Detroit R&B singer Kem may have a pair of gold albums, an array of hits and a Billboard Music Award, but he hasn’t forgotten days of substance abuse and homelessness earlier in his life.
That’s why he’s headlining KEM Live @ Mack & Third: A Call to Service, a food drive and fundraiser organized by his manager, Toya Hankins, that takes place Sunday (Aug. 30) to benefit Detroit homeless shelters and nonprofit support organizations such as Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, the YWCA of Metropolitan Detroit’s Interim House, Gleaners Food Bank, Transformation Detroit, Sobriety House, LIFT, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Neighborhood Services Organization and Harbor Light.
“It comes full circle in a way,” says Kem (né Owens). “A lot of the songs that are on my first album (2002’s ‘Kemistry’) ... were actually developed in the Detroit Rescue Mission at a piano they used to throw me off of every night. So that community and that organization are responsible for the success I enjoy.
“Those experiences have obviously fashioned me to a degree. In order to come through ... homelessness and alcohol and drug addiction, you have to learn some things, and the principles I learned to navigate that terrain in my life I still use today — to run my business, to run my life, to raise my daughter. To be able to go back down there and to share and play those songs and have people partake in my success, in a way, is the least I can do, you know?”
Kem will almost certainly be sharing some new songs, too, from his upcoming “Album III: Intimacy,” the long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s “Album II.” He currently has “about 15, 20 songs” that he hopes to winnow down to 10 for the final product, but he acknowledges that “it’s taking longer than anyone would like. I’d love to just flesh it out and put it in the hands of the people immediately, but I just want to make sure that what I’m doing is right. We’re trying to make a record that people will not soon forget.” So any predictions about when we’ll actually hear it? “No, man,” Kem says with a laugh. “That would be a mistake.”
KEM Live @ Mack & Third: A Call to Service takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 30) at Cass Park, south of Temple Street between Second and Ledyard streets in Detroit. Bill Moss, LaShell Griffin, HotSauce, Selfmeyi, Monica Blair and Savallace are also scheduled to perform. Admission is at least one can of food. The concert also will be broadcast live at www. kemistryrecords.com.
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