By Carlos Cervantes
Almost late for Black history month, but here it is. Kemistry: one of the seminal figures in the drum and bass scene, a legend and pioneer in a field dominated by men.
Kemistry emerged as a superstar in the UK Drum and Bass scene during the 90s. Native to Birmingham, England, Valerie “Kemi” Olusanya was born to a Nigerian family in 1963. Her introduction to the underground rave scene via a friend in the early 90s was formative, both for Kemistry and for the UK rave scene.
She moved in with her longtime friend Jane Coneely (aka Storm) in London. The two connected musically. At that time both were studying and working unfulfilling jobs, Storm was radiologist and Kemistry a makeup artist, the rave scene and music would provide that much needed satisfaction. Weekend Rage raves became routinary for the two: from Thursday to Saturday. These weekend Rage raves were home to resident rave revolution DJs: here DJs played techno, dark breakbeat, and hardcore, the foundations for the emerging drum and bass scene.
Afterward, Kemistry would emulate these weekend sounds with Storm and her then boyfriend, Goldie. They bounced ideas off one another, aired their work on pirate radio and released several small projects, homing and mastering their art in the process. In 1994, the three founded the Metalheadz label –in effect they constructed a space between genres for what would become Jungle and Drum and Bass, the start of these genres. Kemistry and Storm became a DJ duo.
Their label’s 1995 release Timeless brought drum and bass into the mainstream. At that same time Kemistry along with Storm forged their reputation as resident DJs. They soon began to DJ in the US, Japan, and all over Europe. A couple years later, in 1999, the duo got their own wide release on the DJ Kicks album series, one of the most heralded DJ mix series for DJs. Their Dj-Kicks: Kemistry and Storm was one of the first albums by a black woman to reach that level of recognition. Her methods and achievements make her a true pioneer.
That same year, in April, Kemistry would become involved in a fatal car accident. She passed away on April 25, 1999 at 35 years of age.
Metalheadz would go on to become one of the most important labels in Drum and Bass music. Storm would go on to international stardom. Kemistry would become a legend in the Drum and Bass and Jungle scene.
Some of her work: