Tinie Tempah | Pop review

Koko, London

The 21-year-old south London grime MC and rapper Tinie Tempah spent two weeks at No 1 last month with his abrasive single Pass Out, and now looks set to cross over from the electronic-music margins to the mainstream. Bounding on stage after midnight in a rammed club, the man born Patrick Junior C Okongwu delivers a six-song set that suggests he will make whatever compromises are necessary to complete that journey.

The thrilling, dysfunctional rhythms of his debut album, 2007's Hood Economics Room 147, are being rapidly leavened by chart-friendly pop melodies. And where Tempah once spat his rhymes over a DJ's beats, he is now also flanked by a somewhat superfluous guitarist and drummer – though as he revisits his 2007 breakthrough track, Wifey, their heavy-handed, clunky contributions detract from the original composition's fluid futurism.

A restless figure pacing the stage in oversize designer specs, Tempah is a charismatic frontman on a mission to become a star. Grime's agitated, fractured rhythms hardly lend themselves to pop/rock anthems, but the Ibiza-eulogising Love Resurrection incorporates a cheesy sample of the Alison Moyet original, while Tempah dilutes the hip-hop flavour of Written in the Stars with horrible soft-rock guitar riffs.

He closes with the delirious Pass Out, thanking an exuberant crowd for making him "No 1 in the fucking UK!" and milking the moment by bringing the track crashing to a halt to demand even greater audience acclaim. Tempah is poised to follow the Dizzee Rascal route to success: lose the hardcore aficionados and gain the Topshop massive.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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