Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Today we celebrate our 25th episode with a mix from someone who has altered the fabric of Atlanta’s music scene: the legendary DJ Kemit. Kemit is a DJ and musician defined by the diversity of his output since the 1990s, representative of a long career in music that spans eras, genres and disparate scenes.
It all started for Kemit with MC’ing, breakdancing and DJ’ing in 1980s Milwaukee, where B-Boys were few and far between. While Kemit was inspired by the emergence of the early hip hop scene, his exploration of music across genres would lay the foundation for his style moving forward. Kemit would go on to attend Howard University in Atlanta, where he would join his Milwaukee childhood pal, Speech, in the seminal conscious hip hop group, Arrested Development.
Kemit earned a reputation with the group, and his musical career quickly took off from there. He would become a fixture of Atlanta’s musical establishment and a change-maker in his new home city. Kemit was a linchpin of the Ying Yang Cafe, an important performance space in 90’s ATL, where Jazz greats such as Wynston Marsallis and George Benson would play, among many others. He founded the band Chronicle in the 90’s, which backed Dungeon Family icons Outkast and Goodie Mob and major R&B acts; more recently, his productions in the past decade have graced the top of the US R&B charts and made the former President and First Lady’s playlist. These are just a few highlights for Kemit, who despite mainstream successes, has maintained a fairly low profile outside Atlanta.
Much of Kemit’s career has been focused on shifting culture through music. Kemit continues to be an important innovator in Atlanta, weaving together disparate scenes with nights that span soulful 45s to hip hop, Afro-beat, disco and house. Kemit stays true to his turntable roots, playing vinyl and digging into his vast collection of 7, 45 and 12 inches from all over the planet. This allows him to infuse his sets with soul and dynamism and move beyond boundaries and formulas. His nights exude a positive spirit focused on unity - something not to be taken for granted.
Even with his successes in hip-hop and R&B, one of Kemit’s great contributions to Atlanta has been carrying forward the Chicago house music spirit that influenced him in his youth. Kemit was one of the few early ATL DJ’s who crossed over into the underground house music scene in the city which was marginalized by many in Atlanta as strictly for the LGBTQ community.
Whether Soul Mokassa, Kicking Up Dust, or any other events, Kemit continues to send a message of musical and cultural diversify in ATL bringing together people across race and class, and shifting the culture of his city in the process. Kemit continues to educate ATL’ians and the world about of finding our common threads through dance music.
We are thrilled and honored to share Kemit’s exclusive hour mix with you that harkens back to the house music he grew up on in between hip-hop and breakdancing. Crank up your speakers and get down to the sonic pleasures of one Atlanta’s greats.