Tinie Tempah plans to 'constantly be in people’s faces'
Tinie Tempah’s strategy for making his U.S. debut match the success he found back home in England?
“To constantly be in people’s faces,” the 22-year-old rapper jokes.
Born Patrick Okogwu to Nigerian immigrants, the South London-bred MC –- like the long list of recent Brit imports before him –- is looking to break here.
His blend of hip-hop, dubstep and grime made his debut, “Disc-Overy,” a platinum hit in the U.K.
The disc racked up a handful of top five songs on the U.K. singles Chart and yielded two BRIT awards. A revamped version of the disc was released in U.S. stores on Tuesday with new tracks, including a collaboration with Wiz Khalifa.
Pop & Hiss was there when he made his U.S. debut to an intimate crowd of more than 100 fans and industry heads at Hollywood’s Cinespace in February and for his Coachella introduction, where after getting a late start he swept through an abbreviated set of hits from the disc, including “Pass Out,” “Written in the Stars” and “Miami 2 Ibiza," a collab with Swedish House Mafia.
Ahead of the album's American release, Tinie phoned into Pop & Hiss for a quick chat.
“Disc-overy” did rather well in the U.K., but it’s also been out for quite some time. Did that worry you when it came to releasing it here?
The album has added tracks, so it feels like a new, fresh album. I feel like that was very important. Obviously, the power of the Internet, you’re able to access anything. People knew a lot about the album. However, it came out in October in London so they can go on YouTube and listen to it. It was very important to add some more chapters to the album. [The track with Wiz Khalifa is one of three new ones on the album].
You’re a smash back home. Was that surprising to you, given how heavy singer-songwriters have been ruling the British charts?
I definitely was. If you believe in a project so much, against all odds, you should believe it can reach its maximum potential. I always believed it had platinum status in it. It was in the back of my mind. But you have those stigmas though: You’re a rapper, you’re not Adele, you’re not Florence and the Machine, rappers don’t go platinum, no rapper has gone platinum in England before … what makes you think you’re gonna do it? When all those things start happening, you are kinda surprised. I’m not going to lie at all.
Did anyone inspire you to rap?
I guess obviously, my American counterparts, if I’m being really, really honest. Growing up, I remember buying [Eminem’s] “The Slim Shady LP.” That was the one that sort of caught my attention. I was always aware of Busta Rhymes, DMX and rappers like that. It was Eminem’s outlandish look on the world that got my attention to rap. [He was] sort of be uncanny in a way, and said things that were a little bit tongue in cheek, or a little bit too close for comfort. Eminem did that perfectly. It was the first rap album I rushed out to go buy. Even then, it felt like something far away. He was talking about Detroit, 8 Mile and D12 and I had no freaking clue what any of those things were. It wasn’t until I heard a group, So Solid Crew, that it thought, "Wow, these guys are English. They’ve got a number one single with '21 Seconds'… they are black like me, if they can do it, why can’t I?"
U.S. radio seems to have an ongoing obsession with British artists, but these influences of electronic and dubstep are finding their way to American artists. These are the sounds that fill “Disc-overy,” so do you think that gives you an edge over your counterparts here?
I definitely think that’s what makes me. I always say I’m not trying to be Lil Wayne, I’m not trying to be Jay-Z. The way we interpret hip-hop is very much the same. But those traditional elements from England are what embodies [sic] my album. For a rapper to be rapping over dubstep over here seems a bit taboo, whereas in England it’s very much accepted. I did the Ultra Music Festival in Miami and I was the only rapper on the bill, which is a good thing for hip-hop because it means you’re branching out the sounds and letting it be more universal. In terms of an edge, dubstep is part of the culture. It has been for years. People are getting excited about it over here [in America].
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Tinie Tempah. Credit: Amit & Naroop