Kemet Coleman, also known as Kemet the Phantom, was born and raised in Kansas City. He’s known for his music-making as a professional rap artist and frontman for The Phantastics and Brass & Boujee — well as his civic engagement in projects like the KC Streetcar song “Get Out” and former Mayor Sly James’ one-of-a-kind “Mayoral Rap.”
Growing up around 75th and Troost, Coleman spent his early years in the Kansas City School District, and later attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“I was raised in a home environment that was very pro-civil rights, especially as it relates to African Americans,” he says. “My father was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as a civil rights attorney. He was self-employed so I believe that’s where my affinity for entrepreneurship comes from.
“My mother forced me to take piano lessons and sing in the choir at church. I would resist as much as possible, but now I’m looking back on those days and I really appreciate what my parents made me do. If I wouldn’t have done those things they pushed me to do, I don’t think I would be who I am today as far as a musician.”
Coleman began to explore music for himself in middle school. He started a couple of rap groups with some buddies, eventually making beats and taking it seriously. At UMKC, Coleman took several Urban Studies classes that inspired him to create change.
“I had never learned our city’s roots until that point,” he says. “This rich history gave me so much clarity with regards to what I wanted to do with my life.”
While furthering his musical career, Coleman took interest in civic matters in KC and began to meld his two passions together. With influences ranging from gospel to Dr. Dre and Billie Holiday, he formed a type of genre-bending, funk-inspired music unlike any heard before in Kansas City.
This soulful sound caught the interest of some city personnel, and even his alma mater. He became the first official DJ for the UMKC Roos men’s basketball team, and more recently wrote a popular ode to the KC Streetcar.
With lyrics like, “Got a bus pass and I ride first class streetcar,” Coleman’s love for our city and its free streetcar, which has transported more than 5,000,000 people since 2016, shines bright.
Coleman is also on the board of Troost Market Collective, a nonprofit that aims to create economic opportunities for creative entrepreneurs. He helped plan the first annual Troostapalooza, a fundraiser for the nonprofit, last year.
For Coleman, Troost’s transformation is personal.
“I was spoon-fed this negative idea about Troost from the day I was born and it created an inferiority complex that I’m sure many people like me were exposed to,” Coleman says. “The very places that people considered dangerous and ugly and ghetto are near and dear to me. Troostapalooza contributes to this community conversation by stripping away the generational layers of stigma... and replaces them with positive and inclusive experiences.”
Coleman says he’s inspired by his three children and his wife Lauren Euston, who make him want to be the best father, husband, and person that he can be. Recently, Coleman and Euston developed a building at 3725 Broadway and named it Moss Salon Studios.
Euston is a hair stylist and Moss Salon Studios provides co-working spaces for professionals in the beauty and grooming industry. The space opened in June and is the first of its kind in the urban core.
“It’s pretty cool to go back and think about all of the experiences I had on the Paseo and in Kansas City’s east side in relation to the west side of the city. The duality of the two continue to drive what I am involved in today, whether that’s Troostapalooza, my music, or Moss Salon Studios,” Coleman says.
He loves how the Maker Movement is pushing people to “do their thing and not really worry about boxes that society sometimes places you in, career-wise. I think it’s pretty cool to see people collaborate.”
Coleman’s latest album, “Electric Park,” is named after a marvel of a Kansas City theme park that has no trace of existence today. Electric Park was one of the world’s first amusement parks, built in 1899 next to the Heim Brewing Company (now the J. Rieger and Co. distillery) in Kansas City’s East Bottoms by the Heim Brothers. It’s said to have been the primary inspiration for KC’s own Walt Disney when he designed Disneyland.
Coleman describes the album this way:
“Through the lens of my upbringing from birth to present day in Kansas City, each song on ‘Electric Park’ represents eight topics: change, seduction, euphoria, power, death, vice, love and music. With songs like ‘Rollin’ Down Paseo,’ I explore the nostalgia and confusion of emotions that fester as the future of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, formally known as The Paseo, is determined by a vote.”
Coleman partnered with the KC Streetcar and The Downtown Council to release “Electric Park” at 816 Day on Friday, August 16th at 8:16 pm at The City Market with a song-by-song performance of the album. The event features two theatrical performances by Voler —Thieves of Flight and a Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair maker pop-up, along with many other activities.