Born c. 1970 in Washington, D.C.; son of Sonya Ryan (a counselor at Howard University); married Chanté Moore (a singer), 2002 Education: Attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. Addresses: Record company--Arista Records, 6 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.arista.com. Website--Kenny Lattimore Official Website: http://www.kennylattimore.com.
Romantic soul vocals enjoyed a golden age in the 1970s, with the ascent of artists such as Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. All three of those singers influenced the style of Kenny Lattimore, who joined a host of other neo-soul vocalists in the late 1990s and seemed to cement a second golden age for R&B recordings that celebrated romance and laid bare its complex emotions--forming quite a contrast with the sexualized hip-hop lyrics with which artists like Lattimore competed for radio airplay. Lattimore enjoyed a growing following for his live concerts, and by release of his third album, Weekend (2002), his career seemed well established.
A native of Washington, D.C., Lattimore was born around 1970. He was one of seven children in a churchgoing and musically active family. His mother Sonya Ryan, who died in 1988, was a counselor at Washington's Howard University. Lattimore's strong relationship with his mother, he told the Chicago Sun-Times, influenced the outlooks he later communicated in his music; he was shaped by "watching a strong black woman rear me and have a career, and just be sharp. My mom was sharp."
Performed Hit at Talent Show
Musically Lattimore grew up hearing the classic soul and R&B of Hathaway, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Chaka Khan. Even by age five, he was quoted as saying on the RollingStone.com website, he had mastered the Stylistics' "Stone in Love with You:" "I loved that song! I sang it for anyone who would listen." Lattimore sang in church and at neighborhood gatherings, and his family backed him up by providing singing lessons. A premonition of things to come was seen at a junior high school talent show, where Lattimore excelled in a performance of "Watching You," a hit for the group Slave.
Lattimore took music classes in high school, studying the classics and learning to read musical notation. When he enrolled at Howard, he made plans to study architecture and urban planning. But it didn't take long for him to be drawn back into music; before his freshman year was out, he had joined a group called Maniquin. His talents propelled Maniquin to a contract with the major Epic label in 1987, and the group's flash of success put an end to Lattimore's college education. Maniquin's debut album was released in 1989, but garnered little attention.
That was a shock to Lattimore and the group's other members, who had been expecting stardom but instead wound up performing in a dispiriting series of opening-act gigs, family reunions, and small nightclubs--the modern-day equivalent of the old "chitlin' circuit." It was in these venues, however, that Lattimore cut his teeth as a performer and learned to hold a reluctant audience's attention. Maniquin broke up in 1990, but Lattimore didn't give up on the music business. Cultivating his songwriting talents (most of the material on his successful solo albums is self-composed), he landed songs on albums by vocalists Glenn Jones and Jon Lucien. Singing on demonstration recordings in the Washington area, he gained contacts in the music world.
Lived off Credit Cards
In 1993 Lattimore moved to New York City and decided to devote himself to a career as a solo artist. Supporting himself for a time by accumulating credit-card debt, Lattimore applied himself once more to his songwriting. An appearance at a gathering of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus helped pay the bills. Before emerging as a solo star Lattimore was signed as a songwriter to the Sony conglomerate's publishing arm. Once again he found demo work, this time with hot producer Jay Dibbs. Lattimore's diverse musical abilities--on his first album he would arrange and perform all the background vocals as well as serving as co-producer--set him apart from the crowd of talented young vocalists. He was signed to the Columbia label in 1995 and released his solo debut, Kenny Lattimore, in April of 1996. About half the tracks were composed by Lattimore himself.
From the beginning, the label tried to capitalize on Lattimore's good looks, staging a promotional event exclusively for female reporters before focusing on males with its PR efforts. But Lattimore's appearance was timed well among listeners of both genders; the year 1996 marked the beginning of a resurgence of traditional R&B vocals (albeit mixed with hip-hop production techniques such as digital sampling) as a counterweight to the hip-hop domination of radio airwaves. Such artists as D'Angelo and Lattimore's friend Maxwell were beginning to experience success. "I have an appreciation for hip-hop and what it's about, but that's not the life I live. I'm more into listening to the music my parents listened to."
