Kate Tempest: rapping classics

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 21 November 2015

Kate Tempest is an award winning poet, playwright, musician and novelist who was the youngest person to win the Ted Hughes Award, for her epic narrative poem Brand New Ancients.

Her first full-length poetry collection Hold Your Own was published last year.

Tempest’s 2014 debut album, Everybody Down, was nominated for the UK's Mercury Music Prize, and her first novel, The Bricks That Built The Houses, will be published in 2016.

Photo of Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest Photo: supplied

Everybody Down is the story of three 20-somethings in London.

Tempest says making the album was an organic process, and that the album came to life as a story: ”my favourite hip hop records are a narrative”.

Hip hop is a form of music that can really challenge musicians and listeners, she says.

“I think people are hungry for something that’s a bit challenging and a bit involving.”

She says she hopes each piece, whether it be a play, a song or a collection of poems has a different meaning and compulsion behind it.

“But generally speaking there is a truth that I’m trying to tell, which is  my truth that I know and I feel about where we are at as a people and a society – a society that I feel myself a part of, which is a kind of sick society which is full of beautiful things.

“But it’s a troubling time for me, and for my peers I think.

“So I’m trying to create something that is very true. And the truer it is for the artist, the truer it can be for the people who hear it.”

Photo of Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest Photo: supplied

Tempest has, in the past been known to take a political stance. But says her role and focus is beyond politics now, and she despairs at the apathy and lack of empathy in society.

“For me the culture of the individual, the kid of myth of it,  is what has left us in such a state of despair and sickness and we’re so far away from each other, and it’s completely unnatural.”

She says the Paris shootings makes her realise “how far away from each other we are”.

And she says artists have traditionally been those who had a real role in society which was to speak with, and for, their communities.

“This was why you wrote poems or you walked around telling stories or you played music. It was to bring life to the things that everybody felt.”

Kate Tempest and her band will make their first visit to New Zealand in January 2016 for concerts in Wellington and Auckland.

She talks to Kim Hill about her art forms, and how she hopes it connects with people.