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A well respected music veteran, Keith Naftaly established his career in radio as the architect of San Francisco's influential radio station KMEL. A San Francisco native, he is often credited with the "breaking" of early hip-hop through his tenure at KMEL. His radio career led him to success as an A&R executive for various major record labels, working with artists including Whitney Houston, Natasha Bedingfield, Q-Tip, Kelly Clarkson, Luther Vandross, Monica, Santana, Jennifer Lopez, and many more.
Naftaly's career started in 1984 as music director for radio station KMEL, just as the station switched to a Top 40 Format. Within that pop format, Naftaly began to incorporate more R&B, dance and rap music, which was considered unorthodox and even rebellious at the time.
In 1987, he was promoted to Program Director. Under his leadership, KMEL's ratings soared due to his trailblazing socially-conscious programming style and insatiable appetite for new music. He dubbed KMEL "The People's Station" and positioned it as "pushing toward a world rid of color lines" which was a lyric featured on Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" album. KMEL was aggressive with its support of local "home-grown" talent which boosted the careers of Bay Area-based artists like 2Pac, Too Short, MC Hammer, En Vogue, Tony Toni Tone, and Digital Underground.
As rap music grew in popularity, so did the need for intelligent, authentic, hip-hop radio shows. In this spirit, Naftaly gave a block of programming to a Bay Area rapper named Sway and a DJ named King Tech. They called their show "The Wake Up Show", and it developed into a credible, groundbreaking platform for both up and coming and superstar talent in the hip-hop world.
In 1993, Naftaly was appointed VP of Programming for KKBT, KMEL's sister station in Los Angeles. His arrival coincided with the explosive, game-changing sounds of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and DJ Quik. By combining west coast rap with smoothed out R&B classics from Al Green, The Isley Brothers, and Marvin Gaye, Naftaly and his team turned "92.3 The Beat" into a ratings powerhouse.
Throughout these years, he repeatedly won AIR's "Best Ears In Radio" Competition, as well as several prestigious industry awards. Naftaly's reputation for identifying hits and breaking artists made him an intriguing A&R candidate to several major labels.
In 1995, he left the world of radio to work for legendary music mogul Clive Davis at Arista Records. Davis had recently joined forces with LA Reid, Babyface, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and Dallas Austin. Naftaly was appointed Vice President of A&R and Arista proved to be a natural fit for his R&B, hip-hop, pop and dance sensibilities. While at Arista and subsequently J Records, he put his creative stamp on chart-topping hits by Whitney Houston, Ace Of Base, Toni Braxton, Santana, Real McCoy, Q-Tip, Aretha Franklin, LFO, Monica, Rod Stewart, DJ Quik, Deborah Cox, Next, Kelly Clarkson, Wyclef Jean, and Luther Vandross.
After nearly nine years as Davis' creative right hand, Naftaly joined the Executive A&R Staff at DreamWorks Records, in 2003. Shortly thereafter Naftaly was named Senior Vice President of A&R for the Sony Music Label Group U.S. working for Don Ienner, followed by Rob Stringer, and most recently Barry Weiss. During his tenure at Sony, Naftaly has contributed creatively to hit projects by Natasha Bedingfield, Jennifer Lopez, Rod Stewart, Britney Spears, Sean Kingston, Shakira, Amerie, Kris Allen, Pitbull, Leona Lewis, Ray J, Fantasia, and Anthony "Romeo" Santos of Aventura.
In 2011, Naftaly will be featured on the judging panel of Bravo's Platinum Hit, an elimination competition series featuring undiscovered singer-songwriters, where talented newcomers battle through a series of innovative songwriting challenges to find out who's ready for the top of the pop charts.