is Keni Burke then?
Well, - he's the bass player, songwriter and producer who in
1982 came up with the brilliant and
bass line that has more or less set the standard for today's groove orientated R&B.
The bass intro to "Risin' To The Top" has been sampled by
more than 50 soul and hip-hop artists over the years. [ Who
Sampled It ]
Born Kenneth M. Burke 1953 in Chicago, Keni began his career in
music as a young teen with his family group
The Five Stairsteps.
Fred Cash of The Impressions took Keni and the guys to see Curtis
Mayfield in 1966. Shortly they were signed to the Windy C Records imprint
Curtis had with Buddah Records and their hit version of the Stan
Vincent penned "O-o-h
Child" became a signature song of the early 70's. Now just called
The Stairsteps they signed with George Harrison's Dark Horse label
in 1976 and released the album "2nd Resurrection". Billy Preston
introduced them to The Beatles and subsequently helped them get the
Dark Horse deal. [ The Five
Stairsteps Story ]
the group disbanded, Keni cut a solo album for Dark Horse in 1977
and worked consistently as a session bass player. The list is pretty
impressive and contains acts like Sly & The Family Stone, Bill
Withers, The Four Tops, The Emotions, Stargard, Curtis Mayfield,
Bill Withers, Narada Michael Walden, Ramsey Lewis, Linda Clifford,
Diana Ross, Leroy Hutson, Terry Callier, Billy Preston and Gladys Knight
In 1981 he cut a new solo album deal with RCA and came back with a
vengeance on a song called "Let Somebody Love You". The album
"You're The Best" was acclaimed as one of the year's top soul albums
- but no one could have predicted what was to come next. In 1982 Keni released "Changes". The album included "Risin' To The Top".
A laid back jazzy track with a brilliant bass line that has been sampled by more than
50 soul and hip-hop
artists over the years.
Both of Keni's RCA albums also established a production style that
acts turned to in the early to mid 80s. He produced and wrote songs
for The Jones Girls - Keep It Comin' (PIR 1984), The O'Jays - When
Will I See You Again (PIR 1983), The Whispers, Walter & Scotty (of
the Whispers), The Whitehead Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Keith Sweat, The Drama
Group, Perri and Mavis Staples among others...
Keni has probably put some of the money hopefully generated from the many
samples of "Risin’ To The Top" into building a studio in the
basement of his Atlanta home where he cut his 1998 album " Nothin’
But Love", specifically for the UK label Expansion Records. He first met the
label's Ralph Tee at a Berwick Soul Weekender, and the album
combines all the elements that have established Keni as such an
outstanding artist. The songwriting, musicianship, vocals and
productions are all here. A kind of Isley Brothers laid-back
vocalizing over some more Isleys-ish laid-back tracks. Keni's son
Osaze Burke makes his debut here as a guest vocalist on "I Need Your
Love". The track also features Natina, a rap artist signed to Sony
Let's hope there's more to come...