“There Are So Many Stories I Can Tell That I Haven’t Really Even Touched On Yet”: An Interview With LOS KEMET

Will Schube speaks to LOS KEMET about moving around throughout his childhood, being exposed to rap music by his father, being inspired by good sequenced albums and more.
By    April 24, 2023

Image via LOS KEMET/Instagram

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Will Schube still can’t believe Larry David got Salman Rushdie to say ‘fatwa sex’ on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

LOS KEMET’s music sounds like seven different Southern sub-genres simmered in a gumbo made up of equal parts UGK, Boosie, Three 6 Mafia, Thugger, and David Banner. But it’s a blend wholly distinct to the Mississippi-raised, Austin-based MC, whose sonics reflect a peripatetic childhood soaking up sounds from all across the south.

This is music that reminds you of the pre-internet era of regional rap, when where you were from always defined your sound. While there are many benefits to the infinity of the digital age, it can feel refreshing to see an artist as devoted to what made him as KEMET is to Southern rap. After all, his first memories of rap music were hearing DJ Screw and “Cadillac on 22’s” in his pops’ car.

LOS KEMET has called Jackson, Memphis, Atlanta, and Chicago home, but now that he’s settled in Austin he’s at his most comfortable as both a rapper and a man. Though he’s still admittedly working through the trauma of unresolved childhood memories, in Austin he’s found a safe place to direct his energy to music. It’s led to his latest album, Got Drunk For The Most High, one of the best rap albums of the year.

Got Drunk is fueled by these hazy memories and scar tissue, but also, a forward-thinking attitude. As he raps on the soul sample-looping opener, “This ain’t pain rap n***a/ Soul music rendition/ I’m the modern day Marvin/ the pastime Al/ Take me to the river if them people gun me down.”

Elsewhere, on the slowly unfurling H-Town glamor of “Active,” KEMET shows off a surprisingly sturdy singing voice as he croons about gang ties and an addiction to trappin’. When he spits about ridin’ dirty in traffic, you can hear the Chamillionaire influence in his flow. Above all, though, KEMET introduces himself on Got Drunk For The Most High. It’s an undeniably assured record that is sequenced to perfection–an aspect of his game he’s been trying to level up because all of his favorite records feature this attention to detail.

During our interview, KEMET cites good kid, m.A.A.d city as a holy grail of well-sequenced records, and it’s easy to hear Got Drunk as a Southern cousin of the K-Dot classic. There’s storytelling and swagger, soliloquies and shit-talking. Its ambition is rooted in the generational projects KEMET grew up on, and with this release, LOS KEMET has inserted himself into that very conversation.

Did you make this record while living in Austin?

LOS KEMET: I wrote it here but I recorded it in New York.

Does where you live influence your themes and what you’re talking about on the record? Do you think it plays a role?

LOS KEMET: It definitely does play a role in the way the album sounds because Austin gave me a sense of peace and sanity. It’s calm here, it’s peaceful here. Before this, coming from where I came from, it was full of chaos. Moving to Austin made me be able to sit down and actually be able to put together a piece of work. So that’s the way it affected me. It has affected me only in a positive way, honestly.

Was it hard leaving the places that you’ve lived before?

LOS KEMET: Hell yeah, of course. It’s like a power or a force that gets a hold of you. I was raised in Mississippi. All I knew was Mississippi, Mississippi, Mississippi. Anybody from Mississippi will tell you, you don’t think about New York, Chicago, LA. You don’t because you don’t think you’ll ever make it to those places. You think you’re stuck here. So I didn’t want to leave Mississippi, moving to Chicago and leaving Chicago to move to Atlanta was a little easier for me because they’re both close. But as far as making a big move down here, yeah, it was hard. You got friends, you got lovers, you leave all that. It’s very hard to let go and just get a fresh start and a clean slate.

When did you leave Mississippi?

LOS KEMET: I was about 11 or 12 so it wasn’t my choice. If it was my choice, we would’ve still been in Mississippi, which thank God we did leave.

And then it was Chicago, then Atlanta?

LOS KEMET: Yes, Chicago and Atlanta. Let’s go back. So Memphis, that’s my second home. I always lived there for the summer. My dad moved there, was always there.

Where was the first place you lived on your own as an adult?

LOS KEMET: Atlanta.

When you were in Atlanta, were you doing music full time? What were you doing when you first got there?

LOS KEMET: I didn’t make it through high school. I got my GED though, and I was able to get into the Art Institute of Atlanta for filmmaking. I tried to do filmmaking, I tried to do the school thing, couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even pursuing rap at the time. I felt like the people didn’t really believe in what I was trying to do. I don’t think they really wanted or cared for it. So I didn’t start taking it serious or putting the work in until I moved back to Chicago in 2017.

Were you always wanting to rap but you just didn’t have the confidence or didn’t have the infrastructure for it?

LOS KEMET: Yeah, I always knew, man. I always knew, I just was waiting until I had the voice for it or I felt like I studied enough of the people I looked up to growing up. So I always had it in the back of my mind and it was just a matter of when I was going to start taking it serious.

How were you first exposed to rap music? Was it your family, was it your siblings, your friends?

