Tinie Tempah: London Swag
When you think of rap, London isn’t necessarily the first place that would come to mind.. Most rappers come from the United States, and that’s all she wrote. But Tinie Tempah is the exception to this.
Tinie Tempah, also known as Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, is one of the few British rappers to have international success. He was first inspired to rap when he was 12 years old, after watching So Solid Crew on television. “’Those guys are black and from south London. I thought rappers only came from America.’ That changed my life,” he told the Guardian UK. He came up with his stage name while in school, flipping through the dictionary. Not because he was particularly angry but more so lazy, he said in a recount with the Guardian UK: “At school I came up with his stage name by flicking through a thesaurus, looking for synonyms for “anger.” I liked the sound of “temper”, but then added Tinie to make it less aggressive. [Was he feeling particularly angry at the time?] He laughs. No, I think it was laziness, to be honest. ‘A’ was the first letter I got to.”
As the oldest of three, Tempah’s parents counted on him to be a role model for his three younger siblings. Of course, when he decided to do music they were not too keen on the idea but supported him nonetheless. “I’ve seen so many artists come and go, but my parents have always told me to work hard, focus, keep my head down and make the best music I possibly can. The rest of it – the fame, the money, the girls – that will all come on its own. But it’s important for me that they are here to keep me grounded,” he said in an interview with The London Evening Standard online newspaper. And when you’re as talented as Tempah, it’s no wonder his parents fully support him. His lyrical ability is matched by few, it’s a far cry from what rappers nowadays call ‘music.’ Tempah has substance to his lyrics, the kind of much that you really have to listen to get just why people love him so much. There are so few real artists out here that work hard to perfect their craft. Although he’s only 23, Tempah is well on his way to getting there.
And he has done just that, worked hard and made great music. His first debut single “Pass Out” entered the UK Singles Chart at #1 and was nominated for the “Best Song award” at the United Kingdom music awards, Music of Black Origin Awards. A single ‘us Americans’ might be more familiar with, “Written in the Stars,” was used for advertising in the 2011 Major League Baseball postseason as well as for WWE wrestling. Not only was it a hit for advertising, this song marked Tempah’s first US Billboard Hit, peaking at #12. It was his second single to debut at #1 in the United Kingdom.
As an artist, Tinie Tempah is doing much more than what he ever expected. He won two Best Single awards for “Pass Out” and “Best Breakthrough Act” at the Brit Awards, which he humbly attributed to his parents support. But his humility is not just an on-stage act, this is how Tempah lives his life. Growing up in London, he was accustomed to some of the luxuries that we often take for granted. However, his family is originally from Nigeria and they would take trips back to their home country to visit family. “We used to visit my grandma, who lived in one of the areas that hadn’t been well invested in, and I remember having to walk to get water from the mains tap. It instilled a level of discipline in us and made me thankful for how fortunate I was,” he told The Guardian UK.
But music isn’t his only passion. Being as talented as he is, it’s no wonder that Tempah takes every aspect of himself under deep inspection before presenting it to the world. Take, for example, his clothing. Brits are known for their unique style, but some may call Tempah’s style something of an obsession. He even referred to his closet in his first single, “Pass Out,” saying that he didn’t have enough room for all of his clothes so he kept some at his aunt’s house. “I realized I couldn’t look like the people I was performing to. Not in a condescending way, but just that it would be weird if I was wearing exactly what someone in the crowd was wearing. What would set me aside from them? I felt like I had to start trying to find things that were a little bit more high-end and unique,” he told GQ magazine. He has also recently started his own fashion line titled, “Disturbing London” which hit stores in April of 2012.
It’s obvious that there’s only more success in Tempah’s future but as cool, calm, and collected as he is there’s not a hint of worry or stress. “To be quite honest I’m not feeling any pressure. It’s finally good to have everybody’s eyes watching you,” he told MTV UK.
-Stormm Van Rooi