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Born in Nashville and raised in Pontiac, Michigan and his native Detroit, Kem (Kim Lamont Owens) overcame addiction and homelessness. He funded the recording of his first album, Kemistry, by working as a waiter and as a singer in a wedding band. After the 2002 album sold 10,000 copies independently, it was picked up by Motown for wide release in February 2003. The set peaked within the Top 20 of Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart and earned a gold certification from the RIAA, thanks in part to the hit single "Love Calls." The follow-up, Album II, arrived in May 2005. It entered the Billboard 200 at number five and quickly went gold (on its way to platinum status, achieved nearly a decade later). Kem was less active as a recording artist for a few years, though he did appear on the fourth volume in Guru's Jazzmatazz series.
Kem returned in August 2010 with Intimacy: Album III, which missed the top of the Billboard 200 by one spot and continued the artist's streak of RIAA-certified albums. The biggest of its four charting singles was "Why Would You Say," on which Rex Rideout assisted with production. A number 17 R&B/hip-hop hit, it was also up for two Grammys: Best R&B Male Performance and Best R&B Song. Before his fourth standard album, Kem recorded the holiday set What Christmas Means and wrote and produced Ronald Isley's "My Favorite Thing." In August 2014, he offered Promise to Love, a number three Billboard 200 hit boasting "Nobody," a recording nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance. He then took more time off to start and raise a family. After the break, still supported by Motown, he worked closely with Derek "D.O.A." Allen and put together Love Always Wins, which landed in August 2020. ~ Andy Kellman