UK rapper Tinie (fka Tinie Tempah) has had more #1 UK singles than any other UK rapper in history, but as he prepares to release his fourth album, he feels like he's finally finding his voice. The UK music landscape has changed drastically since Tinie first rose to prominence in the late 2000s, and 15 years on, he's feeling more confident than ever in his musical output.
Life has changed dramatically for Tinie since his 2017 album Youth, with the birth of his daughter, as well as social movements going on around the world. Tinie says he's "more immersed in the culture than ever before". He says people can look forward to "a real account of where I'm at", mixed with Tinie's signature charm, evidenced by his recent single Whoppa.
Speaking to Tinie about writing his upcoming album, as well as his approach to writing new music, there's a pensiveness to his voice. He says the way people listen to music in the UK has changed, and people are ready to hear real stories - something that he was hesitant in the past about putting into his music fully. "I've always had a different mindset of 'if you want to be successful, then you have to make sure that you're catering to the widest audience possible.' Whereas music isn't always necessarily like that."
Social movements like the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US have seen the collective consciousness become aware of stories outside their own lives, and Tinie says this understanding of needing to hear other perspectives is seeing people increasingly turn to rap to hear such stories.. He confidently put forward his thoughts on why the average UK music listener is seeking out stories outside what they recognise more than ever, saying, "our culture is becoming more and more diverse. These cultures are becoming more socially mobile. However there's still a lot of social mobility that needs to happen.
"But these cultures are becoming more prominent. We're seeing incredible people that are black, and other ethnic minorities doing incredible things throughout the UK. And we obviously know that none of these people were born with silver spoons."
He also points to the ease of uploading music when compared to when he first started, and how people who may have not had the resources to make it in the music industry can now get on the radar of millions. It's something he's happy to see, as it means more people than ever can tell their story. "We're not at the mercy of a gatekeeper, an institution or a system.
"You can literally become an overnight success by just having the right song on YouTube that goes viral. And I think from what I can see, there's more platforms catering to rap music, black music and hip-hop music in the UK that are celebrated." Tinie uses the examples of GRM Daily and Link Up TV as two platforms pushing voices that might not otherwise get heard, both with audiences of 1 million+. More than ever, there are alternative pathways to success, and the energy in Tinie's voice when he's speaking about people being able to become overnight sensations is palpable.
Priding himself in keeping on top of music around the world, Tinie's kept his eye on Australian drill music, with acts like Hooligan Hefs, ONEFOUR and more flying the flag for Australia. Tinie says Australian drill has presented a different side to the country, and its evolution reflects that of the UK. "I feel like Australia is not always presented in an entirely truthful light.
"For example, someone living in England, I was just thinking it's just sunny every day. And you know, there's beaches everywhere and people just working out and and having barbecues. That's how I perceive Australia. Music was something that made Australia quite exciting again on a global level." This year alone, we've seen Australian drill rappers collaborate with the likes of A$AP Ferg and S1mba, so it's clear that Australian drill is making waves on a global level.
Tinie finishes our chat with a bold prediction - "I'm sure we're definitely gonna see the first 70-year-old rapper in our lifetime." The claim comes after being asked which rock band he'd like to see himself fronting, to which he replied "The Rolling Stones". They're a band he says rappers look up to, given their continued success, as well as their vibrant appearances at awards shows even now. We'll see if Tinie's prediction comes true. We've got a feeling he might just be right.