Five reasONs to love… Kate Tempest

Holding her own: Kate Tempest.

Holding her own: Kate Tempest.

Liz Breslin caught Kate Tempest‘s Auckland show at The King’s Arms recently. Here she shares five reasons to love the award-winning hip hop poet extraordinaire. 

1. Because she’s polarising and you’ve got to make up your own mind. 

Winner of the Ted Hughes Award, Mercury Prize nominee, and yet, in some circles, not a proper poet.  She’s hit out at writers who diss spoken word for not being worthy, reminding nay-sayers that performance is where poetry began: “Intellectual snobbery is rife in lots of artforms. What’s exciting about performance is it takes it back to an ancient time when it wasn’t about how clever, important or educated you were. It was about how well you could communicate.”

2. Because it’s just the start.

You like Everybody Down? You’ve got to read/listen to Hold Your Own, get hold of Brand New Ancients and put yourself on the wait list for her novel, The Bricks The House Built. All part of the same story. All told different ways.

3. Because her show is a mastery of freestyle and precision.

Kwake Bass on the electric drums, GEoRGiA smiling serenely on keyboard, the mixing guy discreetly mashing it up on the sidelines. It all looks so effortless and you can see Kate conducting from the front and it’s orchestrated but it’s free. The moments when her voice turns dark and multilevel as the bad dude in He-man or Cate Blanchett when she’s all possessed in Lord of the Rings, the subtlest of looping, all carried by the word.

4. Because you can see how much she worships the word.

With a small w. The confluence of sound and meaning is way more than sound and meaning. The rap cycle in Circles leaves you breathless. The tension and release of chorus and verse, the sure fire spitting about the state of the western world in Europe is Lost:

Massacres massacres massacres/new shoes
Ghettoised children murdered in broad daylight by those employed to protect them.
Live porn streamed to your pre-teens bedrooms.
Glass ceiling, no headroom. Half a generation live beneath the breadline.

Oh but it’s happy hour on the high street,
Friday night at last lads, my treat!

And it’s like church with a small c too, if church was a sweaty roomfull, eyes to the front, hearing their own truths in words so right that they couldn’t conceive on their own. Like communion. A communal thing.

5. Because, hug a stranger, and mean it.

Towards the end of the gig Kate did some straight talking about how assembling and listening and feeling together is like, an ancient thing. So at the culmination of Hold Your Own, it seemed only natural to hug another stranger from the front row, it was so real, pouring tears as we were. In a way, holding our own.

Get down with Kate Tempest. PHOTO: Karen Robinson for The Guardian.

Get down with Kate Tempest. PHOTO: Karen Robinson for The Guardian.

Catch Kate if you can… currently ON tour from Sydney to LeedsFor further support with previews, promotion, advertising, interviews, reviews and photography for your cool happenings and concepts, contact

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