A Nashville-born, Detroit-based singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, Kem (born Kim Owens) overcame homelessness and addiction to become one of the most popular adult contemporary R&B artists of the 2000s and early 2010s. Known for his warm, mellow, and positive sound, the Grammy-nominated artist carried on the tradition of the quiet storm radio format — exemplified by the likes of Smokey Robinson, the Isley Brothers, and Anita Baker — with a steady supply of romantic and introspective ballads.
Kem funded the recording of his self-released debut, Kemistry, by working as a waiter and as a singer in a wedding band. After he sold 10,000 copies, the disc was picked up by Motown for nationwide release in February 2003. The album eventually reached the Top 20 of the Top Hip-Hop/R&B Albums chart. Its follow-up, Album II, came out in May 2005. Like its predecessor, it reached gold status; it sold over 500,000 copies in the U.S. For a few years, Kem was less active as a recording artist, though he did appear on the fourth volume in Guru's Jazzmatazz series.
Kem's third album for Motown, titled Intimacy, was issued in August 2010, debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, and went gold as well; the single "Why Would You Say" was nominated for Grammy awards in the categories of Best R&B Male Performance and Best R&B Song. A holiday album, What Christmas Means, came in 2012. The following year, Ronald Isley's This Song Is for You was released, highlighted by "My Favorite Thing," a song Kem wrote and produced. Promise to Love, his fourth proper album of reliably smooth, gently uplifting material, arrived in August 2014. ~ Andy Kellman