Philly rapper Khemist and drummer Anwar Marshall come together in acoustic performance on “It Don’t Get No Easier”

Khemist | still from video

Logan Valley rapper Khemist teamed up with fellow Philadelphian and jazz-schooled drummer Anwar Marshall for an impressive performance of “It Don’t Get No Easier,” another new track off Khemist’s forthcoming Khemtrails EP. The two fuse together strongly as Marshall’s complex rhythms match nicely to Khem’s intricate lyrical flow. Continue reading →


Khemist speaks up for struggling musicians with new single “I Been On A Budget”

Khemist | photo by Brian Freeman | courtesy of the artist

Many rappers today want to tell you about their wealth — the designer clothes, the luxury cars, the endless fountains of champagne. Not Khemist. This Philadelphia-based rapper and poet just released a new single called “I Been On a Budget” that exposes the difficult life of the starving artist. The song’s composition calls back to jazz rap of the early 1990s as defined by groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. A combination of bass, drums, and horns underscore Khemist’s verses and emphasizes that, while a musician’s struggle to make ends meet is not new, it still matters. Continue reading →


ILL DOOTS teams up with Khemist and Zeek Burse to reflect on objectification and othering in the new “Free” video

ILL DOOTS | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |
ILL DOOTS | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

Philly hip-hop collective ILL DOOTS released their self-titled LP last summer, and now they’re back with a video for “Free,” the album’s closing track. Local artists Zeek Burse and Khemist, who both contributed vocals on the track, join the ILL DOOTS crew for the video as well.

As bright and catchy as the song itself, the colorful video pairs the upbeat tone of “Free” with its more serious message — according to a statement from the band, “‘Free’ is a commentary on the commodification of black bodies, fetishization of poverty, gentrification, and being a person of color in a white world.” Continue reading →


Watch Philly MC Khemist’s powerful video “The Rain”

Philly MC Khemist is known for his riveting lyrics. A spoken word artist and musician, he began performing at age 14; he’s currently a student at Temple University. His music blends hip-hop and soulful beats, primarily focused on describing life of growing up in North Philly.

This week, he released a beautiful video for “The Rain.” It begins with a great verse rapped from the perspective of a poor, down on his luck man. From there, Khemist chronicles the effects of cocaine addiction as the man wanders from bars to shady street corners. Ultimately, it ends with Khemist visiting the grave of the man. Watch “The Rain” below.

The video is a part of the Khemist’s latest project Lornda & Poems, an album dedicated to the passing of his his grandmother, Lornda Pack. Other songs from the album are similarly hard-hitting, especially the somber, personal track, “They Shooting,” which relieves the daily struggles in the street.

Previously, the artist released Khemist x Aktive with DJ Active and DTWR Mixtape with Black Thought (of the Roots); both of these can be downloaded via Bandcamp.


The Week Ahead: Peter Bjorn & John, Girlpool, Center City Jazz Fest, Joan Osborne, and more

Jeff Bradshaw performs at Center City Jazz Fest 2018 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The annual Center City Jazz Fest is always one of our favorite days of the year, and if that’s all Philly had going on this week, we’d still be over the moon excited. But there are, as always, a variety of options, from heartfelt singer-songwriters to the Detroit band that arguably invented punk in the U.S. Here are 15 concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia.
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20 Years of Grandiose Hip-Hop: How Things Fall Apart taught The Roots to balance art, commerce, and deeply personal perspectives

The Roots, circa 1999

“We had given most of our adult lives to that point to the band. What if success never came to us, or never came in the form we expected? – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia in the mid-to-late 90s, radio was a really big deal. Guided by that old algorithm of the human spirit, a handful of radio shows and the DJs and personalities that captained them fed and diversified my ever-growing musical appetite, from J. Michael Harrison’s electric Jazz fusions on Temple’s The Bridge, to the quirky Indie Rock of the Sarah and Laurie Show from Princeton’s WPRB. I’d bounce off my bedroom walls to sounds of mainstream Alternative Rock on Y-100 and fall asleep to the ambient soundscapes of John Diliberto’s Echoes and Chuck Van Zyl’s Star’s End on WXPN.

