x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

We speak to Tinie Tempah ahead of RedFestDXB

RedfestDXB headliner Tinie Tempah tells us he has evolved as an artist. Read our chat with the British rapper – and find out who else is performing at the music event.

The album cover image of Tinie Tempah's Demonstration. Courtesy Parlophone
The album cover image of Tinie Tempah's Demonstration. Courtesy Parlophone

Hip-hop is a confidence game.

The whole “fake it till you make it” ethos underpins the boastful rhymes that have become a hallmark of the genre.

But what happens when the dream becomes a reality?

It was a question facing the 25-year-old British rapper Tinie Tempah upon returning to the studio to record the follow-up to his successful 2010 debut ­Disc-Overy.

Powered by the UK chart-topping singles Pass Out and Frisky, Tempah’s album not only managed to propel him from club sets to arena performances, but he also made inroads into the notoriously difficult American market.

Tempah acknowledges his new-found success in his follow-up, Demonstration. Released in November last year, the album is all about Tempah seizing the moment: the production is bigger, the rhymes tighter and there’s a glamorous guest list including Dizzee Rascal and Big Sean, along with the pop starlets Laura Mvula, Paloma Faith and Emeli Sandé.

“It’s about evolution,” Tempah says.

“I wanted to show my growth and development as an artist. I wanted it to be an album that consisted of real music and songs. It’s something I hope lasts for a long time.”

The clarity of purpose comes from Tempah’s work ethic.

Born Patrick Okogwu in London to Nigerian parents, Tempah began his career in his late teens by releasing a string of underground material including a free mixtape and singles.

With the UK grime scene well on its way courtesy of the leading lights Rascal and Wiley, it was Tempah’s eclectic ear that allowed him to create his own musical lane.

Disc-Overy and Demonstration’s blend of hip-hop, electro-pop and R&B allowed Tempah to be accepted by various musical ­communities. Two of his previous UAE outings are a case in point: in 2011 he headlined the dance festival Creamfields Abu Dhabi. A year later he returned to Dubai to support the hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa.

“British artists approach music with no real restrictions because we live in such a large melting pot. You just can’t help but be exposed to so many different kinds of music,” he says.

“This is why I can do a song with Swedish House Mafia or Calvin Harris, whereas your stereotypical rapper in America may not. I don’t see a problem rapping over a dance song where someone else might.”

Tempah predicts a career boost for more British urban artists as more American listeners are turning their ears to some of the innovative sounds coming from across the Atlantic.

“You have some of the main people who fly the flag of hip-hop continuing to diversify their music,” he says.

“Kanye West’s music has a lot of European influences now, he is working with Daft Punk. Then you have Rihanna working with [the British producers] Chase and Status. As long as people do that, then I think it will become an advantage for us because the world is definitely becoming a smaller place.”

• Tinie Tempah performs at RedFestDXB on Thursday. Tickets start at Dh299 from www.timeouttickets.com. For more information, visit www.redfestdxb.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae