Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos review

Kate Tempest_press_photo_2016_01_5404x3040For those who have been living without internet access for last three years, here’s a brief update on the state of the planet to put British rapper and spoken word artist Kate Tempest’s second album in context: the Earth is in a dire state. Rising divisions between rich and poor, and intolerance and miscommunication are everywhere. Meanwhile, the rise of big business continues, while the culture of the self quietly keeps the “modern revolution” – helpfully prophesised by voting-sceptic Russell Brand, among others – pacified.

Kate Tempest came to the attention of many in 2013 with her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, Everybody Down, an effecting concept album that focused on a young couple, their troubled relationship and hard-bitten city living. With her second album, Let Them Eat Chaos, Tempest has built on her experiences to produce a powerful reflection of life in Britain today, from the high-stakes city workers to the down-and-outs living on the breadline. Continue reading

Kojey Radical review – a night of uncompromising elation

Jazz Cafe, LondonKojey Radical, Jazz Cafe, by Aaron Lee, 01 (1920x1080)When a concert ends with the performer hopping down from the stage to dance with their fans, you know it’s been a big night. And this week has been particularly big for rising wordsmith, Kojey Radical. The poet and rapper received two MOBO Awards nominations, and his celebratory spirit was overflowing at his sold-out Jazz Café show. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Speech Debelle – Running

speech_debelle_breathe_ep_1200x675Corynne Elliot is Speech Debelle, a singer and spoken word artist from London. At the time of writing, I have only heard a handful of songs from this innovative wordsmith and winner of the 2009 Mercury Prize.

Since winning the auspicious British music award, Speech Debelle has repeatedly been discussed in a negative manner as an example of a recent artist who has not gone on to huge commercial success. In other words, favourable commentary about her is difficult to find – in the main, at least – unless you seek it out. That’s hardly fair. Especially because Speech Debelle is an artist of serious poise and verve, as this week’s chosen jam demonstrates. Continue reading

Barbican Young Poets showcase 2016 – in photos

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For the last eight years, poet, performer and teacher Jacob Sam-La Rose, has chosen a class of young people, aged 14 to 25, to take part in the Barbican’s poetry workshop series.

On Wednesday, March 23, the class of 2016 – who studied with Sam-La Rose and assistant tutor Rachel Long – showcased their work in front a live audience of family, friends and members of the UK spoken word community.

From meditations on loss, to unexpected tales of migration told through a brief history of vinegar, to thoughts on forgetting great ideas, and passages inspired by film imagery. What follows is a sample of the young poets who laid their hearts bare, lifted hopes and urged those present to think deeper about the world today. Continue reading

Best albums of 2015: honourable mentions

AOTY 2015 - Hon college: Shareefa Energy, Masayoshi Fujita, Wondaland, Tara Busch (1448x815)Where did 2015 go, ay? It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about my lofty ambitions to hear 150-plus albums this year, and pointing out the absurdity of that goal. Well, I managed to listen to a fair number of the albums on my original preview list, and I’ve soaked up an even greater number than last year. But still, with an ever-growing to-listen-to-list, I’ve been in a state of never-ending improbability to hear all of the records that have come into my orbit this year.

Still, here we are once again, after a year of trials and tribulations, hurt and pain, success stories and retirements, sorrows and separations, fading dreams and whispers of hope, quiet triumphs and steady commitments – and that’s just the news.

In the world of music, things have been as turbulent and trying as ever, while still being encouraged and unimaginably fruitful. They’ve been new streaming services, new business models, new artists and, of course, new albums. Once again, I’m here to offer my thoughts on latter, with the hope that you’ll discover a piece of music that makes your life that much brighter.

Saturday begins my annual albums of the year round-up in earnest, where I run down 50 albums I’ve heard this year and deem to be among the year’s best. But, starting this year, I’ve decided to precede my main list with a selection of honourable mentions.

This unranked appetiser, which includes albums, EPs, mixtapes and even a spoken word poetry piece, is a chance to recommend a shade more 2015 releases that are worth listening to. Continue reading

Reasoning with Self EP launch: Shareefa Energy and friends

D’Gaf, LondonGolden Blue and Shareefa Energy, D'Gaf, Jul 21, 2015, by Aaron Lee (1920x1080)To see spoken word poet, Shareefa Energy, and her performing friends is to witness a bountiful celebration of generosity and positivity. A celebration that smacks in the face of the continued tokenisation of women with agency in our society.

Shareefa launched her debut EP, called Reasoning with Self, at D’Gaf in Leyton, Tuesday evening, July 21, and to mark the occasion she organised her own spoken word poetry night with a guest line-up of all-female acts. What follows is simply a taste of what these eloquent sisters had to show. Continue reading

Nick Brewer review – precocious grime coated with heart

The Victoria, LondonJP Cooper and Nick Brewer, The Victoria, Dalston, May 11, 2015, by Aaron Lee, 01 (1920x1080)Grime tempered with clean-cut affection, that’s the music of 25-year-old Nick Brewer. You only need glance at the dissimilar band of artists that jam with him – Stormzy, Ruby Maze, George the Poet, Naomi Scott – to begin to see a vocalist who isn’t your typical grime artist. He likes to change things up, do a number for the ladies, maybe follow a rat-tat-tat cipher with some tweaked dance-hip-hop, or recite a poem. Continue reading

Hype your writers: spoken word excellence at SOAS University

Spoken word night, SOAS University, Apr 30, 2015, by Mohamed 'Mo Rhymes' Mohamed (599x337)Energised. That’s the way I am still feeling now, having returned from a spoken word poetry night at SOAS University, London. Hosted by poet, writer and teacher, JJ Bola, the evening (on April 30) was the final event in series that has grown far beyond what its organisers at the Decolonising Our Minds Society expected.

They’ve held events about “deconstructing social norms that are remnants of colonial thought” for last couple months, including a discussion with British-Jamaican filmmaker, Cecile Emeke, which had to be moved to a bigger venue because of sheer demand. The cosy chillout zone-cum-lecture space in SOAS’s main building was similarly packed for yesterday night’s parade of vibrant performances.

If I could show the sights, bring you the sounds and allow you to feel the exchange of energies at play that night, at Hype your writers like your rappers, with more than these simple words, I would. Videos were taken, but they’re never around when you need them and nor do they convey the full flavour in their 16:9 window frame. But, even without a poet roster or schedule sheet for this open mic night, I will try, right now, to give you a sense of what occurred. Continue reading