some of New York’s finest night clubs.
He joined B.T. Express 3 years later as a vocalist and keyboardist. He then left the band in 1978 to work as a keyboardist for Stephanie Mills.
Kashif‘s career took a new dimension when he started getting himself into songwriting and production. He literally made the sensation back in 1981 with ‘I’m In Love’. A cut which he wrote and co-produced for Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King. The first in a series of classics which helped the singer getting back to the forefront, on the heels of her memorable ‘Shame’. With ‘Love Come Down’ soon after not only confirming their obvious connection. But also standing as a signature track for her producer. A jam which perfectly embodies what Kashif‘s sound was about.
With thanks to his vocal arrangement skills in addition his specific synthesizer approach… Kashif definitely set the mood for modern love songs in the 80’s. Hard to not mention the connection with Morrie Brown and Paul Lawrence Jones III. But also Lillo Thomas with whom he regularly collaborated.
Evelyn King, Melba Moore, Howard Johson and George Benson. Not to mention Whitney Houston at her debut or Kenny G… Here are just a few of those he brought his unique approach to, such as you’ll see thereafter. Meanwhile, he released 7 studio albums under his own banner from 1983 to 2004. Enjoying his peaktime during his period with Arista until the end of the 80’s.
On the footsteps of ‘I’m In Love’ which he also happened to write the year before, Kashif strenghtened his collaboration with Evelyn King. Although it’s more acurate (or honest) to say he didn’t occupy the centerstage productionwise. But acted as an assistant producer along with Paul Lawrence Jones III under the direction of Morrie Brown. This outstanding jam from King‘s 1982 ‘Get Loose’ album got her to #1 on the R&B and Dance charts Stateside. It perfectly illustrates the integration of the synthesized sounds on the production at the time. Sampled on countless occasions, Barry Biggs gave it a Reggae cover version the year after. Meanwhile British singer Alison Limerick covered it in 1993, among others.
The co-founder of Niteflyte along with Sandy Torrano in the second half of the 70’s, Miami, FL native Howard Johnson went solo in 1982. He would reach his peak on the first of his 3 albums for A&M (‘Keepin’ Love New’. And more precisely on its opening track (‘So Fine’). A song which Kashif produced as well along with Paul Lawrence III and Morrie Brown. It most likely remains his biggest success ever. Featuring Fonzi Thornton and Freddie Jackson on backing vocals.
French act Motorbass sampled it back in 1996 on ‘1980’. Then DJ Quik in 1998 (Down, Down, Down’) and M.E.D. (‘MEDical Card’) in 2010 among others…
We had Kashif as a session musician. Kashif as a writter / arranger, Kashif as a producer… But we also had Kashif as an artist on his own. ‘I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)’ stands as one of the highlights of his 1983 eponymous album. A collection pretty much illustrative of the team work which he embraced featuring regular collaborators such as Morrie Brown and Paul Lawrence Jones III. But also Bashiri Johnson on percussion, Ira Siegel on guitar. And, last but not least; Leslie Ming on drums or Wayne Brathwaite on bass. Not to mention Fonzi Thornton on backing vocals. With a feature by a then relatively unknown Kenny G. on saxophone.
Seattle, WA-born saxophonist Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, better known as Kenny G. is much of a phenomenon. The ambassador of Smooth Jazz, he’s the biggest selling instrumental artist of the current times. Totalizing more than 75 million album sales. He started in 1973 as as sideman of Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra, aged 17. He then joined the Jeff Lorber Fusion band prior launching his solo career with the Lorber himself as a producer. We catch him back in 1983 on the opening cut to his third album (‘Gravity’), along with Kashif on vocals. This would be one of their numerous collaborations at the time.
If ever a cut was to embody the Kashif sound, then it would be the 1982 released ‘Love’s Comin’ At Ya’ by the likes of Melba Moore. A boiling hot jam which opened her ‘The Other Side Of The Rainbow’ album enlightened by a lush production courtesy of Kashif, this time assisted by Morrie Brown and Paul Lawrence Jones III. And the presences of Fonzi Thornton, Freddie Jackson, Lillo Thomas and Alyson Williams among others in the backing vocals. It had the energy, a real conviction, and an instant appeal.
Kashif‘s long time dream to work with his idol came into reality when legendary Jazz guitarist George Benson got him to produce ‘Inside Love (So Personal)’ from his 1983 released ‘In Your Eyes’ album. And what a blast this happened to be carrying the characteristic ingredients of the Kashif productions. Meanwhile keeping Benson‘s typical approach alive. In other words, the perfect balance for the very best, featuring Lillo Thomas on backing vocals with arrangements courtesy of Paul Lawrence Jones III.
I guess it is fair to say as well that Kashif contributed to the recognition of a then unknown Whitney Houston in the mid-80’s. With thanks to label head CEO Clive Davis who, once again, made proof of his absolute vision, hooking them together. Taken from her 1985 eponymous album, ‘Thinking About You’ is an uptempo arranged and produced by Kashif which he co-wrote with La La. Featuring his regular studio musicians, it saw the light as the second single from the album. And although it didn’t get a promotional video, nor did he benefit from a promo campaign as a single to Top 40 radios, it reached the #10 position on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs…
A vocalist, a songwriter, a keyboardist and a bass synthetiser player, Bahamian-born artist Johnny Kemp released his eponymous debut-album back in 1986. This, after having played as a backup musician for Change and BB&Q Band. And although Kashif contributed to the making of the latter, he acted more as a supervising producer. He notoriously wrote its opening cut – ‘Just Another Lover’ – and eventually took his part to the backing vocals. But the production itself was left courtesy of Jeff Smith. He also acted as the executive producer of Kemp‘s follow up album (‘Secrets Of Flying’) which contains the Teddy Riley produced ‘Just Got Paid’. A track which set the reputation of the latter as the originator of New Jack Swing.
1986 marked quite a change in the career of WDC-born Stacy Lattisaw with her arrival on Motown, after 7 albums on Cotillion. The opening cut from her ‘Take Me All The Way’ debut-album for Berry Gordy‘s label, ‘Jump Into My Life’ is an uptempo which Kashif produced and also co-wrote along with Paul Anthony Gurvitz. It would eventually receive the remixing treatment of John Jellybean Benitez. It pretty much got overshadowed though by ‘Nail It To The Wall’ which the latter produced.
A quick look at both Kashif and Meli’sa Morgan’s CV’s suffices to understand how they were meant to be working together at some point. With both of them having contributed to the recognition of Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi produced High Fashion band. The title cut of Kashif‘s 1987 album of the likes, ‘Love Changes’ is a one of a kind vibrant ballad written by Skip Scarborough.