An Intro To Mercury-Nominated Rap And Poetry Ace Kate Tempest

Chris Lockie
By Chris Lockie Last edited 47 months ago
An Intro To Mercury-Nominated Rap And Poetry Ace Kate Tempest

Image courtesy of The Queen's Hall via Flickr

An important figure in the London arts scene has finally received the recognition she's deserved for a good long while. Kate Tempest, who grew up in Brockley and, as the national press has been making a point of today, began her journey practising rapping on various night buses across the city, has been rewarded with nods from two august bodies.

For her music, Tempest has been nominated for the Mercury Prize for the best UK and Irish album of the past 12 months, and instantly installed as third favourite behind Damon Albarn and Royal Blood. Her album, Everybody Down, is described by its record label Big Dada as 'the sound of a wet winter's night out in London', which is an interesting way to sell a record but sums up its twelve chapters of a complex story about the city pretty well.

Londonist can lay claim to tracking Kate's music career for some time, having attended the London leg of the Left Field in Motion tour her band, Sound of Rum, embarked on in 2011, supporting Billy Bragg. It was a brilliant performance (Billy was half decent too) and we're still patting ourselves on the back now for getting those tickets.

The second triumph for Tempest is to be named on a list of the brightest poetry talents in these isles, and at 27 she's the youngest chosen of the 20. This list is announced just once every 10 years by the Poetry Book Society, and previous names have included Simon Armitage, Alice Oswald and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Tempest's collection Brand New Ancients, based around the intertwining stories of two south London families across the generations, won the Ted Hughes Prize for Innovation in Poetry. See, she's good.

Quite the morning for Ms Tempest, then. And as Londonist's tribute we thought we'd line up a few of her many impressive pieces of work, as an intro for anyone isolated enough from the culture of London not to have heard her stuff.

The aforementioned Sound of Rum was Kate's first musical project, a band comprised of an astounding new rap talent backed by some solid musicianship. Their album, Balance, was released in 2011 and included this fine track, Best Intentions.

Kate has recorded some of the songs from Balance as spoken word poetry pieces, bringing together the two strands of her art. One of those is Icarus, which you can hear below.

Her album from this year, Everybody Down, is a remarkable blend of rap and poetry. A snippet of the track below, The Beigeness, was played on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, which must have had a few grey hairs standing on end — excellent, as is the track itself.

Tempest is not just a fine wordsmith, but an enigmatic performer. At the Leeds Festival this year she performed the track Happy End (also from Everybody Down) in what's described as a 'backstage pub', and you can check out that blistering performance below.

And finally, some extraordinary poetry from the Brand New Ancients collection, performed at the Battersea Arts Centre last year as part of a collaboration between the artist and venue.

Londonist heartily congratulates Kate on her poetry list success and wishes her the best of luck with the Mercury Prize, the winner of which is announced on 30 October. She is playing at the Village Underground in November but the show is already sold out so it'll likely be bigger venues you'll have to catch her at now. In the meantime, we recommend you check out her work, collected together with purchase links on one handy page of her website.

Last Updated 11 September 2014