Smooth grooves, powerful vocals, heartfelt lyrics and just plain feel-good music best describe KEM’s instantly recognizable sound. His new album, “What Christmas Means” is a 10-track album compilation of original Christmas compositions as well as traditional holiday classics.
“This is definitely not a throw-away Christmas record,” said KEM during his recent Philadelphia visit. “It is well thought out, and everybody that worked on this record, they paid attention to details. We wanted to make something that you all would be listening to help celebrate your holidays for years to come.”
In 2002, the self-taught musician wrote and produced his critically acclaimed debut solo album, “Kemistry,” which spawned the hit single “Love Calls.” The classic track went on to break records for longevity on the Urban A/C chart while the disc achieved gold-plus status and solidified KEM’s position as a leading man in the world of jazz-influenced R&B music.
The success of his gold certified follow-up CD, 2005’s “KEM Album II” — which debuted at an impressive No. 5 on Billboard’s all-important Top 200 Chart — proved KEM’s staying power in the very competitive world of R&B. The once homeless singer has turned his talent into an illustrious career, and earned three certified RIAA, two Grammy nominations, a role in the film, “Sparkle,” and a global touring presence as well.
Music saw singer/songwriter/producer, KEM, through the darkest moments in his life as a child, which is where his love of music began. After high school, his life took a downward turn, and he eventually found himself in and out of drug rehabilitation centers and homeless shelters. Music was his solace during those times, and he played the shelter’s piano every night. He hit rock bottom when after breaking shelter rules, he was relegated to sleeping outside. It was there that he became determined to change his life.
“My faith is my foundation,” explains the R&B balladeer. “When you hear it, it is purposefully placed through all of the music, and I look at what I do as a ministry. I’ve been allowed to overcome, not only overcome, but thrive. So, I think that when we’re in a position to do this, when we have this experience that most people do on some level, that we have a responsibility and privilege to carry the message, if you will, so it’s in the music. And, I don’t make any bones about that on the record, or from the stage. My hope is that you all are not just entertained, but that it helps me with what I’m doing and it edifies your life. That’s really what it is: I’m on a mission that’s bigger than myself.”
The singer wanted to cover several aspects of the season, and even highlights his Detroit hometown music roots on the collection’s last tune. “ ‘Doo Wop Christmas’ is homage to that era,” notes KEM. “It puts you in the mindset of standing up under a street light on 8 Mile Road, five guys harmonizing with themselves in the dark. I have a good friend of mine, Fred Mitchell of The Floaters; he’s on the record, as well as some really good singers that I know in Detroit. So, Doo Wop Christmas is definitely one of my favorite records on the album, and also speaks to the fundamental reason for the season: the birth of Christ.”
On this holiday collection, KEM pays homage to his faith with the release of his first outright gospel tune. “‘Glorify The King’ is really a gospel song,” said Kem. “It is a revision of the song where I took the one time Christmas appears out, and changed that line so that the gospel radio stations could play that record all year round. So, it is definitely a bonafide gospel song; it’s the first time on the secular side of what I do, this is the first time that I worked with a choir on one of my records, the Hallelujah Singers of Detroit.”
KEM’s Christmas album, “What Christmas Means” ’ is currently in stores and can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon.com.
Contact Tribune Staff Writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.