UK spoken word artist Kate Tempest traces the roots of life, civilization on the mystical "Holy Elixir."

Hip-hop gives voice to ordinary people, speaking dreams and desires in riddim and rhyme. Born from street corners, city parks, MCs are sorcerers, spelling out the speed of life and death, spitting sex, death, and love over hypnotic beats. The violence, the yearning, the eyes cast to the skies of the everyday struggle are today's epic poetry, with rappers playing the part of cosmic bards.

UK hip-hop is a much different beast than its American cousin. While American rappers tend to content themselves with chasing booty and bling, UK hip-hop tends to be a much artier affair. Perhaps it's the poshness of their accent or the fact that hip-hop has to travel 2000 miles over the Atlantic to get there, but English rappers take hip-hop seriously. They're aware of the incantatory power of rhythmic words, the unlimited potential of sampling and electronic music. Hip-hop can truly be anything. Why should it limit itself to a generic, holographic 'urban' experience?

UK spoken word artist/playwright Kate Tempest shows the truly metaphysical potential of words paired with beats and hissing electronics on "Holy Elixir." The lyrics read more like an anthropological text written by William Blake than a hip-hop banger. Tempest traces the earliest tracks and traces of Humanity, crawling out of the caves, over a simple, skeletal beat. "Our songs were spells," she intones, "and our spells were straight facts."

"That's when she told me/I was Holy Elixir," she continues, and she's dead right. With such heavy, conceptual fare, Tempest's latest single would go down like the Hindenburg with even the slightest misstep. Even the slightest stutter would defang the momentum, leaving the beatific poetry cheesy and lumpen. It is to Tempest's credit that she does not falter - never dropping a beat, missing a step. She becomes sorceress, a poet of particle physics but with an emotional subtext. This is poetry, after all. She shows the beating red heart of the World, of Humanity, staring wide-eyed at the whirling cosmos.

Listen to "Holy Elixir," and be reminded of the miracle of existence. It is, as Jeff Mangum reminds us, so strange to be anything at all, let alone be able to notice what's going on, or give language to the panoply.



We Are: The Guard cannot wait to hear The Books of Traps and Lessons on June 14th!


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.