Even though he’s been releasing his own music since 2005, it wasn’t until this past year that London rapper Tinie Tempah finally caught the attention of the global masses. Catapulted by the monster success of early singles such as “Pass Out” and the epic “Written in the Stars,” Tempah’s debut album, Disc-Overy (Capitol), has kept his dance card full for nearly two years now—leading to collaborations and appearances with everyone from Rihanna to Snoop Dogg. Not a bad showing for someone who started his career as a teenager by self-releasing his own tracks and mix-tapes while living with his parents in Plumstead. “It’s crazy to think about what life has been like for the past 18 months,” says the now 22-year-old Tempah. “There have been too many good things to count. It’s a good beginning, you know? I want to go on now to bigger and better things.” Tempah is already hard at work on album number two, but the process has proven difficult due to the fact that his debut continues to spawn hit singles (five so far on the U.K. charts, including the ubiquitous “Pass Out”) and that he’s spent much of 2011 playing huge festival stages across the globe. Still, he has high hopes for what will happen next, particularly in the States.
While the U.K. has produced a few hip-hop artists who have made waves across the pond—most notably Dizzee Rascal and The Streets—America has historically had a tough time warming up to British MCs. This, however, is something Tempah hopes to change. “People talk about hip-hop and rap originating in New York, and there will always be a history and culture for that there, no doubt,” admits Tempah. “But hip-hop is definitely much bigger than that now. My music is very eclectic—it mixes in garage and drum-‘n’-bass, and combines that with rap. I think if there was ever a time when people were willing to embrace something new and different, it would be now.”
PHOTO: TINIE TEMPAH IN LONDON, JULY 2011. SUIT AND SHIRT: DOLCE & GABBANA. BOWTIE: TOPMAN. WATCH: ROLEX. SUITCASE: LOUIS VUITTON. SHOES: ROKIT. GROOMING: JOHNNIE SAPONGUSINGDR. HAUSHKA AND PHYTOSPECIFIC/JEDROOT, INC. SPECIAL THANKS: THE BREAKFAST CLUB AND OH! STUDIOS