Everything since Tinie’s astronomical breakout hit ‘Pass Out’ in 2010 might seem like it’s come easy. It’s win after win, number one after number one (3 Top Ten albums and 7 No.1s, to be exact.) Tinie might just have been the catalyst that paved the way for the current explosion of Black music and culture in Britain.
From the outside, Tinie looks accomplished; a godfather of what we’ve come to know as mainstream pop music. Ask anyone around the age of 18 ten years ago - Tinie was paving the way. Why return now? It’s simple: “Over the last couple of years, I felt very accomplished but oversaturated, as though I spent the past ten years trying to stay on top.” With time to focus his energy elsewhere – his groundbreaking Disturbing London label, propelled to new heights alongside longtime business partner Dumi Oburota, his publishing company Imhotep signing some of the hottest names in UK music, the time was right to return with something new, something to satisfy his creativity and provide a platform for emerging talent.
The son of immigrants who grew up in Woolwich, in one of South London’s largest Nigerian communities, talking to him while he proudly recalls the backbreaking hours his Nigerian parents worked upon their arrival to south London in the 80s, just how strong Tinie’s own work ethic is. Making it this far wasn’t something he expected, so he’s determined to hold onto everyone around him who helped keep him grounded, and bring up the new gen while he’s at it.
It seems almost a cathartic process for Tinie, amplifying the emerging artists on this project and beyond. Something like part of ‘growing old gracefully’ despite the fact his incredible success at a young age means he’s actually only 34. Just look at the roster he’s signed and developed over the years: the likes of Yxng Bane, Kida Kudz, Kali Claire, Nana Rogues & Poundz. Ten years ago, it wasn’t so often that you’d find a rapper or MC in the Top 40, let alone the Top 10. Maybe on occasion with artists such as Wiley, Skepta or Dizzee Rascal and eventually Tinie himself – but it’s incomparable to today. “You’re seeing several rap-led songs releasing on a weekly basis.” He says, with a humble air of achievement.
Tinie isn’t just getting ready for his comeback then; but looking to help bring up a roster of artists more than worthy of taking the baton from him too. “We’re getting to the point now where we’re starting to have different generations in UK rap and grime which we never had before, and it’s just popular culture now.”
It’s easy to forget that Tinie Tempah’s career began over fifteen years ago, with the first drop ‘Wifey Riddim’, followed by his debut mixtape, ‘Hood Economics’. Even ten years ago, when he released “Pass Out” and achieved his first No.1, the pressure to stay on top became a lot to handle and Tinie alludes to his own struggles during that time. “I didn’t really have anyone to help me in that sense and at the time, I hadn’t considered counselling or anything like that.”
You realise then, that before the fame and success, Tinie is still predominantly a young Black man living with the pressures that come with it. “When I moved to Hackney, I realised I had to be more cautious, because although I was living in a nice part, if I bought a flashy car, given that I’m a Black man, I might attract all sorts of unwanted attention.” He gives an example of feeling cautious of the police when on the road. “Having to deal with that stuff becomes a lot, which is why I sat back and lived the ‘normal life,’” he says. It’s an unfair and tragic omission considering it comes from one of the United Kingdom’s most successful and decorated exports.
Lately, Tinie says he’s been far more appreciative and thankful for the presence of his parents in his life. They instilled in him a great work ethic and sense of community which he’s carried with him to this day. He opens up a little further into what living that ‘normal life’ entails: “Now that I’m a father, I can see a lot of the things they had to go through with me. There’s this human being looking up at you and relying on you for everything and that was me way back when.”
Enter the third act of Tinie’s career and he isn’t afraid of getting older. “I feel like 30’s the age where you know yourself and what you want to do,” he says. A lot has changed since ‘Pass Out’. Tinie’s upcoming releases - soon to be shared to the world - see him continue to push his sound forward, but maintaining all the nostalgia of his staple flow. Most recently Tinie has been busy. He has collaborated with Kris Kross Amsterdam and Sofia Reyes on the party anthem ‘How you Samba’, which has seen huge success in Europe and is nearing 60 million streams. Away from music he has continued to venture into TV. The second season of Extraordinary Extensions (Channel 4) will be broadcasted in 2024 and his new show ‘Bangers’ will air on Channel 4 in Oct 2023. Without concluding, Tinie acted In Amazon prime’s ‘Jungle’, launched a food venture called RAPS (available on Deliveroo) and started up a new rave concept called ‘Shelter’.
When it comes down to what Tinie wants this next chapter means: “When you’re an artist, you can be quite selfish about everything you do. The moment my daughter came into my life, everything became deeper than me. She helped me realise that by making time for the people that matter, you’re inspired to feel more.”