Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy | CD review


Twenty-one-year-old Tinie Tempah's debut single for a major label, "Pass Out", was no upstart's opening salvo. It was a hymn to having made it – literally, about celebrating until one passed out. Like Tinchy Stryder's "Number 1" before it, "Pass Out" made out that Tempah was already a success story.

Which, of course, he was – thanks to the hyper-speed pop accelerations of the internet age. Before being signed up by Parlophone over tea in Claridge's, the rapper born Patrick Ogwugu had already built a deafening underground buzz. It says something about his charm that Tempah got on to video shoots for other grime artists thanks to his vlog, Milk and 2 Sugars, purportedly about his love of tea. Soon, the latest diminutively monikered Londoner (following Dizzee, Tinchy, Chipmunk et al) was being noted for his tracks as much as his chutzpah.

"Pass Out" duly went to the top spot, the eighth single by a solo UK rapper to do so since Dizzee Rascal broke the glass ceiling in 2008. As well as being devilishly catchy, "Pass Out" fused a venerable US hip-hop tradition – triumphalism – with Britain's penchants for binge-drinking and happy rapping. As Dizzee, the genre's trailblazer, discovered to his gain, upbeat lyrics about partying become pop smashes. Introspective flows about inner city angst do not. Or, as Jay-Z once opined on "Moment of Clarity", you dumb down, you double your dollars.

Disc-Overy, then, is suffused with triumphalism. It is chock-full of women, cards and cars, and buffeted by anthemics. It is good fun. But, disappointingly, it lacks insight or scintillating wordplay. As you read this, Tempah's latest single, "Written in the Stars" is blowing a gale at the top of the charts. It is hard to begrudge Tempah's motivational rap; in fact, this track contains some of Disc-Overy's most imaginative flows. "I got more fucking hits than a disciplined child," notes Tempah, layering "brrrap" on to the words "black" and "Barack".

But "… Stars" is so precision-tooled for immensity by Swedish dance producer Ishi that you feel a mere incidental cog before it. There is much worse to come. "Miami 2 Ibiza" is a collaboration with Swedish House Mafia designed to reduce dancefloors to rubble. Dance tunes aren't renowned for their lyrical aperçus, but this is a nadir. "You can find me on a table full of vodka and tequila/ Surrounded by some bunnies/ And it ain't fuckin' Easter." Indeed.

This album's lairy gloating is made just about bearable because Tinie is, at heart, a nice guy, who – like his most obvious referent, Kanye West – mentions his mum every few songs. But surely there must be more to hip-hop than sing-song couplets about fame and girls.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tinie Tempah – review
With his songs about champagne and Dysons, Tinie Tempah gives UK hip-hop a distinctive voice, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

16, Oct, 2010 @11:06 PM

Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy
Hip-hop cliches abound on Tinie Tempah's debut, but they are easily overshadowed by his obvious talent, says Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

30, Sep, 2010 @2:31 PM

Tinie Tempah | Pop review
Koko, London
This south London grime MC is on a mission to follow the Dizzee Rascal route to commercial success, writes Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

07, Apr, 2010 @10:30 PM

Article image
Tinie Tempah: Youth review – lots of hooks, not enough Tinie

Damien Morris

16, Apr, 2017 @7:00 AM

Tinie Tempah: Demonstration – review

As his profile grows, so does the self-belief... but have we lost some of the Tinie Tempah charm, asks Killian Fox

Killian Fox

03, Nov, 2013 @12:05 AM

Article image
Tinie Tempah review – A brash show with odd moments of intimacy

Tempah says he wants to make 'deeper music' after battling with the notion of selling out, but there are few signs of hidden depths amid this ear-splitting performance, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

30, Mar, 2014 @3:23 PM

Article image
Tinie Tempah: Youth review – noughties rapper grows up, but pop is his playground

Rachel Aroesti

13, Apr, 2017 @9:00 PM

Article image
Tinie Tempah: Demonstration – review
It may not have the hits his debut did, but Tinie Tempah's second album still features some truly genius-level lyrics, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

31, Oct, 2013 @9:14 PM

Tinie Tempah – review
Tinie Tempah's hip-hop affectations ring a bit hollow, but when the show sparks, it is undeniable, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

01, Mar, 2011 @6:14 PM

Article image
Tinie Tempah and Emeli Sandé on how they made Disc-Overy
‘I’d listen to 50 Cent rapping about the mean streets of the Bronx and knew I could never do that for Plumstead – so I pretended I was from the East End’

Interviews by Dave Simpson

04, Jan, 2021 @3:14 PM