An undefinable and unchartered energy blasts from Kate Tempest’s work. Her attitude of ‘no frills, no fuss’ makes for a refreshing break from today’s pop culture and boring boy bands. Simply reading her work is enough to feel the sincerity of her words; her eagerness to understand the people around her is infectious. But her real power comes from performance; almost threatening in her tone, she rhythmically beats out sentences she is literally bursting to say aloud.
In a recent interview Kate said, “In these surface days of a digital world, when we’re judged on the number of clicks or likes or followers, the direct human communication of raw humanity is so important.” It is this very rawness, a stripped back version of things, that makes her work so unique and admirable. Her work is not inspired by any kind of modern artist, but has what seems lost to most of them: humanity’s rich history. For example her rap poem, My Shakespeare, re-establishes how important his work still is and demonstrates how easy it is to share your thoughts and experiences. You don’t need a polished voice or a charming guitar, just an attitude and an opinion.
Kate’s collection of poems, Everything Speaks In Its Own Way, is magnetic. The forceful emotion in every line captures and then magnifies feelings of insecurity and elation, bitterness and understanding as she seeks to prove ‘We’re not flesh, we’re all energy.’ Her work isn’t about grammar and isn’t about preaching right and wrong; it’s original, set within her own personal story, which she shares in the hope that others will do the same.
From her poems and raps it becomes clear that a lot of her experiences are influenced by her home in East London. In her piece, Live and Die, she says ‘I’m every inch this cityscape’, declaring her belonging and understanding of a city which offers so much, but can also take so much. Her poems aren’t directed at people living within London; they’re directed at anyone who interacts with their surroundings, anyone who seeks to experience them. Being such a unique place, St Andrews offers up so much to interact with. The bitingly cold winds hurling onto the shoreline seem just as daunting to me as the ‘cannibal kids’ Kate talks about.
Kate Tempest isn’t driven by fame but without trying to she has drawn huge attraction to spoken word and performance poetry. Her newest album, Everybody Down, was produced by Dan Carey (who worked with Lily Allen). She has a six-figure book deal lined-up and performed at this year’s Latitude festival. Kate’s style is constantly changing and breaking the mold; Everybody Down has hip-hop influences, which brings in a whole new audience, whilst she maintains her powerful command of language. Kate Tempest is the best act I have seen this year and I urge you to experience her work and that of other performance poets.
See links below for videos of Kate’s performances:
My Shakespeare: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_auc2Z67OM
Cannibal Kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUEsihgq8zU
Everybody Down Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaNh4J7qghI&list=PLk9TyGRTzFNAugnVUyewTbnHInnllIcZ4
Other performance poets to check out:
Phil Kaye: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWj6tIaH5Fc
Katie Makkai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0