Release Date: May 20, 2014
Record label: Big Dada
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
Kate Tempest is 27 years old, a poet from Brockley, south London, and recipient of the Ted Hughes Award for her 2012 piece Brand New Ancients. But that’s just the half of it. She left school with no A-levels, hung out in squats, sung in bands, and her voice itself is hardly plummy: one of those 21st-century London accents comparable to Jamie T or Micachu, a seen-it-all drawl dotted with street slang and glottal stops that sounds one minute like it might mug you on the top deck of the 171 bus, and the next like it might crumble under the cracks of emotion.As a performance poet, Tempest is good, in a sort of ‘on before Robin Ince in the Latitude literary tent’ kind of way.
Long before she won the Ted Hughes award for poetry last year, south Londoner Kate Tempest was a veteran of open-mic nights. She's returned to hip-hop for her debut album; uncluttered production is courtesy of the versatile Dan "Mr Dan" Carey (Bat for Lashes, Franz Ferdinand). An arts prize judging panel might call Everybody Down a song cycle, but really it's an urgent hip-hop record in which flawed but hopeful characters – international relations graduates, lowlifes, lovers – stumble into dramas.
Not everyone who saw this 27-year-old's spoken-word theatre show Brand New Ancients (for which she became the youngest-ever winner of the Ted Hughes prize) will be excited by the poet's venture into hip-hop. Likewise, there are hip-hop fans already dismissing the idea of a former Brit-schooler trying her hand at MCing, no matter that Tempest spent her teenage years on the battle-rap circuit. Forget genre, though, and this unique album has much going for it.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There's an abrupt start and we've landed in the middle of a wrap party for some (presumably) East London hipster band. Over by the bar the Nathan Barley-esque Marshall Law is "wanking on about his artwork". Amidst the posers and hangers on two people meet for the first time - Becky, the cynical student who danced in the video and Harry, a shy guy who after a few drinks finds himself detailing all of his future plans to this girl who is looking for a quick exit.
Ahead of this year's Mercury prize, DiS in partnership with Naim Audio's new wireless music system, mu-so, will help you GoDeeper into 2014's nominated albums. Today, we would like to turn your attention to the fantastic debut album by musician, rapper, poet and other "stuff" Kate Tempest, with a review of her debut album, which we didn't write about back when it was originally released. Visit our Mercury mini-site for more coverage of all of this year's nominees.
Frankly, it’s strange that more poets – specifically performance poets – don’t make the jump from spoken word recitals to full-blown rap. The rhythm’s there, as an inherent core element of the art, and the calculated-like-a-serial-killer lexicographical selections point them at a the Wu-Tang-ier end of this chart. Renowned in poetic circles already (winner of last year’s Ted Hughes Award), Brockley’s Kate Tempest – former “wayward youth” and BRIT School alum – is launching into the realms of hip-hop with her debut record, Everybody Down.
Going against the grain is a dangerous art, at least presently. For the nonconformist musician brave enough to buck trendiness, the path can be a difficult and lonely one. On Everybody Down, British spoken word artist and MC Kate Tempest delivers an ambitious album that eschews the traditional confines of rap. Sure, Everybody Down features some hip-hop cues—namely hooks—but the effort is ultimately unorthodox.
Kate Tempest — Everybody Down (Big Dada)In the early 1990s, it was hard to throw a stone in a big city and not hit a spoken word or slam poet. As annoying as these artists could be (the movement seemed to draw out the whiners of society), the aim was intelligence, virtuosity and the power of storytelling. Minus the irritation, major award-winning, lecture circuitSouth-East London poet and playwright Kate Tempest– someone who cites everyone from (MF) DOOM to Yeats as influences – works in this spirit.
“Will pop ever become political again?” screams The Guardian in just the latest of a long line of articles lamenting the dearth of 21st-century protest music, of pop-cultural responses to a point in time that’s seething with issues, from widening inequality to resurgent fundamentalism, extraterritorial land-grabs to the breakdown of democracy. And sure, a cursory glance through the Top 40, through the iTunes chart or Spotify’s most-played attests to a pretty dismal lack of social awareness, with the thematic field pretty much ranging from heavy-breathing sex-offender lustiness to dopey, saccharine idealisms of love, with Pharrell Williams’ moronic optimism somewhere in the middle. Pharrell.