The album did well from the start, landing on Billboard magazine's Heatseekers chart and garnering radio airplay for its first two singles, "Never Too Busy" and "Just What It Takes." But it was the third single, the romantic "For You," that cemented Lattimore's star status. "Now people are listening," Lattimore told the Chicago Sun-Times. In addition to radio airplay, the song was heard by countless wedding guests over the next several years.
Covered Donny Hathaway Song
Lattimore won an award as outstanding new artist at the NAACP Image Awards ceremony in 1997. He immediately began work on his sophomore release, and From the Soul of Man was released early in 1999. In several places the album did indeed reach back to Lattimore's parents' era for material; it turned the Beatles's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" into a lush romantic lament and included what Essence termed a "buttery" remake of Donny Hathaway's "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know." But the heart of the album once again resided in self-composed romantic pieces.
"I decided to dig a little deeper, to talk more about my personal experiences as well as experiences of other men I know personally," Lattimore told Billboard. Songs such as "If I Lose My Woman" inspired the Washington Post to evaluate the album as "a masterfully adult exploration of modern romantic relationships," "Days Like This" skillfully fused tense romantic lyrics with dance rhythms congenial to a remix by the production crew Masters at Work.
Lattimore moved from Columbia to the Arista label in 2001, and, he told Billboard, "I took it as an opportunity to clean house altogether. I wanted to bring in an entirely new team--from management to producers." By that time, the so-called neo-soul movement had matured as a style; Lattimore had numerous producers to choose from, and his third album Weekend, released late that year, made use of a varied production group that included the Philadelphia-based team A Touch of Jazz, Troy Taylor, and Raphael Saadiq.
The album included more uptempo tracks in comparison with Lattimore's earlier work. "I wanted to make a fun, straight-up R&B album," the singer told Billboard. In February of 2002, Lattimore married vocalist Chanté Moore in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The couple collaborated on an album, Things That Lovers Do, released by Arista in 2003, one year after their wedding. Things That Lovers Do featured covers of songs by artists including Marvin Gaye ("You're All I Need to Get By") and Lionel Richie ("Still"), as well as two new songs. People magazine reviewer Chuck Arnold called the collection "a perfect musical marriage ... Lattimore and Moore seem born to sing together."
by James M. Manheim
Kenny Lattimore's Career
Joined group Maniquin while a freshman at Howard University; group signed to Epic label, 1987; one unsuccessful album released; worked as songwriter, signed to Sony Music Publishing, early 1990s; signed to Columbia as solo artist, 1995; released debut, Kenny Lattimore, 1996; released From the Soul of Man, 1999; moved to Arista label; released Weekend, 2001; with Chanté Moore, released Things That Lovers Do, 2003.
Kenny Lattimore's Awards
NAACP Image Award, Best New Artist, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Kenny Lattimore Columbia, 1996.
- From the Soul of Man Columbia, 1999.
- Weekend Arista, 2001.
- (With Chanté Moore) Things That Lovers Do Arista, 2003.
- Billboard, March 23, 1996, p. 21; May 10, 1997, p. 9; August 8, 1998, p. 23; September 1, 2001, p. 25.
- Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 1997, p. Weekend-4.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 17, 1996, p. 62.
- Essence, February 1999, p. 72; January 2002, p. 48.
- Jet, February 4, 2002, p. 56; February 24, 2004.
- New York Times, November 23, 1998, p. E5.
- People, February 17, 2003.
- Village Voice, December 1, 1998, p. 69.
- Washington Post, January 27, 1999, p. C5.
- "Kenny Lattimore," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 23, 2004).
- Kenny Lattimore Official Website, http://www.kennylattimore.com (November 24, 2004).