Grime-pop breakout star Tinie Tempah has two smash albums under his belt and, having postponed his Cardiff date just before Christmas, is going to have another crack at it in early April.
Although Tinie Tempah’s success in the British urban pop arena has much to do with his approachable, friendly demeanour, it’s hard to know exactly what a chat with him might bring. What if we don’t get on and the conversation is stilted? I’d heard him being interviewed before and he seemed very nice, but he was talking to Zane Lowe. I’m not Zane Lowe.
As it happens, at the other end of a phone Patrick Okogwu, known to just about everyone as Tinie, is relaxed and talkative. He’s doing the promo rounds for Demonstration, his second album and the follow-up to 2010’s smash hit Disc-Overy.
“I’d say it’s a different buzz,” says Tinie, asked what the feeling was like during the recording of Demonstration. “I have a confidence and self-assurance that I maybe didn’t have before, and a confidence in my sound to make the record I wanted to. You’ll hear live strings and electric guitars, lots of live drum fills, stuff you may not have heard much of on the first record. That’s what I set out to do, and I think I achieved that in the end.”
If you’ve listened to Demonstration, which came out last November, then you’ll know that this is true, to an extent. On top of the expected bangers, like lead single Trampoline, there are some deeper, more subtle cuts that showcase Tinie’s more serious lyrical tone. The majority of songs, however, are variations on the high-energy tracks that made him a household name to begin with, and he’s brought quite a few friends along for the ride.
“Yeah, there’s a great mix of artists in there, and ones that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see all on one album. It’s my second record and I felt that I had to go out and get some really amazing people. You have Laura [Mvula], you have Dizzee, Emeli Sandé who has taken over the world now, and many others. You have 2 Chainz and Big Sean, two of my favourite rappers right now. We were trying to keep it fresh.”
Diverting for a few minutes into a chinwag about the general state of hip-hop on both sides of the pond – we’re both big Pusha T fans – conversation eventually reverts back to the subject of his upcoming UK tour. Any card-carrying Tinie fans reading this might have spotted an elephant in the room: the tour in question was originally supposed to be in December, but was postponed until spring, a number of dates being pulled altogether. A lack of preparation from Tinie and his band is the official excuse for this; any road up, they’re now hitting (or disturbing, as he puts it) Cardiff on the first Friday of April, so you’d hope this ramped up the party atmosphere in the crowd. Back in November, Tinie seemed to be itching to perform for his UK fans again, and one imagines that’s only heightened now.
“I’ve got a brand new band,
new sound and new energy”
“It’s one of the things that I’m most looking forward to. I’ve got a brand new band, new sound and new energy and I can’t wait to put it all together live. I’m a well-seasoned performer now after doing all these festivals all over the world, so it’s nice to be back on my own turf. We love Wales and we always have a good time when we play there, always!”
Having emerged in the mid-00s amidst the mixtapes-and-pirate-radio grime scene, Tinie Tempah’s rise to pop star and household name was meteoric. Since debut single Pass Out topped the chart four years ago, he’s been at the centre of a whirlwind few years: an underground MC one minute, touring the world the next and scoring himself headlines with banterous activity like hi-fiving Prince William, a few days before this article went to press. “When you’re in the thick of it there are times when you’re like ‘fucking hell… this is mental’. Although I’m burning the candle at both ends, I try and get to know each city as much as possible. Performing for all those people is one thing, but having a great network and a great group of friends around you is really important. I’ve got a new approach and a new outlook.”
He’s clearly doing something right, and Demonstration has gone on to be another hit record for Tinie, peaking at number three in the UK chart. If he stays humble, as he clearly intends to, then maybe I’ll be interviewing him when albums three and four come around.
words IAN ROGERS
Tinie Tempah, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Fri 4 Apr. Tickets: £25. Info: 029 2022 4488 / www.livenation.co.uk