LOS KEMET: My pops mainly. He always bumped a lot of Screw music. He bumped everything Screw. It doesn’t matter who he was remixing. If Screw did it, we were only listening to the Screw version. So that was my introduction to rap. The first song that I remember hearing in my life was “Cadillac on 22’s.” I remember it perfectly. My pops was just driving me down this dark ass, country ass road and he was playing that song. I’m happy it was a Mississippi artist for sure.

Did your dad do music or was he just a fan?

LOS KEMET: Just a fan. My uncle did though. He was really good, a really good rapper. He was from down South, but he had a lot of Chicago and Philly in his sound. I actually had his CD when I moved to Texas, my pops gave it to me and I would listen to it every day.

What’s it like sharing your success in the rap game with your dad–the person that introduced you to the genre?

LOS KEMET: Hearing him tell me he’s proud and, “Man, that shit there, sound like some shit I was listening to when I was growing up, when I was in the streets.” Hearing that from that man who was really that type of guy, firsthand connected me…means everything. I’m just happy and I’m proud as far as him really being impressed with what I’m doing. I love that shit.

Were you rapping in Chicago?

LOS KEMET: When I moved to Chicago, I finally started taking rap seriously. I got my own laptop and my own little condenser mic and I made a song that popped off way more than I expected it would.

Which song was that?

LOS KEMET: “Deville Flow.” It got big on SoundCloud when I dropped it in 2017.

How old were you then?

LOS KEMET: I was 18.

And you moved to Austin and immediately began making music.

LOS KEMET: When I first moved to Austin I made three projects before I even thought of doing the REDRUM project with Cuffedgod. As far as building that process, it was all about me knowing and studying how to create a well sequenced project. I really wanted to learn how to do that because those types of projects are close to my heart. It was just a lot of studying. I had to live more life and begIn to analyze what I was going through, what traumatic experiences I may have had and where they rooted from. I also learned how to be a vulnerable person and being able to speak my truth and doing it in an eloquent way.

How hard was it to be patient during that time and study? As opposed to just being like, I got these songs in me, I need to get them out right now.

LOS KEMET: It was hard. Because I knew I had it in me, I just didn’t have all the tools yet. I didn’t have all the resources just yet, but I knew somehow, some way it was going to come together. It was difficult. You live and you learn.

Some of those traumas that you had to deal with growing up, was that stuff that you consciously had to work through and think about, or did you just notice that you were going back to these incidents?

LOS KEMET: Going through those things at the time period, you don’t really have much time to sit and think and realize what’s going on or grasp and understand what is happening. You’re right there in the moment, so it’s a little more difficult to do that. But sitting down later you realize that this shit is some really up f*cked up shit, this shit really has affected me in more ways than I can think of. Going to therapy helped me with understanding that as well. Being able to put that on paper and put that out was enough for me, but it also helped other people, which I didn’t expect. It just helps me keep doing it because there are so many stories I can tell that I haven’t really even touched on yet.

Was it family shit you were dealing with?

LOS KEMET: Family is always the root of a lot of shit that we go through. That’s some everyday shit. You’re around these people every day and they’re not evil, they’re not monsters, but everybody has their flaws, you feel me? It was that and just the environment I was in, the school I was going to, the people that lived in my neighborhood and my complexes and everything. Visiting here and there, my family on this side, my other family on this side. All that is molded into one thing that affects my soul and even everybody else, their souls too.

I’m still unpacking it as we speak. Different environments, just living in Mississippi and staying in Memphis a lot and staying in Chicago, all that is just a damn road trip of shit basically.

It’s hard being on the road as a kid.

LOS KEMET: Man, it is. It’s really difficult.

You have to get to a place where you are comfortable being that vulnerable and having people know that about you. Does that take a little while?

LOS KEMET: Yeah, for sure. Because I feel like it’s a certain narrative that could be attached to you as a person. So it could be surprising to some people. Once I became self-aware and knew that this was something that I could actually share and possibly help other people with, it became easier. I’m just putting out the truth because it needs to be done. It’s a sense of relief off of my back and my heart by doing that as well.

What made you want to record the new album in New York?

LOS KEMET: My managers. We were talking about after My Love is Crack, I was telling them, no way I’m going to record another project in my home studio. I want to be in an actual studio. I’m very thankful that I did it in New York, man because I needed that experience. I needed it.

When you’re recording a record in New York, does that seep into it too? Do you start getting a little bit of the East Coast vibe? Or do you still mostly stick to your roots and your Southern rap?

LOS KEMET: I stick to it, man. I can’t help. It’s who I am. I know I’m in New York City, but this is where I’m from, man. This is a hundred percent me. It actually just made me dive deeper into representing where I’m from.I brought the South to Brooklyn and Bushwick for a few days.

Do you remember some of the records that you studied as pinnacles of good sequence albums?

LOS KEMET: Hell yeah. good kid, m.A.A.d city easily number one. Ready to Die. The classics.

What has been the most gratifying part of putting out Got Drunk For The Most High?

LOS KEMET: Any time someone DMs me or comes up to me telling me how much the album affects them, it pushes me. I know that I’m making somebody feel something. It amplifies a certain feeling in them. That means everything to me.

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