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Kemet the Phantom: The ‘spirit and soul’ of Kansas City

KC artist Kemet the Phantom performs 'Get Out (The Streetcar Song)'

Kemet the Phantom featuring The Pharoahs perform a funk-inspired ode to Kansas City's streetcar.
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Kemet the Phantom featuring The Pharoahs perform a funk-inspired ode to Kansas City's streetcar.

Kemet Coleman’s dream of a stable home with a wife and children and a solid career is not as far-fetched as it was just two years ago.

Coleman is a multidimensional hip-hop artist, singer, producer and entrepreneur known as Kemet the Phantom. He is also the official DJ for the city’s only Division I basketball program and an unabashed ambassador for Kansas City’s streetcar line.

Coleman’s version of the American dream wasn’t always set in stone, but that changed when he had his first child two years ago. A second child was born five months ago. A nearly 2-year-old marriage has been a blessing. Home ownership completed the puzzle.

“I’m more in tune to my mind state now than I was prior to having a child,” Coleman said. “Before, I was partying all of the time, so I had to slow down and really focus on music and take music seriously. Now that I am married, everything that I do has to make sense. I don’t have the luxury of doing something for fun anymore, even though what I’m doing is fun.”

After moderate success as an independent artist — he has released 10 albums since age 13 — Coleman debated if he wanted to release another. After the birth of his first child in 2015, he put out an all-points bulletin on social media to get at least 1,000 people signed up to receive a free digital download of the album before it went public.

He surpassed that goal about a year ago.

On Thursday, Coleman will celebrate his 30th birthday by officially releasing his latest album, “The Invisible Man.” He will host an album release/birthday party at 9 p.m. March 11 at Stockyards Brewing Co., 1600 Genessee St.

Coleman made headway in Kansas City last year when he wrote and recorded a funk-inspired ode to Kansas City’s new streetcar. The video for “Get Out” was shot inside a streetcar. The result was a hit with city officials, including Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

Gerend said he was initially skeptical of the concept. He credited Donna Mandelbaum, the authority’s marketing coordinator, for making the connection and realizing the song and video could be something special.

“At the time I was focused on opening a streetcar system and, while the idea sounded cool, the streetcar opening and launch was our priority,” Gerend said. “The first time I saw the final video I was blown away. Don’t get me wrong, the song by itself is great, but the video and the footage from the streetcar brought the whole story to life.”

Gerend, who called Coleman a talented artist, has heard the song and seen the video dozens of times. It never gets old, he said.

“The thing I most appreciate is the authenticity, the fact the piece and story is real,” Gerend said. “It wasn’t forced, contrived or borrowed.”

This year, Coleman was tabbed as the official DJ for the University of Missouri-Kansas City men’s basketball team.

Kangaroos head coach Kareem Richardson said the program wanted to liven up the game-day experience at Municipal Auditorium by featuring a live DJ.

Coleman, Richardson said, fit the bill and then some.

“Adding him really livened up the atmosphere and the experience for all of our people,” Richardson said. “He’s obviously got the versatility to keep the crowd involved, whether it’s hip-hop or Top 40. It’s so much more vibrant having him as our DJ.”

Richardson added that it was easy to embrace Coleman as an unofficial ambassador of the city and the basketball program. As with a potential NBA lottery pick, Richardson is hopeful Coleman will return next season.

Coleman also fronts a 10-piece band called the Phantastics.

“He is a talented guy,” Richardson said. “There is no better DJ to have. We want him back next year with open arms. We want him as a part of our tradition and a part of us.”

Coleman’s unadulterated love for Kansas City comes as a first generation native of the city. His father was born in Mississippi and grew up in St. Louis. His mother is from New Orleans.

He credits those Southern roots for his eclectic musical gifts, which highlight soulful yet futuristic melodies, lyrics and beats.

“It straddles the line between spirit and soul,” Coleman said.

His unconditional love for KC, Coleman said, is a byproduct of simply living here.

“I see a lot of potential here,” he said. “If you can make it in Kansas City, Kansas City will support you.”

“The Invisible Man” is inspired by Ralph Ellison’s classic novel “Invisible Man.”

It’s Coleman’s outlet to voice what’s inside him during what he says is one of the most interesting and paradoxical times in recent history. His quest is to find peace in a world where times are both good (marriage, children, home ownership, career success) and bad (divisive political climate, racial disruptions, discrimination).

Sometimes, Coleman said, he wonders if he and those who look like him (young, African-American men) are invisible.

“I really wanted to create a body of work that represented what I’m into now,” he said of an album two years in the making. “I’m razor focused.”

A focus undoubtedly sharpened over the last two years.

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

Find the album

“The Invisible Man” is available for pre-order on kemetthephantom.com.

Album release party: 9 p.m. March 11 at Stockyards Brewing Co., 1600 Genessee St.

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