Tinie Tempah: specs to success

The rise of the British rapper's star is down to talent, looks and a sound that's cool and cheesy at the same time

Patrick Junior Chukwuem Okogwu, Tinie Tempah to his fans, has proven himself a pop star of many facets. Profoundly at ease performing to throngs of shrieking girls, he seemed equally relaxed recently while giving an interview to Newsnight in a teashop.

As part of a group of British rappers to have left their mark on the music charts during the past 12 months, Tempah is a fixture on both the BBC's black music station 1xtra, and its sister station Radio 1. His reach is so broad, in fact, that the Sun deemed it necessary to declare him their 'Lord of the Year' for 2010.

The public are equally fond of Tempah. His debut single, Pass Out, went to No 1 last summer and has a passable claim to being the biggest song of the year. His album Disc-Overy came out in the autumn and was described by the Guardian's pop critic Alexis Petridis as pulling off "the not-inconsiderable feat of being funny while still suggesting you take him seriously". It has since gone platinum in the UK and is still in the top 10 three months after its release.

The secret of his success is likely threefold. Firstly, he is a talented lyricist with charm and humour to spare (he is the first chart-topping rapper ever to have namechecked Scunthorpe in a song). Secondly, as teenage girls will attest, he's hardly an unattractive man and rocks the nerdy specs look with aplomb. Finally, Tempah had the fortune to launch his career at the same time as a group of British producers developed a cutting-edge sound that has proven influential in both the UK and the US. A fusion of European dance pop with the bass and stuttering percussion of British dubstep, it's music that's both cool and cheesy at the same time; a heady combination.

It's not surprising therefore to find that of all the acts signed to Simon Cowell's record label, the first one never to have appeared on a TV talent show was the producer of Pass Out, a man called Labrinth.


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

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