Living up to his moniker, Jamaica-born and Miami-based artist, producer, and DJ The Kemistartfully fuses elements of reggae, dancehall, electronic, trap, and pop music into a catchy and combustible concoction of his own. Within three years, he quietly emerged as an international phenomenon, racking up nearly 30 million streams and attracting support from the likes of Diplo, Hardwell, Carnage, and Major Lazer, and more by 2018.
However, that name serendipitously represents a confluence of destiny and action all at once.“I needed an artist name for a production, and I only had an hour to come up with one,” he recalls with a laugh. “‘Kemar’is one of my childhood nicknames, so a few of my friends would call me ‘The Kemist,’because I liked to mix different things together on the turntables when I was playing music. That’s the story of it. It felt right, because I still do the same thing by bringing genres together that you wouldn’t expect.”In many ways, his upbringing groomed him to revitalize and reimagine reggae for the 21stcentury. Mom Marcia Griffiths stands out as the “Queen of Reggae”and known for her international hit “Electric Slide (Electric Boogie),” while pops Errol Thompson, Sr. promoted seminal Jamaican acts to international popularity as a famous radio personality and musician himself. Recognized as one of the early champions of the genre and its potential for social change, dad ignited the scene. Beyond being recognized as one of the country’s foremost broadcasters, he even served as an MC for Bob Marley, introducing the icon at shows as mom provided background vocals for the legend in the studio. Home videos include a three-year-old Kemist rockingout on stage with the entire family at one Marley gig. Another clip features him singing alongside mom in a fly white suit at the age of six during the historic Reggae Sun Splash.At sixteen, he hit the road as his mother’s keyboardist. Among numerous highlights, they performed for upwards of 50,000 screaming fans at Japan Splash. At the same time, he developed his production behind the board. 2014 saw him join forces with Yellow Claw & Tropakillaz for “Assets,” which marked the world’s initial introduction to his voice. Released on Diplo’s Mad Decent, the track caught fire worldwide. Zedd also personally tapped The Kemist for a high-profile official remix of “Stay” with Alessia Cara. Meanwhile, he turned up with the Tropical Remix of JoJo’s “No Apologies” [feat. Wiz Khalifa].In 2018, he signed to 21 Entertainment in partnership with Republic Records and kicked off his next chapter with the Body TreatmentEP. Its lead single “Body Can’t Lie” [feat. Nyanda of Brick & Lace] hinges on a flavorful and fieryisland beat that builds towards a hypnotic hook as sexy as it is slick.“It’s the perfect fusion of reggae and pop,” he goes on. “It’s meant to make the ladies move. It was the best way to introduce this mixture I’m creating.”That mixture proves equally unpredictable and intoxicating throughout the Body TreatmentEP. “Mayhem” [feat. Nyanda & DJ BrainDeaD] explodes into a dancefloor-ready drop, while “On You” winds and grounds towards a catchy climax. Everything culminates on the undeniable title trackand its undeniable chant.In the end, The Kemist mixes up a sound for the future.“I want people to feel energized and euphoric when they listen to me,” he leaves off. “That euphoria is what reggae has always been about since the beginning. It’s what I’m all about now.”