In America, narrative dance music is a bit of a rarity. It's a genre where the lyrics usually take a back seat to hitting rhythmic cues that are designed to make your ass move rather than engage your mind; where repetition in rhythms and words is more effective than trying to build structured tales. There are exceptions to this such as The Horrorist's “One Night in NYC”, or Machine's “There But for the Grace of God, There Go I”, but conventional wisdom would leave one guessing there probably aren't that many dance albums devoted to narrative.
Kate Tempest's first album Everybody Down is a dance narrative album, a novel you can dance to, a novel told through rap with shifting cadences working its way trough complex emotional arcs to present a vision of a young, working poor London. One with people with aspirations who are trying to take shortcuts in an economy that has forgotten them. One with people who are content to just try and get by, finding love and acceptance where they can. One with people who have given up and can't survive on their own. The characters move in and out of each others lives, connecting and breaking apart as everyone searches for “truth” and “love.”
Everybody Down is smart enough to know that not all truths are the same, and as such the perspectives shift and cadences alter as we move from character to character and situation to situation. The tale does pull back to provide a bit of third person omniscience at times (one of these tracks “The Beigeness” was chosen to be the single), and its here that we get the themes of the album. Love more, trust more. It's those that don't trust who end up in the worst situations by the “Happy End” of the album.
The production by Dan Carey is as shifty as the narrative moving ably from House to Grime to Pop to Breakbeat giving each song its own distinct sound while having enough links to strengthen the whole project into one thing.
Everybody Down is a very strong album which rewards the patient, those who will dig through and re-listen and re-examine and think about how it all fits together. It is another strong rap album in a year that does not lack for them. If your favorite rappers are the storytellers and then grab the lyric book and follow along with the stream.