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Tinie Tempah’s rise to success is insane, many people doubted him, many people didn’t see it coming. 800,000 album sales, countless awards, and several arena tours later, he more than set the record straight.
Backstage at the Hackney Festival I caught up with him to see what happens next.
SEMTEX The journey’s been amazing!
TINIE It has been amazing and I’ve been very grateful and thankful for every step of the way, man. You know it’s been amazing, it’s been a dream come true, you know, like that Charlie And The Chocolate Factory moment, when you get the golden ticket and you’re like, really, this can all really happen?! You know, we’ve been from America, to Japan, to the Middle East and back around again, twice. It’s been all amazing, so I’m glad!
SEMTEX Back in the day you were hungry, you were on the grind, you were touring with The Cool Kids and there wasn’t many people in the crowd but you still delivered a dope show.
SEMTEX You’re probably the only artist that used to look me straight in the eye and say, Semtex, “I’m gonna’ do it, i’m gonna’ do it!”. No one else has done that, and there’s got to be something in that right?
TINIE Definitely man, I feel like one thing that was amazing about the show today is that we’re in Hackney and when I was looking at the crowd, I saw a lot of faces with a lot of ambition. There’s a lot of kids out there that want to do amazing things and just break the mould, but don’t have a clue how, and don’t know how to go about it, you know, specifically and I think one of the things that sort of helped me do my thing was just believing, sheer determination. Like before I even knew anything about a manager or a record label, I knew 100% in myself that I wasn’t going to sleep or rest until I got to a certain point in my career.
SEMTEX Where did you get the drive?
TINIE Do you know what, I got the drive from watching people like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley and even Tinchy Stryder and thinking, do you know what, they’re on T.V, they’re on the radio, they’ve just done an amazing interview, you can pay to go and see them and if they can do it, why can’t I! And that was the thing, why can’t I! Why can’t I! Alright Chipmunk’s been signed, Ironik’s been signed, but wait, what about me, why can’t I do it, you know?
SEMTEX Why doesn’t everybody have that same belief that you had in yourself back then?
TINIE Do you know what, I think everything’s really different now, I think there’s a number of reasons, I think like, the talent shows, all those things like the ‘X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ definitely take away from the fact that, you know, it starts from very early on, having a passion, having a drive to do things, a lot of people think that they can take an easy way out and you know, I don’t have any problem with them for that, but I feel like a lot of them things over shadow, you know, trying to work on peoples passion, drive and motivational skills, you know? And I think that’s also one of the main reasons. I also feel that there’s a lot of kids that think, “I wanna do this but, it’s never going to happen to me, man.” On a level, I will tell everyone that’s listening now, just do it, on a win, just be spontaneous, go for it. Turn up, well you’re going to have a lot of people waiting outside Radio 1 for you now, but wait for Semtex, when he comes out of that office or when he comes out of that studio, hand him your CD. Start rapping in front of him, do what ever you need to do to get somebody’s attention because I’m telling you, now is the easiest time, more so than ever. Ten years ago I was looking at Dizzee thinking, wow, he must be having so much fun with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Justin Timberlake, and now there’s so many MC’s. Chip has been here yesterday, Wretch was here today and we’re mixing with the likes of Nas and Jay-Z, you know, so it’s possible, now is the best time.
SEMTEX What’s been your biggest challenge?
TINIE Wow, what’s been my biggest challenge? To be quite honest with you, I would say, just trying to make that transition from a very London – Centric British artist, to a more international artist, you know, I feel a lot of things, a lot of hurdles to sort of jump over…
SEMTEX Like what?
TINIE One of the main things and people never really like understand what I mean by that, is the accent. I’m very, very stubborn with that, you know, I feel like being British and representing something, and coming from a place with so much sedition and culture goes a long way in the world, but especially when you go over to America there’s a lot of ignorance towards the accent, it’s like, you know, no disrespect as well and I love everybody in Scotland, you know. But it’s like when you hear a Scottish person or someone from up North MC, it doesn’t soak it up straight. And I know you’re from up North, so it’s no discrimination, Semtex is my brother, you know them ones. But it’s just one of those things.
SEMTEX But in America, as hard as it is for an English accent, period to get put on.
