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Aural Fix: Kate Tempest

Aural Fix: Kate Tempest


Kate Tempest takes her name from Shakespeare. It’s the storm, and it’s coming from a humble, young woman with an old soul. She RAPS POETRY. Her spoken-word stories are powerful, full of words about personal dynamics and politics, inspired by observations of her peers going through tough times in her home of South East London. It has brought her up as a prodigious poet and playwright. She has been associated with BBC, Yale University, and embraced by Royal Shakespeare Company. She’s also been the recipient of many literary awards, including being the youngest recipient of the Ted Hughes Award for Brand New Ancients, one of her several poetry books that is also a marvel set to music and film. Her latest publication, Hold Your Own, addresses a continually evolving life by parallelling with the mythical character of Tiresias.

Aside from poetry slams, or coffee shop style with piano and cello, her musical albums follow a classic style of hip hop and her delivery is a direct. Beats can be static, wavy, and heavy, with rising and falling electronics and soft loops. Her writing is in the forefront though, and it doesn’t take long to get pulled into the sage realness she exudes. She has an eye and ear for life’s discrepancies. Stories of PTSD on “War Music,” or the hardships of characters on the inter-correlating songs of 2014’s Everybody Down. Many songs on the album are connected, telling stories about the sad lives of a few protagonists, particularly through a girl named Becky–her nights, her sketchy decisions, her “wages are fucked and rent is outrageous.” It’s a sad and sensitive narrative, but Tempest is a transcendent activist. She is an advocate, dark and inspiring at the same time, and trying to pick up the peoples’ point of view. It’s the kind of dynamic that leaves you a bit stunned, and makes one wonder about the contrast of rap music and iambic pentameter, or how Shakespeare, Joyce, or Bukowski may have heard their works inside their heads. »

Kate Tempest plays the Doug Fir Lounge 5/22, click here for tickets.

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– Brandy Crowe