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R&B Artist Kem Returns With Melodies Unspoken

R&B singer Kem Owens, known simply as Kem, says he makes music for more than money or entertainment. The Detroit native, whose third album Intimacy is out now, says his work is a "testimony."

"My faith is my foundation," he says.

In his latest album, Kem uses his silky voice and jazzy melodies to testify about love.

"I came to a place in my life where 'Mr. Love calls' thought he knew everything there was to be known about being in a relationship," Kem says. "I realized I had only been scratching the surface."

In Share My Life, the second single on Intimacy, Kem puts his experience into practice, delivering a classic and decidedly respectful love song: "You're my weakness, Changed my world, Share my life, Trust in me, You're all I want."

It may seem a departure from the hyper-sexualized lyrics of some of Kem's male R&B and hip-hop contemporaries. Kem says that's because men aren't being taught to say the kinds of things women need to hear.

"One of the purposes I hope my music serves," he explains, "is saying things that men either can't say, don't know how to say or aren't willing to say."

Kem also talks about his struggle with alcoholism and drug abuse. With 20 years of sobriety, he reflects on his experience being homeless and destitute on the streets of Detroit.

The soul singer makes a point to open up about his "dark night of the soul" on the stage, with the hope of encouraging others to lift themselves up from their own misery.

"Drugs and alcohol became my best friend," he says, "and I don't regret a day."

Credits

Produced by Heather Murphy; Edited by Michael Katzif; John Poole, Heather Murphy, Michael Katzif, Mito Habe-Evans, Wayne Huang (cameras); Audio by Neil Tevault/NPR

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.