Tinie Tempah Talks "Disc-Overy," "The Usual Suspects," and More
Mon, 28 Feb 2011 09:03:18
Tinie Tempah may very well be from the future.
On his debut album, Disc-Overy, the UK rapper razes all convention and erects a new archetype for hip hop. He touts entrancing ethereal soundscapes, unique instrumentation, a rapid, razor sharp flow, and a visual sensibility unlike any of his peers. Lyrically, he's unparalleled , tearing through rhymes with a deft, deliberate delivery, while managing to hypnotize listeners with heavenly melodies like that of "Wonderman." Tinie Tempah has what it takes to change hip hop, and he's already showing us that the genre’s next phase looks very bright. He’s the creative leader that rap needs, and once fans "Disc-Over" him, there's no turning back.
Tinie Tempah sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about Disc-Overy, some of his favorite movies, collaborating with Ellie Goulding and so much more.
Stay tuned for video from this interview soon.
Are you excited for Disc-Overy to drop in the U.S. on May 3, 2011?
Was one of your goal for listeners to have to listen to Disc-Overy from start to finish?
That's the aim of the game! Obviously now because it's such a singles-driven market, a lot of people are trying to compile "Greatest Hits"-type albums that you can listen to in any order and they would still sound exactly the same. I really wanted to make an "album." For a lot of the artists I grew up listening to, it was all about classic albums that stand the test of time. I really wanted to make one.
What was your vision for the whole album?
It has an eclectic mix of a lot of the genres that are relevant within our culture and generation. You've got hip hop, R&B, drum 'n' bass, electro, reggae, and rock. Everything's in there. Those are all genres that everybody listens to whether you're watching music videos, listening to the radio, are on iTunes, or whatever. I wanted to embrace all of those genres. I knew it was going to be different because a lot of rappers don't really tend to do that. I wanted to create a listening experience that was almost similar to having your iPod on "shuffle" with some of your favorite songs coming in and out. That was basically the objective of the album.
Do otherworldly sounds appeal to you?
Definitely! You learn these things when you evolve and mature as a human being. For example, I've been making music for as long as I can remember. As a kid, it's been my hobby. I grab instrumentals, I write to them, and it's done. However, when you're older, you go to your first rave, attend your first festival, or have your first clubbing experience, the synths come in and you trip out. You're like, "This is crazy!" There are 10,000 people going nuts. When you're in a club, you hear the bass or a different key change and it'll really lick it you. I like that. The more you explore with the different countries you go to and styles of music you hear, you draw inspiration from all of those various places and I think that's pretty cool.
Disc-Overy is about finding those distinct sounds.
Exactly! It's about those sounds that are relevant to you and the culture. I wanted to make an album people could listen back to in a decade's time and say, "Okay, this reminds me of 2010 and beyond." That's what it's about.
What's the story behind "Wonderman?"
You know how they say every superhero needs his or her theme tune? It's not even just superheroes. Everybody has their theme song. You must have your particular theme song that gets you upbeat about life when you're about to go out clubbing or when you're about to go on a date. You play this song because it gives you your mojo. "Wonderman" is that for me. I thought it'd be cool if I created my own theme tune. Basically, it's about the trials and tribulations I had to face and overcoming them. It's almost like a superhero story but in the context of an artist. They always have very humble beginnings and then something extraordinary happens. That's how I feel my life has taken course. "Wonderman" is exactly that for me. Ellie Goulding is featured on the song. When she comes in on the chorus, she's kind of saying, "This is your fate. Are you ready to accept it? The spotlight is on you. Are you ready to take the blue pill, as it were, and go for it?"
What fosters your visual sensibility? Do you read often or watch a lot of movies?
I watch a lot of movies more so than I read, which is bad. I need to start reading a lot of more. I go to a lot of theater. I watch a lot of plays. I watch a lot of standup comedy live. The best people have that capability to relay something and you can visualize it. If you look at Russell Brand or Ricky Gervais for example, they'll tell you a story and when you close your eyes, you can almost see everything that they're saying and I think that's really cool. It's amazing. When you go to certain plays, you're watching something but they leave a lot to the imagination because there's no CGI or special effects. You have to be really good at conveying a message to get that across to people. Even when you listen to rappers like Drake, he's a great storyteller. He can create a lot of visual imagery. I've taken something from all of those individual fields and talented people and made something I call my own out of all that.
Did you always know "Let Go" would be the last track?
I didn't know it was going to be the last track. Obviously when I heard the track, I thought that this was going to be the track where I was going to lay bare, if you will, and pour my heart out to everybody who was listening. When I finished the vocals, it felt like it could be the last track but I wasn't sure until we compiled the tracklisting. It feels right, and it ends on a nice note. I hope it gets people excited for the next project because it's going to be even crazier.
Do you freestyle or are a lot of your lyrics written out?
All of my rhymes are written out. Obviously, it's not in terms of pen and paper. I like to type and do voice notes. I totally respect freestylers, but when you write your lyrics down, you're allowed to be a lot more intricate and you're allowed to think about what you say a lot more. Whereas if you freestyle off the top of your head, when you've said it you've said it. When I write, I can look over lines and think, "Maybe, I can say that a little bit better." What makes a good artist is someone who can relay a message across in as many little words as possible.
How did you come up with the album artwork?
I've always looked towards the future. We are living in the future. Everything is so hi-tech. It's all about gadgets. I wanted to embrace that culture, and I wanted to artwork that would be cool to be collectible. I wanted to create iconic artwork for myself.
What are your favorite movies?
One of my favorite movies is The Usual Suspects, purely because it has everything that a good movie should have. It's a good length. There's a lot of suspense throughout the whole film. There's a lot of action, and there's an incredible twist. It's one of the best twists in a movie, ever. It's very watchable so you can watch it over and over again. It's powerful. I watch Leon recently on a plane, and it's a great film. Like you guys would say, "It's kickass."
If Disc-Overy were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
Whoa! Good question! It's definitely something that was a trilogy. I think the album leaves you wanting more or wanting to know what happens next. The album is very real. There's a load of action in the album. What would be a good trilogy? Die Hard is a little much, isn't it? [Laughs] Whatever your favorite trilogy is, I'd base it on that. I definitely left the album open so people can say, "I can't wait to hear what happens next?" I started working on the second album already, and there's definitely a pattern and I'm following a trend.