Kashif, the six-time Grammy-nominated musical innovator behind groundbreaking hits from multiple R&B artists, died in his home on Sunday, September 25, 2016, at the age of 59. His family took to Twitter to confirm his passing.
Kashif has long been considered one of the pioneers of the early days of R&B, introducing a modern approach with his use of synthesizers and MIDI tones in his music. He was initially signed to Arista Records in 1983 as a solo artist, churning out hits such as the Grammy-nominated instrumental, “The Mood.” His second album, Send Me Your Love, received two Grammy nominations in 1984, and the third track of the album, “Are You the Woman,” contains one of the first released vocals by soon-to-be superstar Whitney Houston.
It was Kashif that Arista turned to in 1985 to collaborate with Whitney on her debut album. Together, they crafted the hit “You Give Good Love,” a certified gold single from her upcoming debut album. With his help and his touch as one of the production team, her debut album became the bestselling debut by a female artist, becoming certified 13x platinum by the RIAA. His touch as a producer, using synthesizers at a time when many artists were just starting to dabble in them, kept his skills in demand.
Since then, Kashif remained busy in the music industry, churning out the hits for Jermaine Jackson, George Benson, and many other R&B artists. Notably, he is remembered for his work with Evelyn “Champagne” King on her hits “Shame” and “Love Come Down,” as well as his work with Howard Johnson on “So Fine.” After leaving the recording studio behind, he produced the theme song for the Paralympics in 2000. In 2004, Kashif was inducted into the R&B Hall of Fame as a Living Legend.
Kashif wasn’t just a great musician, he was also a community activist dedicated to improving the lives of foster children and underprivileged youth all over America. Taking the success he found in the recording studio, he turned to activism and authorship. He wrote the book Everything You’d Better Know About the Record Business as an artist-driven perspective of the record industry. In 2006, he created Kashif University, an integrated arts and education program at Morningside High School in Inglewood, California. That same year, he created the Team iCare Foundation, encouraging people to sign up as foster parents. As a result of his philanthropy, he received numerous community awards in Los Angeles from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California State Senate.
At the time of his death, he was deep at work on a 10-part documentary titled The History of R&B Music and Its Influence On World Culture. This epic work contained over 200 interviews that spanned 18 cities across 14 continents. The documentary began by tracing the path of the musical genre in 1948 and how it shaped the perception of people who listened to it.
In an interview with SoulTrain, he said, “Think of how that song (Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud by James Brown) changed the planet as a whole. So that’s what this documentary is about, it’s about the fun, the impact of their music. The doo-wop songs in the 50s were so amazingly romantic; most people sang how they loved. No one else has really documented R&B music before.”
It was to be his magnum opus, showcasing his commitment to educating young people on the art and influence of the music that he loved.
When news of his passing hit the media, many artists took to Twitter and social media to express their love and appreciation for Kashif and what he did for the R&B genre.
Although details surrounding Kashif’s death have not been released, it is believed that he died of natural causes. His body was discovered in his home by a friend who was concerned because he hadn’t heard from the musician in several days. Funeral service details are still pending.
[Featured Image by Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images]