R&B in the ’80s was in part about musical dynasties. The two biggest that capped both ends of the decade was the Ohio funk sound (Dayton, Zapp, Slave) the Minneapolis sound (Prince and associated acts). Somewhere in between these two was a movement, nearly as influential started by Michael Jones.
Most know him by his adopted name Kashif. Kashif developed a slick electronics driven sound that became a kind of third major template for ’80s R&B. Some of the acts associated with a Kashif production include Kenny G, George Benson, Evelyn “Champaign” King and most famously Melba More and Howard Johnson.
Kashif was already quietly becoming one of the biggest background stars of R&B, when he released his debut album in 1983. As a former member of B.T. Express, Kashif was no stranger to the music business. As an accomplished musician with a special talent for keyboards, he was considered an early pioneer of synthesizers in R&B much the way Stevie Wonder was.
Kashif would feature some of the artist who would be associated with the artist/producer/musician later in the decade like Evelyn King and Lillo Thomas. The bouncy light funk of songs like “Don’t Stop My Love” and “Stone Love” was slick and upbeat and would evolve into a style that Howard Johnson would be know for.
The album starts very strong, setting standards for Quiet Storm and Adult Contemporary R&B. In fact so much of the album was played during it’s heyday that anyone buying it would have probably heard more than half of it. The album hovered and peaked at #10 on the R&B charts. It was about as close to becoming a crossover hit as R&B not made by Prince or Micheal Jackson could be in those days as it nearly reached the Billboard pop Top 50 chart.
There are moments of Kashif that truly sound like 1983, but for the most part much of the album is timeless. The buoyant bass and bright upbeat production can border on the happy music you might have heard in a Duffs smorgasbord or Belk’s department store back in the day.
Kashif’s solo fortunes peaked with one strong release after another for the next three years. His behind the scenes work became the stuff of musical dynasties. As such Kashif, (or Michael Jones) has been under-credited for his contribution to R&B in the ’80s and beyond.