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Preview: Kate Tempest

The London artist comes to One Eyed Jacks June 1


The talents required to write a great verse and to recite one are not necessarily related; if they were, all poets would be MCs and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony would own multiple Pulitzer Prizes. The intersection is spoken word, a medium given to self-indulgent slam parody but also to occasional revelation. Kate Tempest, a 29-year-old South Londoner, is an award-winning poet, a former teenage battle rapper, a soon-to-be novelist and, with her May debut LP Everybody Down (Big Dada), the omniscient narrator of a set of intertwined vignettes: small, grimy night moves made grand by the storyteller's casual mastery of urban English vernacular and unsettling, subtly mutating production by Dan Carey (Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Bat For Lashes). In Tempest's world, everything — sex, drugs, fame, rage — is a transaction with a cost its characters often can't afford. Opener "Marshall Law" introduces the two principals, Becky and Harry, in a botched bar pickup, and as Tempest unpacks their issues in varying pitches, Carey gives each perspective its own sonic persona to match, beats and synths stuttering in contrast as a fascinating conversation. It's a brilliant bit of musical theater, and the lyrics gradually reveal Harry to be an aspiring dealer ("I sell in the boardrooms, not the boozers / To, like, CEOs and modern-day Scrooges") and Becky a skilled hustler ("She's moved up to massage / She's happy, she's in charge"). When it clicks ("Lonely Daze," "The Heist"), Everybody Down makes good on one of Tempest's best digs, a diss sharpened into a shiv: "Instead of rotting our guts out in shitty old boozers / We can be grown men, listening to music / Real music, played with heart by real bands / Not just posers looking like they're giving blow jobs to mic stands." Tickets $10. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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