It’s barely been six months since Brit grime star Tinie Tempah last paid us a visit, but he’s back once again, no doubt to provide another wildly energetic, entertaining performance. Last time Time Out caught up with Tinie, we were already impressed with the 21-year-old’s achievements, and it seems he hasn’t slowed down since. These six months have seen his first studio album debut at the top of the UK charts, the release of his third single, which also went to number one in the UK, and his first headline tour.
Things look set to be just as crazy over the next few months: in between stops in the Pacific and continuing his tour in the UK, Tinie will soon be starting work on his second record. ‘I start the second album this month, I’m off to Australia in December, then I come back and I’m straight back on tour while trying to continue with the album,’ he says.
The conversation soon turns towards Dubai; it seems the city left quite an impression during his last visit. ‘It’s an amazing place. The nightlife was fantastic – I think it was probably one of the best places I’ve been for nightlife. The shopping was incredible; the malls were incredible,’ he enthuses, unsurprisingly, considering he’s becoming just as famous for his taste in clothes as his music. From tweed jackets to Nike Air Force One trainers, Tinie knows his clothes – his favourite labels at the moment being über-hot Acne and Folk – so it’s only natural he should be branching out into the fashion industry.
‘We’re getting samples at the end of this month,’ he explains of his new clothing line. ‘The label is called Disturbing London Clothing, and it should be coming out at the end of January. It’s basically the equilibrium between high-end fashion and street cool, so how I like to dress, but all within one brand.’
It seems in Tinie’s mind, there’s no distinction between his sense of style and his music – it’s all part of the package. ‘I think dressing up is another form of expression. I like to be creative and I like to express my personality in lots of different ways, whether that’s through music, performing or clothes,’ he explains.
He even has an argument for wearing sunglasses indoors. ‘I like to make sure that I’m ready to perform. You could liken it to a public figure or a superhero,’ he says. ‘I’m not saying I’m a superhero, but if you liken it to a king, when he comes out to make a speech he will always have his crown or his cloak on. That’s why I wear sunglasses so much.’ On the subject of monarchs, Tinie reveals that one of the weirdest moments of his career so far has been meeting the UK’s Prince William; it transpired the royal is a big fan of the rapper’s work. ‘It’s weird because there’s two opposite worlds coming together because of one love, and that’s amazing – that’s the power of music,’ he says.
Ultimately, the idea of opposites coming together is an important part of Tinie’s identity. It began as a way of defining the music he wanted to create. ‘The name Tinie Tempah is like an oxymoron, like a yin and yang. I wanted to have a stage name that represented that, so I thought of ‘temper’. I wondered what I could put in front of that to balance it that would still make sense, and ‘tiny’ just sort of sprung to mind.’
He picks out an example in his music. ‘If you try things that people don’t expect to work, or don’t expect to go together, you’d be surprised at the results. That’s exactly what my music reflects. [Debut single] ‘Pass Out’ goes into a bit of dub, drum and bass, a bit of ska, things people don’t believe will work together,’ he explains. ‘No-one ever said I was going to be number one until I actually was. I’m all about that, that’s what I represent.’
What’s next for the rapper and soon-to-be fashion mogul? ‘I want to do different side projects with my favourite artists, such as a five-track EP with Ellie Goulding. It’s good to come out of your comfort zone, so I might try to sing and get Ellie to rap or something like that. It wouldn’t have to be on an album. It’s just to give people great music that the record labels aren’t trying to market, or sell: just fun and creativity,’ he explains. ‘Ultimately, that’s what music is.’
Tinie Tempah plays Chi on November 11
We get the lowdown on what to wear and how to wear it from the rapper-turned-designer
Good jeans ‘The secret is to find three good pairs that fit perfectly. The more you wear them, the more worn-in they are, the better they look.’
Colours ‘Off-colours work. Just because you’re wearing a green top doesn’t mean you have to have green shoes. If you want to go for vivid colour, make sure it’s just one item, so it acts as the centrepiece.’
Do your laundry ‘Make sure your clothes are clean, man! That’s always a good start. It’s a feeling.’
Know your retro ‘You might wear a blazer not realising it was from a certain era and wear it incorrectly. If you’re going to go all out and express yourself through clothing, you might as well go the whole nine yards.’
Confidence ‘This is the number one, over anything. You could go out in your jogging bottoms, and if you’re confident it says a lot. People feel that from you.’