15 Jul 2014

Kate Tempest: Getting the word out

4:28 pm on 15 July 2014

British poet and rapper Kate Tempest is gay, female and white – a few things she was conscious of coming out of South East London as an "angry" sounding 16-years-old rapper.

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Photo: Unknown

More than 10 years later, with the release of her recent album, Everybody Down she says "Rap is a literary form for me, it's as important as poetry, as playwriting, as novel writing but it's very different."

“Being a woman for one thing people expect you to have a particular set of concerns and if your concerns are deeper than those that they expect you to have — it can be intimidating.”

When I started out rapping I looked about 10-years-old and people would be like who is this child, what is she doing in here, she says. “I think people were afraid of me…and also being gay, it's a very homophobic scene.”  

Everybody Down is a densely packed story of a group of characters dealing with drugs, crime and love - she's also due to release her debut novel next year.

“It's been an amazing experience working with an editor and he's been teaching me that the page isn't just a limitation and there are things you can do that the stage can't do.

“The stage has a lot to learn from the page and the page has got a lot to learn from the stage but the thing is, I think it's important to notice, that for me they're equal. And I think that's what's wrong is people can't respect how complex it is to write a rap.

“A rap has got as many rules if not more as a sonnet or whatever else like a poetic form. But these rules, they're learnt rules. You have to be involved in the culture, you have to be listening to hip hop...if you don't adhere to rules of flow, your raps going to be rubbish.”

LISTEN to Kirsten Johnstone's full interview with Kate Tempest: