BUY THIS MUSIC

In the early-mid 80s, my friend Bryce Curry lived in a house with sculptured black wrought-iron gates leading to the front door. At the time, he had just introduced me to the mysterious group Whodini, and we would stand behind those gates looking out like the members of the group, trying to replicate the Friends album cover.

That was one of the great, happy periods of my life (I think), just before moving on to junior high and alternative rock, when I was a king roller on the roller skating birthday party circuit. Skating birthday parties were a big deal in Chattanooga when I was coming up. Because the weather throughout the winter remained too cold to be outside and because Chuck E. Cheese hadn’t really cranked up yet, there was really nowhere else to throw down en masse.

Ah, the memories! My sister, Channing, has a mid-December birthday and she always joined the fray with aplomb. My dad dressed up as Santa Claus and skated with the kids (this got embarrassing at a certain point as the years waned), we skated til we were grimy and red-faced, then hobbled across the carpet for cake and ice cream awaiting us in hard plastic booths.

Roller skating was a big thing in our family. My fun-loving grandmother and grandfather were both good skaters in their 60s and 70s, and my dad was a regular Brian Boitano with all the moves—backwards skating, figure eights, the whole vainglorious bit. Channing and I had our own skates, not the standard ill-fitting brown and white rental kind, and I’ll never forget mine: shiny black fetishistic things with neon green laces, bright silver hardware and hard green wheels. Like a prized stud stallion, I didn’t go for show tricks; speed was my game. The thrill of lining up with your rubber stopper on the line for a Fast Skate, waiting for the call… Racing as fast as you could with every lap between whirling colored spotlights, wind whipping your face, thighs burning, glasses fogging up every time…

Roller Coaster Skate World had three locations, one in East Brainerd, one in Fort Oglethorpe and the more familiar one in Hixson, just past the mall. I can’t remember which one had the wooden floor. But I spent a lot of time in the unused (during the daytime) dance area, replete with complicated pinball machines, a bandstand, smoke machine, and an empty multi-colored checkerboard disco floor. As New Edition, Kool & the Gang, Klymaxx, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson bumped through the speakers, the forsaken dance area seemed haunted, a scary creature that would rise at nighttime after the kids left to get its freak on.

If I listened to Kashif during those rose-colored skating days, I can’t recall it. But he would’ve fallen right in line with those times, and what I wouldn’t give to sit in a booth, tightening my bearings, working up the nerve to ask a pretty girl to slow skate to “Stone Love.”

Singer-songwriter Kashif was born and raised in Brooklyn, and taught himself the keyboard in the late 70s as a member of the disco-funk group B.T. Express. At that time a lot of disco-funk and R&B musicians, notably Stevie Wonder, were experimenting with keyboards and synthesizers, which had recently been revolutionized from giant room-filling electronic machines to portable, relatively inexpensive, and tonally reliable personal instruments.

Kashif became a master of the Moog mini bass, and he wrote songs for and collaborated with many of the top R&B and soul vocalists of the day, such as Evelyn “Champagne” King, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick and Howard Johnson, as backup singer and keyboardist. In the process, he ranked among the vanguard of artists pioneering soul music away from the multi-instrumental baroque disco sound towards a streamlined, electronic funk approach that would define R&B for at least a decade.

His first self-titled LP remains an absolute gem of cool soul-funk, perfect for a sunny car ride with the top down or a late-night party of two. Five of the eight cuts have the word “love” in their titles, so this is definitely baby-making music. But it bumps, sweats, grinds and takes a shower after. The synthesizer beats are so skillfully rendered one would be hard pressed to say it wasn’t a real band. Male and female vocal harmonies cushion each track like a sexy whisper, especially on the standout, “Stone Love,” and the Grammy-winning instrumental, “The Mood.”

Throughout, Kashif’s impassioned, ardent vocals are contrasted effectively by restrained funky beats and complex bass-heavy, percussive grooves. Fresh in every way twenty-seven years later, there’s no better joint to share with the one you want to roll with.

KASHIF KASHIF, 1983, Arista Records