From time to time, the monolithic American hip-hop culture has to go overseas to find solid stalwarts and medicinal answers to cure it of its party-hearty, crime-romanticizing, money-obsessed stupor. That is the case now, and it has found a savior in South London’s poet, playwright, novelist and emcee Kate Tempest (Kate Calvert). The award-winning author of Wasted, Hold Your Own and Brand New Ancients among other works, Kate released her first album, Everybody Down, in 2014 on Big Dada and instantly received critical praise for her poetically rich storytelling on modern day disillusionment in the youth over the riding tech-grooves of producer Dan Carey. In a similar vein but with a firmer handle on her style and method, the Kate Tempest of today is still highly critical of institutional plagues yet brilliant in her rhyme writing and ability to connect with people through her development of characters in Let Them Eat Chaos, her new second LP (Oct 7, Lex Records).
In Let Them Eat Chaos, Kate’s songs are inspired by seven struggling commoners she tells the stories of at intervals throughout the album, and although their problems seem to persist without end, their paths come together for the better at the end. The LP rebelliously rails against the establishment but also touches and warms the heart with its wholesome remedies. From a bright beautiful look at earth from the faraway darkness of space in “Picture A Vacuum,” Kate zooms-in our view of the world to a bleaker scene on the ground. After we meet Kate’s first two characters, the grizzled Esther and the used up Gemma, on a virtual tour through their London street, we come to “Europe Is Lost,” a hip-hop dish with a thousand ingredients and a slap in the face of the First World. Over a catchy plucking of mechanical strings, Kate dives right into advanced society’s issues with apathy, ignorance and complacency, the problem of comfortable free world citizens turning a blind eye to the destruction of foreign civilizations and lands, affluent privileged people taught to ignore the outside world and only serve the super rich, high powered business community pushing gentrification and other evils. Kate conveys our same feelings of listlessness, boredom and frustration with the ill setup of work and play that has been for ages. She easily admits that we’re busying ourselves with all the wrong things.
In line with the album’s theme of people and community, Kate describes the sense of connection there should be from one generation to the next in “We Die” rapping, “the point of life is to live love if you can then pass it on.” The light fun “Whoops,” where we meet hot mess Pete, whirlwinds through the random disarrayed thoughts and flighty predicaments of his situation, and it’s clear from “Brew” that he nor earlier character Alicia is privy to the ominous force approaching their neighborhood. “Don’t Fall In” proceeds cautiously but also heroically as Kate flows seamlessly with her creative wordplay showcasing countless fantastic lines – “you were so focused on your own little part that you went on plumbing through the dark, no heart,” “you’re part of a people that need your support and whose world is it if it belongs to these corporates?”
“Pictures On A Screen” introduces us to the sleepless, overburdened yupster Bradley and paints a sad portrait of not feeling or living the full experience of life due to being controlled by the elite-designed status quo. The drifting, trend-taking materialist/hoarder Zoey enters in the softly sung, prophetically rapped “Perfect Coffee,” and Pius, in trouble in love, goes back and forth with her gal in “Grubby.” After Kate sets this maleficent seven in motion, she crosses their paths, as they come together in the climactic “Breaks” (the bittersweet truth is that it’s because of a disaster that they’ve been summoned into a union, a whole, a spectacular sum of parts). It doesn’t end there thank goodness because if it did, L.T.E.C. would finish much too abruptly and seem incomplete, so in “Tunnel Vision,” Kate gives us the gift of priceless parting words. Everlasting lines like “We’re minuscule molecules that make up one body” and “the myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost and pitiful” will help you find hope in something other than a computer or TV screen for a change. Fittingly, we’re given closure in Kate’s final passage, “I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more.”
Kate Tempest knows that loving togetherness is the key to success because she sees that people are separated from one another, atomized, and this here-and-now is clearly not working. She cherishes good health and cohesive, coalescent communion, not conflict or division. Kate regrets the ravages of war her homeland has been a part of bringing about, but she digresses and optimistically shares that if we get together we can change the current system, that it IS in our hands if we band together. Kate Tempest is absolutely selfless here, caring and concerned. Those traits are so uncommon in a lot of rap today, mostly in the mainstream, that it’s simply wonderful to hear them in Let Them Eat Chaos. With her unique rapping and confidence in her vocals, she rides her beats nimbly, delivering her pressing poetic messages with the utmost grace. Head honcho on the boards Dan Carey again fulfills the music duties on the album for Kate, bringing his signatures plus some of the new. His throbbing low-key techno musics and contemporary harmonies mixed with alternative flourishes in conjunction with Kate’s verses make for a blissful, heavenly coupling. Lose yourself in the album for a while and then be prepared to rejoin society in a very positive way.
5 out of 5 stars