Why you should care

Because spitting game just got a whole hell of a lot cooler.

Kate Tempest is proof that looks can be deceiving. As she assumes her position on stage, the scraggly-haired, fair-skinned performer looks more like a shy schoolgirl than an accomplished rapper and poet. But then she speaks, and it’s immediately clear that she’s a force with which to be reckoned.

Tempest released her debut album, Everybody Down, in May, and the chatter has quickly been building. The artist’s ability to bring together the craft of poetry with the requisite edge of good hip-hop is a skill honed from countless hours reading William Blake and listening to Wu-Tang Clan and is evident in the lyrics on these 12 hard-hitting tracks.

On Everybody Down, each song is a chapter in the bigger story of rough-and-tumble life on South London’s city streets.

Tempest deals with social issues like crime, class and consumerism with the heft they deserve. You could say Tempest’s gritty plotlines of drug deals, sex workers and seedy dance clubs are the real-life contrast to Nicki Minaj’s glammed-up world of fancy cars, designer clothes and private jets. As she puts it in “Marshall Law,” “Everyone here is a human, even these pitiful pop stars.”

Beginner’s luck? Not quite. Tempest has proven since her days rapping to strangers on buses that she is the real deal. In the past two years alone, the artist has written three scripts (she received the Ted Hughes Award for innovation in poetry for her spoken-word play Brand New Ancients) and published a book of poetry. And she’s only 27.

On Everybody Down, produced by Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Hot Chip) for underground hip-hop label Big Dada, each song is a chapter in the bigger story of rough-and-tumble life on South London’s city streets, no doubt inspired in part by Tempest’s experiences growing up in the working-class neighborhood of Brockley.

She attributes her passion for language and rhythm to hip-hop, and tracks like “Lonely Daze” and “The Beigeness” are an expert blend of both. These are two songs you’ll play on repeat. A natural performer, Tempest also understands the importance of statement-making delivery. In “Chicken,” you might think you’re at a poetry slam until the last 30 seconds, when the song finally breaks into beat.

In “The Truth,” Tempest makes a simple but poignant statement that sums up who she is as an artist: “The world is the world, but it’s all how you see it.” After listening to this album, we say the world is Tempest’s oyster.

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