Nominated for 2014’s Mercury Prize, London poet Kate Tempest has been making waves with her fresh take on hip hop, Getintothis’ Chris Hughes finds himself mesmerised by her.
We predicted it was going to be a good ’un when it was announced that Kate Tempest was bringing her Mercury Prize-nominated hip hop lyrics to the intimate confines of The Kazimier.
Her album Everybody Down narrowly missed out on the top prize, but we were excited to hear how this 21st century odyssey of love, passion, loss and above all, the problems of the everyday people through whose eyes the story is told, would be brought to life. We weren’t to be disappointed.
When we arrive shortly before support act Loyle Carner takes to the stage, it’s already nearly full – a testament to Kate’s popularity, but also to the devotion to spoken word and poetry that the people of Liverpool have. Carner emerges sheepishly with best friend and collaborator Rebel Kleff, and thanks the crowd for coming before easing into a rap about missing his dad. The words are touching, and even more so when Carner explains after the song that his dad passed away last year – the shirt he wears draped around his shoulders was his favourite Manchester United Cantona shirt.
Footballing rivalries put aside for art, the crowd belt out a rendition of Ooh-Ah Cantona and Carner is visibly touched. It soon becomes apparent that much of the set is about family and the unique bond that we have with our own. This is the perfect warm-up for the headline act, and by now The Kazimier is packed out to capacity.
We take a place just to the side of the stage as Tempest’s band come down the famous backstage steps. Kate herself is absent as a long and brooding synth tone is joined by an eruption of hip hop beats from the two drummers.
When Tempest finally appears, sticking her head from behind the curtain and taking to the stage with a shy smile, the crowd go wild. All of her coyness is thrown out the window when she bursts into Marshall Law – the story of Becky and her free-bar meeting with a guy called Harry.
She delivers her lyrics in spoken word, though they are lifted far beyond just words with her impressive sense of melody and deliverance. Between songs, she implores the crowd to search for answers to the questions that our generation face – why is there hatred, debt and greed? Rather than being tedious, her humble and passionate words linger in the air, touching everybody in the room.
But, if anyone came here expecting a slow-burning sermon, they were very, very wrong. Tempest has a brilliant ability to make serious and thought-provoking subjects dance to slamming beats and this is no more apparent than with crowd favourite Circles. It’s one big party – the crowd bouncing along – and Kate, as animated as ever, struts across the stage with bow-wow backing vocals delivered from Anth Clarke.
Towards the end of an inspirational and high adrenaline-infused set, Kate refers back to her earlier plea – a search for answers.
“I reckon I’ve found the answer here tonight”, she proclaims “and that is less greed, more empathy”. The response to this is true to Liverpool – thunderous applause and cheering – Kate turns back to her band with a beaming smile.
Closing with a poem called Progress, Tempest’s supreme talent is evident, and despite missing out on the Mercury Prize this time, it can’t be long before she’s back in the reckoning for it again.
Photos by Getintothis’ Jazamin Sinclair