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DJ Kemit on how to brand yourself, meeting Nelson Mandela and measuring success

DJ Kemit seated

Do you actively seek inspiration or does it find you? Is there a combination of the two?
I am fortunate enough to have been blessed with inspiration from deejaying and producing. However, on many occasions I have found success from collaborations. So, I would have to conclude that it is a combination of the two.

What led you to art in general and to your art form(s) in particular?
As a child, I was drawn to music from the collections in my parent’s home with my brother. There was always some form of music played. Even if it just some background. In grade school I began playing the viola and entered the orchestra. I played first chair for two years. It was around this time I began getting more involved in sports and by the time I was 13 years old I wasn’t playing any instruments.

Have you and your artistry ever been involved in traditional business?
I own and operate my own LLC. I have been incorporated since 1997 and learned to work through the highs and the lows that come with being in business. Prior to music, I worked in journalism as a copy editor and I served as a skip tracer for the legal division of one of the largest banks in the Midwest.

In addition to mastering their art, what other skill sets to you recommend that artists develop if they want to be successful?
Establishing firm relationships. Find someone to mentor you or provide direction and advice when you find yourself in situations where your final decision can make a crucial difference in your future or the longevity/strength of your brand. It’s always a good idea to stay informed of technological advances within your industry as well as shifts and changes in the economy and the market/region you are based in or do business.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I am always researching and absorbing new music, artist and genres. By keeping open dialogue with DJs, club goers and individuals one or two generations younger than me so I can stay informed on new trends, styles and attitudes which are all factors that feed into the one’s creative process.

Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about art and/or artists? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I do not judge individuals and I have found that each case is different. No two people are the same. I have worked with artist that are on top of their administrative duties and have teams that they have creative that serve the purpose of making sure their business is being ran efficiently. And there also those who are so creative that business and professional matters are the last thing on their minds. What I have found to be best is that individuals set aside certain days a week to micromanage their own business / affairs.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I map out my goals on a weekly basis. Through a process of meetings and evaluating what type of impact I want to make (through either DJing or producing & song writing), I create a list of cities, venues / events that related to the desired demographic(s) I need to reach in order to obtain my goal(s).

Measuring my success can me done by looking at ticket sales, music sales; song placement in movie, television and film; attendance at events/parties. Social media also has built in utilities that allow you to track the efficiency of my messages and announcement in addition to being able to see who responds and what part of the world they reside in.

Who do you consider  your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
I play and create soulful music. And there truly aren’t a lot of DJ’s and producers that make soul music their focus (which is a shame in itself). However, peers I have in the business are individuals such as Rich Medina, Dj Spinna, Bobitto, are a few of my peers that are making moves on an international level. Artist / DJ’s that who have carees that are worth emulating are Jazzy Jeff, Louie Vega, Kenny Dope Gonzales, Osunlade, and Black Coffee.

Name two of your top role models: one in the art world and one from outside of it.
My first and most influential role model is my father. He is a man of few words and waste no time on nonsense. His work ethic is beautifully impressive and finds opportunity whenever a obstacle shows itself.

In the world of music, the artist that I look to as a role model is Herbie Hancock. He is the one artist that has transcended the musical landscape and has seamlessly moved through and mastered the genres of jazz, blues, soul, hip hop, disco, pop, drum and bass and he is still creating relevant music to this day.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life or yourself.
Cheikh Anta Diop wrote a book entitled The African Origins of Civilization. I read this book while attending Howard University [where I earned by bachelors degree]. It was fom this text that I found the word “Khemet”. I researched it’s meaning and ‘latin’ root for the word and incorporated my own spelling – and keeping the pronunciation the same – and DJ Kemit was born.

One of the best performances I have attended was the jazz concert by the contemporary Jazz vocalist and singer Gregory Porter. He is an artist that has a knack for connecting with his audience and delivering flawless performances. Gregory Porter transforms the minstrels and gospels of the African diaspora into intelligently crafted soulful jazz songs.

The one experience that stands out from all others was visiting South Africa during the tail end of its apartheid regime. As well as meeting Nelson Mandela in 1995 for the honorable “Soweto Day” observance. During this time I was still a member of the Grammy award winning Hip-Hop group, Arrested Development. We presented President Mandela with a check / financial donation to his political platform.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
I feel that higher education helps to even the playing field for anyone who plans on entering any industry that requires critical thinking and detailed planning. College and university level studies puts an individuals in the company of their peers which gives them insight into the work force as well as a heads up on their competition when they interview for a job.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
I simply humble myself and ask the Creator for guidance, strength, good health, patience & prosperity.

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