Here’s my article on UK rapper Tine Tempah – one of the nicest guy’s ive ever interviewed. first appeared in thevine here
UK rapper Tinie Tempah might not be the first former grime MC to cross over into the mainstream arena, but he certainly seems to be the one most comfortable in it.
Articulate, intelligent and boasting bags of charm, Tinie, aka Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, has taken to commercial success with far more aplomb than Dizzy, Wiley and a few of his other predecessors, whom often appeared a little frazzled under the bright lights of pop.
Not so 25-year-old Okogwu. His debut album Disc-Overy mastered the balance between underground credibility and chart topping taste-making, scoring double platinum sales, a coveted Mercury Music Prize nomination and two Brit awards, not to mention a US release, something which few UK rappers have ever been trusted with.
Success breeds success, and Okogwu rapidly saw his celebrity stock rise in the wider game of fame with numerous red carpet appearances, TV presenting gigs and the gloss-coveted title of GQ’s best-dressed man of the year.
However, it was within the confines of his own craft that Okogwu shined brightest. Featuring a diverse range of contributing artists and writers including Kelly Rowland, Swedish House Mafia and Wiz Khalifa, Disc-Overy served up the kind of musical cocktail that the masses couldn’t get enough of.
One part pop, one part rap, one part dance; a typical Tine Tempah track sounds like all your favourite bits balled into one, giving you the kind of crossover appeal that every music exec longs to find in an artist. A year after its release, Okogwu sold out London’s 20,000-seater o2 Arena, not something even music’s biggest stars can claim to have achieved after only one album.
So the question put to Okogwu is this – what’s so special about him? What has transpired to allow him to swerve the normal trajectory of an artist and leap from unknown grime MC to stadium filler?
“That’s a good question,” says Okogwa from his London base on a wet and windy night. “I think it’s just being in the right place at the right time, its having the right music, it’s capturing people all in one go and having a little bit of luck as well you know. These are definitely all the things that saw me through. I’m all about making the best music I can, just creating these amazing moments and letting people into my world in different ways, and I just want to continue doing that. I don’t ever think people are going to say it’s the normal trajectory, but I guess everyone’s story is unique to them and this is my one.”
The latest chapter to Okogwu’s story is Demonstration, his second album, which, after a more than a few delays, was finally released last month. Just like his debut, Demonstration features a long list of guest appearances, collaborators, writers and producers. This has again allowed Okogwa to cast his net far and wide when it comes to the different musical genres and influencers which feature across the 15 tracks.
“It’s the best,” enthuses Okogwu. ”I don’t listen to one thing. My iTunes or my Spotify or whatever is constantly shuffling through things and playing different things depending on what mood I’m in. That’s how I like to make music. No one thing has to necessarily be the same, it doesn’t even have to be the same genre. That’s always a fun thing and I think that everyone has something different that they can offer and bring to the table. Being able to experience all that on one record and one recording process is phenomenal. You get to be work with so many different people and be creative is so many different ways.”
Guests featuring on Demonstration include musical Nostradamus Diplo, Scottish songstress Emeli Sande, dance duo Chase and Status, beat maker for the stars Alex Da Kid, BBC Radio 1s Zane Lowe, a Chemical Brother and many, many more.
The result is a smorgasbord of different sounds and styles that jumps from euphoric euro dance riffs to southern style trap tracks with remarkable ease.
Lyrically, it appears Demonstration has enabled Okogwu to spread his wings somewhat. For examples, the Zane Low produced 5Minutes sees him turn his hand to singing, while over the samba-esque beats of Witch Doctor we hear a more relaxed flow and rhyme scheme, making this Alex Da Kid produced effort the album’s standout track.
Despite trying out a few new vocal directions, Okogwu’s rapping has lost none of the clarity and edginess that you can hear on his early material including ‘Wifey’ and ‘Tears’. Indeed, it seems that his musical upbringing within London’s underground grime scene is something that still plays a big part in his output and performances today.
“Coming from that scene there was no real rules,” he recalls. “I feel like I always try to maintain that in the music. No matter what kind of tune it is, whether it’s a fast one or a slow one, I’m still rapping on it. So I feel like all those core elements I’ve definitely retained, but it’s just the ambition is just so much more, and with every next step of my career I always just challenge myself and want to push myself further and do something that I wouldn’t have before.”
We also see a slightly more mature take on things in other areas of the album. There is an overarching theme and message that digs a little deeper than we might expect with references to the struggles of today’s disenchanted youth and the way they are viewed by their elders.
“It’s by no means a political album,” says Okogwu. “But mood wise I definitely wanted to make sure you can feel the mood of that. I just feel like a lot of the generation of today are very negatively portrayed as being very celebrity obsessed, lacking ambition and it’s never positive. They’re a generation that needed speaking up for a bit and a little bit of motivation as well. As much of the album is fun and has those songs about escapism, I just felt like pushing myself a little bit more.”...read more and add your thoughts