Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, a modern twist on Kansas City office space.
From the Royals to slow jams with Mayor Sly James, Kansas City serves as an inspirational force in Kemet Coleman’s music.
Coleman looks to the City of Fountains not only as a lyrical muse with such songs as “Straight Outta Kauffman” and the “Streetcar Song,” but also as a rhythmical stimulus with its jazz community and heritage. Combining hip-hop, jazz, funk and electronic beats, Coleman’s music features a variety of up-and-coming Kansas City artists, including bassist Dominique Sanders, trumpeter Hermon Mehari, trombonist Marcus Lewis and musician Ryan Lee.
The amalgamation and growth of local talent and genres puts Kansas City at an inflection point, said Coleman, also known as Kemet the Phantom.
“Where jazz music is going today is inspiring — a lot of local cats are making some shit that’s killing it,” said Coleman, who’s produced 10 albums. “At some point, it’s going to blow up really quick. The music scene will blow up because of the jazz scene and because of how collaborative everybody is now and it didn’t use to be like that. And the local pride of Kansas City is a major factor. Kansas City is in love with itself right now.”
Beyond his solo work, Coleman is a rapper/singer/songwriter of a groovalicious group known as the Phantastics. If the bands Earth, Wind and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic and A Tribe Called Quest formed a lovechild, it’d be the Phantastics. Driven by funky beats, energetic vocals and bumping brass, the band’s eight members are the ambassadors of the dancefloor, compelling anyone within earshot to boogie along.
Keep reading below the photo gallery from a Phantastics show in Lawrence.
Performing, creating beats and seeing fan’s reactions is a cathartic experience for the 31-year-old artist, he said.
“When I make music, it’s like therapy for me,” Coleman said. “You know I’ve got three kids and a wife and all kinds of other stuff happening, so it’s definitely important to me.”
Startland sat down with Coleman to learn more about his music and thoughts on Kansas City. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, which provides entrepreneurs and businesspeople a community and a workspace.
Job: Singer, songwriter and digital media specialist with Brands That Speak
Twitter handle: @kemetthephantom
Hometown: Kansas City
Favorite drink: Torn Label beer
A startup idea you don’t mind if readers steal: I was just thinking about an app where people could book living room shows. Like there’s a list of musicians that are in town and can come to your space and play guitar or whatever for X amount of dollars.
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with and why: Madam C.J. Walker. She was the first female millionaire and the first black millionaire. I would love to just see how she did that.
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: Cheetah. They’re fast as hell and graceful.
You’re up to bat for the Royals, what’s your walk-up song: It would probably be the song that I did for them: “Straight Outta Kauffman.”
KC’s biggest area for improvement: Getting past the honeymoon phase of ourselves. We’re loving ourselves right now, but it’s like, ‘Now what?’
Favorite food joint in KC: The Rieger
An influential book in your life: The Bible. The King James version shaped my way of speaking because of how Old English and Shakespearean it was.
What keeps you in Kansas City: The ability to create change is easier to do and is appreciated here. Making the world a better place … We’ve got some serious problems here that aren’t being addressed, so when someone takes it on in a new way, the city gets behind it.
New technology that you’re most excited about: Smart speakers. Those are cool as hell.
What you would do if you weren’t in your line of work: I don’t know. I’d probably be in jail or dead. Music has been that pivotal. I don’t know. Wherever it could be wouldn’t be as freeing as music.
What pisses you off: People being judgemental about rap music and people that aren’t willing to learn more about hip-hop culture and rap music in general.
Favorite KC organization or brand: Gates Barbeque
What you hope you’re remembered for: For just being a good guy overall. There’s so much I could say about all that but what it boils down to is just being a good person.
Biggest failure: The moment I realized I didn’t fit into a corporate mold. I was in a situation where I tried to mute who I was in order to fit certain expectation. I thought I could do it and I don’t know why I wanted to do it, but I did it. I was probably because it was for the money, but it wasn’t worth it.
You can’t invest or save it — how would you spend $1 million: A development project — I’d build something catalytic on the east side. Something mixed-use that would serve the community. Something that’s walkable and with public space to gather, exchange ideas and thoughts.