Kai Alcé

There is a certain type of artist that transcends generational and artistic boundaries, that channels their experiences while simultaneously fostering an environment for others to thrive. Kai Alcé is a prime example, someone who witnessed the genesis of Detroit’s electronic musical landscape and strives to keep that spirit alive. For him it is imperative to pass on the lessons he has learned, to create a space where deep soulful vibes can reverberate while honoring the African Diaspora roots of dance music’s culture.

Being of Haitian descent laid the foundation for his musical ear starting with his childhood in Queens, New York. Some of his earliest musical influences included his mother’s penchant for soca music and the distinct Caribbean rhythms of his culture. An appreciation of jazz would be further guided by his father’s expanding audiophile home system. During the 1970s the kindling of hip-hop and the heyday of disco perked the ear of a young Kai while they were living in NYC. The Big Apple would remain a constant throughout his musical journey as the years went on, but it was the move to Michigan that ultimately shaped his artistic vision.

The Alcé family moved to Detroit in 1980, the start of the decade where techno would take formation. Kai was introduced to the “progressive” (the local term for the youth culture of early house/techno) world by his mentor and distant cousin Chez Damier. Chez, along with Alton Miller and George Baker, opened the acclaimed Music Institute where a teenage Kai worked the lights. This put him at the center of music history in the making as the Belleville Three and their contemporaries molded the techno template. Although only open for a year the club would be crucial to a generation of Detroit artists, particularly Kai who would champion its legacy for years to come.

Kai relocated to Atlanta to study psychology at Morehouse College, one of America’s historically black institutions of higher learning. Upon his arrival he noticed a lack of soulful dance options for nightlife in the city, many DJs were playing things like trance. As he entered his 20s he took it upon himself to bring more of the authentic house and techno flavor to his new home, playing at numerous clubs and bars in the metro area. Eventually, this led to DEEP, his aptly named game-changing decade-long Saturday night residency at local club MJQ. This party, in collaboration with partners Cullen Cole and DJ Kemit, would bring guests such as King Britt, Steve “Silk” Hurley, Peven Everett, Phil Asher and Joe Claussell.

As one of the pioneers of the burgeoning Southern house music scene, Kai was instrumental in establishing a connection between his new home and Detroit. Through his efforts, the likes of Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Alton Miller, Mike Huckaby(RIP), and Brett Dancer were brought to Atlanta for the first time. His direct influence can be felt in all aspects of Atlanta’s house music culture.

It is during the 2000s that Kai really sets his stride. 2002 saw the release of his first production, ‘The Kaizer EP’, on Brett Dancer’s seminal deep house label Track Mode. A few years later he would co-found the Labor Day weekend outdoor event House In The Park with DJ Ramon Rawsoul. With the addition of DJ Kemit and Salah Ananse to the roster it has exploded into a festival, the Atlanta Weekender. The event now has over 15,000 attendees with many traveling from around the world to partake in the revelries. 2008 would prove to be the defining year of Kai’s decade as it saw the creation of his label NDATL and the first edition of his annual Deep Detroit.

NDATL stands for the cities that Kai has called home and have played a role in his musical development: New York, Detroit, and Atlanta. The label and production company reflects the tone of each city in its input to the electronic music canon. It has not only been a vehicle for his own productions but a home for releases from contemporaries, personal heroes, and up-and-coming artists such as Javonntte, ED Nine & Roberta. Never one to be content with the status quo, Kai’s dedication to the underground combined with his warm demeanor has made him a mentor to young Atlanta-based artists such as Ash Lauryn, Stefan Ringer and Byron the Aquarius.

Kai's long-running party at The Sound Table, Distinctive, would act as a hub for house music over the last decade and put him in touch with the local youth. Concurrently it was his annual party back in Detroit that would become a Mecca for househeads. Deep Detroit is known for being one of the go-to events for Memorial Day weekend electronic music festival Movement. What started as a reunion party for the Music Institute has become a pilgrimage and right of passage where the devoted can purchase highly coveted, limited edition vinyl-only releases from the party’s musical guests.

Never one to stay static he has recently curated a limited run of 7” house tracks with DJ Spinna for BBE Music and even stepped into the world of fashion. Kai has always been known for his vibrant fashion, consistently being complimented on his stylish glasses that match his outfits. Years of people inquiring about obtaining similar spectacles has resulted in the boutique Kai Alcé Eyewear line. “The Kaizer” never stops moving. A love of life, mixed with his flair for originality, willingness to experiment and devotion to the dancefloor has cemented his place as a pillar in American dance music history. Whatever comes next from Mr. Alcé, you can be assured that it will be classy, soulful, fulfilling, and funky. Stay tuned because you never know what the man will have for you next!