Like many kids, I’d often call into radio stations and request whatever songs I wanted to hear. Unlike most kids, the budding archivist in me would compel me to press record on my combination radio / cassette deck each time one of my request calls made it on air or my name was shouted out by a show’s host. By the time I graduated high school and I had filled up a tape of my radio mentions and shout outs.

One night, a new song by Philadelphia’s own The Roots had come across the airwaves and floored me. Slick and modern, the song fused lovelorn verses from Black Thought and a pre-fame / pre-Ruff Ryders Eve with a killer hook sung by Erykah Badu (and written by Jill Scott). Two bars into the song’s final chorus, the plodding, straight-forward drum beat that Questlove had held lockstep for the entire song transformed into something altogether different. Continue reading →


ILL DOOTS and friends will celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Roots’ Things Fall Apart at World Cafe Live

The Roots’ Things Fall Apart | via Okayplayer

Philadelphia hip-hop heroes The Roots broke new ground on February 23, 1999, with the release of their album Things Fall Apart. It was the album that produced their highest-charting Billboard hit at that point (“You Got Me”), it was the album that solidified their tastemaker status (the record introduced names like Eve and Jill Scott to wide audiences), and it was an album born of the intense creativity of the Soulquarian music community (featuring collabs with D’Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, and Mos Def).

Twenty years later, this February 23, a new generation of Philly hip-hop peers will pay tribute to this landmark record with a show downstairs at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →


Inside Fishtown’s Watts Studio with budding production duo DYAD

Khemist and friends in Watts Studio with DYAD | via


ˈdīad/ noun technical

  1. something that consists of two elements or parts.

Seated in the spacious control room of Watts Studios located on the second floor of a unassuming Warehouse Space in near Front & Girard, producer/engineer Micah Forsyth cracks jokes with Anwar Marshall, a fellow producer, arranger and his musical partner in DYAD. Marshall, who also plays in the magnificent Philly Jazz Ensemble Fresh Cut Orchestra, crack jokes and casually discuss the work of Nigerian afro-beat pioneer, Fela Kuti. As a small crew of musicians filter into the space greeting the duo, Forsyth plays a rough demo recorded on Marshall’s phone. The voicemail is a recording of rapper and multi-Instrumentalist Khemist strumming a few chords on acoustic guitar.

Marshall recalls the recording excitedly: “As soon as I heard him playing that, I had to record it!” After laying down a drum track that references the complex, polyrhythmic pulse of legendary Fela drummer Tony Allen, Marshall finds his way over to a small keyboard in the corner of the control room and begins plucking out chords and incomplete riffs. Building on the energy of the track, the crew adds a sleek, live horn section and hip, peacocking bassline. As the tune begins to take on a life of its own, Khemist idles around the room, listening. The tune they are working on is for his upcoming solo project and it is clear that he is gearing up to put his stamp on the track. Forsyth asks “you got something?” Khemist nods and makes his way into the booth. In no time he lays down two verses and a slick, Latin inspired hook for the song. Slowly but surely, what started out as a rough demo is blossoming into an elaborate, fully formed piece of music. In the midst of the jokes and easy-going chats lies a serious sense of traditional musical craftsmanship met with modern creativity to make magic possible, even on a random Thursday afternoon in North Philly.

With a sound that fuses hip-hop and soul with tasteful, jazz-informed arrangements, DYAD bring to mind a modern update of 70s jazz-funk pioneers The Mizell Brothers or Steely Dan if Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had been born in the hip-hop generation. Over the past couple years, the duo has been making serious inroads in the city’s music scene, producing tunes for a host of artists including The Bul Bey, Elle Morris and their standout work on STS’ (aka Sugar Tongue Slim) recent Ladies Night project. Continue reading →


Essential Listening: The debut compilation from hip-hop production collective Plush Lords

Emerging hiphop production crew Plush Lords features Margel The Sophant of Sëla, ARCKATRON (who’s collabed with Small Professor and Zilla Rocca) and DJ John Morrison (of Hip Hop Quizzo fame). They just released their debut compilation EP that was recorded over the summer of 2015 in collaboration with a lot of awesome Philly hip-hop folks: Khemist, Ai-Que, NoHeadliner and Ursula Rucker to name a few. Continue reading →