If you don’t know Rick Rubin or Kate Tempest, you really fucking should.
Rick’s the motherfucker that introduced Johnny Cash to the music of Nine Inch Nails and Run DMC to Aerosmith. He helped make the careers of such indie acts like LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, System of a Down, Jay-Z, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Queen. Hopefully, you recognize one of these small acts. He was the former co-prez of Columbia and is a co-founder of Def Jam Records. Love him or hate him, he is one of the most influential producers of all time. What you listen to, no matter what that fucking is, has been influenced by Rubin’s existence. He has single-handedly created and fights on one side of “the loudness wars”. The other side of this fight goes against over-compression and modern music becoming SO FUCKING LOUD. You know that moment after watching some chill show and the commercial hits you with a wall of sound like a missile launcher throwing out giant turds at Mach 27? That’s the sound of compression. It’s not actually louder, it’s just that all the highs and lows have been removed so now it hits with the force of a goddamn truck. Rubin hasn’t aced everything he has touched. Fuck no. He’s created some truly terrible albums. But when he throws down his talents alongside the English spoken word artist Kate Tempest, you’d better wake up and fucking listen.
This album’s not something to ignore. It’s huge. If Rubin’s the gun, Kate’s words at the bullets. Spoken word put through the Rubin compression will drill into your brain faster than a hummingbird can blink. So what does Kate do with this magnificent platform? She focuses her attention on Britain, social media, isolation, social anxiety, and a broken system more interested in watching someone fall than helping someone up. She focuses her attention on this and takes fucking aim. This album is a goddamn poetic masterpiece. Shit is a testament to the sad and lonely without being sad and lonely. Sure, it’s sappy at times. But it’s poetry: what the fuck do you expect? I had to pause this motherfucker a few times in order to take a breather. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that it’s got heft to it. Motherfucker’s got weight. With the stark instrumentation, crisp production, and Kate’s voice begging the audience to listen to a series of critiques about themselves, of course, this shit isn’t going to be feathery and light. But Kate isn’t trying to be cool or aloof. Because that’s not a poet’s fucking job.
If this was a piece of spoken word, I would critique it for being too heavy. But it’s not. There’s a reason this shit comes a pause button. When you feel your mind drift, when it’s taken on too much: press pause, take a breather, and reflect. Let those thoughts and feelings settle. It’s what Kate and Rubin fucking intended. Because you’ve got one of the greatest poets of this generation spreading thick fucking lines about the world at large alongside one of the greatest, and loudest, producers of all time. This shit will be claustrophobic. It will make you sweat. At times, you will be uncomfortable. That’s the fucking point. And it’s not a bad thing. Because stark truths are often uncomfortable. Coming face to face with how you contribute to the mass of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual garbage this modern world spews in torrents of cynical anger dressed as noble tweets and clicked dislikes, shit’s not going to be radio-friendly. But you’d better believe it’s going to be some great fucking art.