The brilliant first two singles from 21-year-old tendai – Infinite Straight and Not Around – remind me of the Weeknd’s 2011 debut mixtape, House of Balloons. Not that the music sounds particularly similar; rather, it’s obvious that the east London singer-producer sees possibilities in an intoxicating melange of soul, R&B, rock and pop that many of his peers don’t. Whereas the Weeknd used his mixtapes as a springboard into Michael Jackson’s vacant throne, tendai reckons he’ll make more interesting work. “I break away from musically heteronormative boy-meets-girl songs now,” he promises. “There’s other things to talk about! Things we think are mundane can be made cinematic.”
Brought up by parents who were in a Ugandan a cappella gospel group, tendai learned to sing songs aged four, then write them aged seven. Playing piano and guitars, then making beats for himself, the precocious producer scoffed a grab bag of influences – anything from country music to indie pop. College, where classmates included fellow hot prospects Phoebe AXA and Chrissi, helped him work a strange and magical music from them. The Infinite Straight video, filmed in Manchester yet seeming desolate and mystical as a scene from the old west, is perfectly suited to him, feet firmly planted in England, mind always moving, roaming, thousands of miles from home.
Infinite Straight is out now on 0207 Def Jam