Kemet the Phantom is Kemet Coleman, Vibe Maker, urbanist, rap artist, CEO and performer. His reach as a positive social and entertainment force in Kansas City seemingly knows no bounds. As both a solo performer and a member of The Phantastics, Coleman's music (which he has called a "winding river of sound") is as multi-disciplinary and energetic as his work on social and entrepreneurial endeavors. We are honored to share an exclusive interview with the man himself about the origins of The Phantom, his creative process and much more. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
My name is Kemet the Phantom. I'm a Vibe Maker -- Someone who creates vibrations. For me, this means spatially, visually or aurally. One of the main pillars of my career is music. My music is largely considered rap music. I prefer not to confine my "sound" into such a limited category, but for the sake of time and convenience, I would say that rap is the lane that I am in. That being said, I have made an effort, especially in recent years, to incorporate other stylistic elements of the black musical lexicon into my music. Which is why you hear funk, jazz, gospel, R&B, house and rock & roll in my music. Each "style" is curated and carefully placed to evoke a certain emotion, thus creating the vibration.
You are involved in so many different projects that all seem to stem from an unrelenting creative drive. Talk about how you see the importance of creativity in everything you do. How do you think we should foster this kind of creative ambition in kids?
Creativity is the definition of freedom for me. Without it, I am not a happy person. I have spent over a decade placing myself into a box in an attempt to reconcile with a personal issue that I've had since childhood. I never fit in. I always wanted to be the "cool kid" but never was able to. Which is why I named myself The Phantom right after high school. It was my attempt to own the fact that I'll never fit in. Like a phantom, in an elusive purgatory that is neither here nor there, but anywhere at the same time. I tried to embrace it and downplay my real name "Kemet". My name Kemet, which was given to me by my father wasn't a point of pride for me until I was about 25 years old. I'm 31 right now. So up until about six years ago, I wanted to hide it as much as possible because everyone mispronounced it, or made fun it or me or both since pre-school. I finally embraced it, adding it to my stage name around that time. Now people know me as Kemet the Phantom where I used to be just thePhantom* (spelled exactly like that). Honestly, that's where I found my foundation. I figured out what I meant to do once I started telling myself that my name is beautiful. My name is the original name of Egypt. I was given a torch to hold proudly as a black man in America. I intend to hold it to its fullest potential in a way that uplifts my people which will in turn uplift everyone. This new system of intent has unlocked so many breakthroughs and opportunities. If I were to tell children about creativity, the first thing I would say would be to embrace yourself. Realize that the naysayers are a part of the process and are very valuable. That tension is the very reason innovation exists. It could also be the very reason why apathy and even depression happens, but that's where creativity comes in -- to not only save you, but to create something amazing that has an eternal legacy.
In terms of music, how do you move through creative blocks?
Creative blocks tend to vanish for me when I take photos of architecture or cities/urban life. Listening to a genre that's outside of my norm is a great way for me to find new elements to add into my own mix. Spending time with family and turning off my phone tends to recharge me as well. But most importantly, I tend to create every day. It's the only way to keep the muscle strong. Doesn't have to be music. Just be creative and be okay with that.
Talk about your recent single “Take a Ride.” Any takeaways from the recording session that you’ll take to future projects?
"Take a Ride" was the first single I've released that was a spinoff of a client's project. I have a music production and marketing agency Kemet Creative and RideKC is a client of mine. They hired me to create a few videos for their marketing campaign and I came up with a theme song to include in the videos. With the success of the Streetcar Song and the other tunes I've done with UMKC and Kansas City Royals, I thought it'd be cool to release this funky jam as if it wasn't apart of a corporate marketing campaign. It adds street cred to my client and it gives me the freedom to continue to own my music. Musically, the song is reflective of my style as of late, feel good, funky, vibey. There will be a lot of that in my future project Electric Park.
What music are you currently raving about?
I'm very excited for the next generation of musicians. They are really coming into their own. I am especially excited about the role black women are playing in the next wave of music. They are so free. Women like Syd the Kid, Ravyn Lenae, Janelle Monae, Branjae, H.E.R., Solange, Kehlani and even Kansas City-based artists like Khrystal and Love, Mae C. It's really exciting to me. R&B and for that matter real musicality is making a comeback finally as well. That keeps me inspired.
What plans do you have for 2019?
I'm working on a new project with Leonard Dstroy called Electric Park which will be themed on Kansas City's rich history but will also be my most personal work to date, really putting myself out there. I honestly feel like this is my debut album. The previous albums I have hid behind this mystical aura I've produced (eg. The Phantom), this time I'm bringing it home. This is the album where you can tell for the first time I understand the true value of art, history, jazz, family, love, pain and last but not least, Kansas City. Electric Park was named after the infamous theme park that inspired a young Walt Disney to create Disney World. I'm bringing it all home with this album, but I am also casting Kansas City into the universe just as jazz did around prohibition in Kansas City. Leonard Dstroy is literally my favorite Kansas City producer so I feel very honored to be working with him. His ear for sound design is next level and I cannot wait to hear what we can come up with.
Kemet the Phantom's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
The King James Bible by God
Racism in Kansas City: A Short Story by G.S. Griffen
The First Book of Jazz by Langston Hughes
Sex and Race by JA Rogers
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Millioniare Mind by Thomas J. Stanley