Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy | CD review

(Parlophone)

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.

Contributor

Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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