TINIE Exactly, exactly and there’s no way that we’re looking to compromise anytime soon. And I feel like, at the minute England specifically is definitely at the forefront and they’re definitely pioneering so many new different styles of music but, it’s just about, sort of trying to break that hip-hop mould for what we do as Brits over there and that’s been one of the biggest things, but we’re gonna’ go back there with a new album in November and we’re gonna’ make it happen even bigger.
SEMTEX I know you’ve been working with Pharrell, been working with Usher, I’m hearing rumors about Adele…
TINIE They’re just rumors, what happened is that me and Adele became really, really good friends over a period of time, just before her throat went all funny. And we were hanging out over a crazy one, and it’s amazing, the opportunity looked like it was going to arise but sadly it didn’t manifest in to anything, but you know, we’re all still young, you know, she’s like twenty-four, i’m twenty-three, we have all the time in the world.
SEMTEX You’ve got the big names. What are you gonna do on your album to balance out the Grimier side, like, the area that you came from. Because the freestyle was hard, man, that was hard, so have you got any plans to kind of continue that kind of vibe or…
TINIE Do you know what, I feel like, specifically as an artist, I have more right to do that than I ever have before. The funny thing is, you go in to Pharrell’s studio and he’s not trying to play you some Neptunes – esc, style music, you know. He’s saying, “Ah, I’ve been listening to Dubstep man, and I’ve been listening to Grime and this is what I’ve got, it’s different, I’m just trying to break the mould and you know, be more accepted over there”. Even though he’s a megastar, already, he’s playing me some music that is going to go down a treat here, so that’s been an amazing thing. I feel like when I go over to America, and work with these people they want me for what I’ve done before as a posed to try and change me and make me somebody else, you know. And because of that, the album is jam packed with ‘Pass Out’ times a trillion, like everybody’s going in, and you know, the bigger the producer, the bigger the quality of music, the better the mix, the better the sonics. Everything is sounding real big, real loud and real aggressive. The tune that I performed at the radio 1 Hackney thing was a new tune from Calvin Harris and to be quite honest with you, before we even did that, he sent me a bunch of Grimey beats, like GRIMEY, you look and Calvin and be like, “brother, I didn’t know you get down like that!”. He sent me some Grimey stuff and I was like, do you know what, let’s do what we both do very well and that is dance music and just rapping, you know. And that’s why we did what we did, and as you can imagine, the music is really big, really grimey and really dirty, man.
SEMTEX It’s been an amazing weekend, it’s good to catch up with yourself, well done for killing it, doing your thing, doing it big. Looking out for wherever you’re staying, you’re tower, wherever you are around the world, who is it you’re feeling right now, who is the future of hip-hop? Because you’ve always paid attention to whoever’s doing it, but who’s inspiring you?
TINIE You know what, in America, I like French Montana, i think French Montana’s amazing. I think Meek Mill’s amazing, I think over the next couple of years, I think we’re gonna’ see him really grow to be someone really incredible, but you know, he’s definitely made an impact with his voice, his delivery and his style. Over in the UK there’s Cashtastic, I think he’s amazing. I like what Krep & Konan and Yungen are doing. Play Dirty, you know, they’re putting a little spin on the hard thing and making it a little bit humorous.
SEMTEX You’ve given them a good lift by putting them on the mixtape.
TINIE You have to man, you have to, you know. That’s one thing that I wanna do more and more of. At the minute the album is taken up all the time but once that’s done I’m hanging around with these guys, man, and just trying to lift up the moral. Dot Rotten is incredible, that overload record, it reminds me of ‘Pass Out’ in a way that it’s magical and nobody’s really done anything like that before. There’s a lot of talent man, there’s a lot of amazing talent at the minute. G Frsh as well, of course, he was signed to ‘Disturbing London’ He’s coming out with his new mixtape, ‘Legoman 2′ which is gonna’ be off the chain. So those are the rappers that I’m really, really excited about at the minute.
SEMTEX When is the new album dropping?
TINIE The new album’s dropping in November, man! You’re gonna’ see me before then, you know how it is, I’m going to play it to you before it comes out anyway, but I’m feeling really excited about it, I’ve never felt so excited about anything in my life, from like, going in really confident, like I said, the music is so big, so strong, there’s more budget, more spend. I can throw my toys out the pram if a mix ain’t sounding the way I want it to – it’s true though, bro. So, hopefully I’ve made something that’s so incredible, I can’t wait for you and the fans to listen to it too.
Check me out on BBC Radio 1xtra every Friday from 10pm.
Big up Harvey on the WP!