(Dorian Lynskey’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/23.)
The day after I meet the rapper Kate Tempest she sends me a long, eloquent email explaining her strange mood during the interview. It all started with the appearance of her remarkable debut album, Everybody Down, on the Mercury music prize shortlist last month. She was flattered, of course, but also surprised. When I say the bookies had her pegged as the favourite weeks in advance, she shakes her head, baffled. “I don’t know how they managed to think that was a likelihood.”
Tempest is no stranger to acclaim. Her 2012 “spoken story” Brand New Ancients won the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry. Her debut play Wasted was praised as “electrifying” and “ingenious”. She has just been named a Next Generation poet by the Poetry Book Society. But poetry and theatre are small, secluded worlds compared to the floodlit arena of pop. After the Mercury announcement, she was suddenly semi-famous, the subject of newspaper profiles and online comments, and “it spun me out”.