DETROIT – Ahead of the Mack & Third Live: Call to Service event this Sunday, Local 4 took a walk down memory lane with recording artist, and event founder, KEM.
KEM was a privileged child who grew up in the metro Detroit suburbs with two college educated parents. He went from a teen battling drug and alcohol addiction and incarceration, to rehabilitation and music stardom, with a mission to give back.
Motwon recording artist KEM gained national acclaim with Grammy and Soul Train award nominations, and three successful albums that sold millions worldwide.
"It's a miracle. My life is a miracle. There's moments when I have to pinch myself," KEM said.
To truly understand what a miracle it is we took a walk through the city of Detroit's Cass Corridor homeless community, where he once lived.
"I think the thing that comes first to mind is the line that I used to wait in to get here to have a meal at night," KEM said.
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, where he stood signing autographs, it was far different 22 years ago.
"I didn't graduate from high school. I was meandering through life," KEM said. "A full blown alcohol and drug addiction, 17, 18 years old I had to have a drink in the morning in order to function. I didn't have a drink, I'd have the shakes. My addiction had lad me to burn all my bridges. It's a traumatic experience. Things began to change when I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. The 23rd of 1990 was the date of my last drink. I was sleeping on the riverfront outside."
KEM had lost everything except music.
"It gave me hope. It gave me something to reach for, so it was always a part of my life. Even homeless at the rescue mission they used to have to throw me off the piano," said KEM.
"I knew he had an abundance of talent and I couldn't understand why he was where he was. Couldn't understand why I was there either," said Cedric Ross, KEM's personal assistant.
The unusual pair met at a treatment center. Now Ross is KEM's personal assistant and closest confidant
"All I saw was pain on his face. I looked at his flip flops, Oakland County Jail flip flops. I'm proud of the man that he's become, the business man especially the father," said Ross.
"My daughters are beautiful smart intelligent and I love them," KEM said.
He also loves Detroit. He says his success is not just for him and his girls.
"It is a place where you can rest, you can heal," KEM said.
It's also for Detroit's homeless community.
Mack & Third is his annual concerts and food drive at Cass Park benefiting local homeless agencies. Through his journey and his music KEM wants to spread support, encouragement, hope and inspiration
"No matter what you are going through in your life, there is a way to overcome, to be victorious in life," KEM said.
KEM will host the Mack & Third all-day concerts and food drive this Sunday at Cass Park. Last year 52,000 people attended and 100,000 can goods were collected. The five hour concert includes performances by KEM, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and many more. The concerts are free, with a suggested donation.