Review Summary: This is Disc-Overy hate it or love it.
For just over a year now, Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, more commonly known as Tinie Tempah, has been making waves in the British music scene. His debut single Pass Out
, released in February 2010, combined driving beats, slick rapping and glossy production with a big chorus and enough pop sensibilities to send it straight to the top of the British charts. What followed was an unprecedented rise to stardom, Grammy nominations, and a place in the British public’s hearts. Like all successful pop stars however, Patrick’s ambitions lay further afield than Britain alone, and while success in his home country is important in both a professional and commercial sense, the real test of any artist’s talent and longevity lies within the lush expanses of America. Many artists have tried and ultimately failed in the transition between the two, for while similar both politically and culturally, the grander scales in the margins between success and failure can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Nonetheless, given the publicity and associated success that Disc-Overy
has received in Britain, the only question should be of when, and not if, Tinie Tempah will conquer America.
The first noticeable trait of Disc-Overy
is the wide-range of genres displayed throughout. Though the majority of the album is unashamedly grime there are distinctive hints of genres as far reaching as reggae and soul among others. From the vaguely off-ska beat in Snap
to the bassy trance of Miami 2 Ibiza
the record fluctuates wildly with little or no sense of purpose or direction. This unsettling arrangement is bold but also flawed, and distracts from the merits of the album as a whole and Tinie’s eloquent nature shines through vividly when the songs are kept simpler. Debut single Pass Out
boasts an infectious beat and a heavy hitting chorus to supplement its slick verses and its follow up Frisky
unabashedly continues the trend. The use of guest vocalists is experimented with a little more successfully, with Ellie Goulding’s absolutely breath-taking vocal performance on Wonderman
only eclipsed by Emeli Sandé’s contribution on Let Go
, however the overly autotuned vocals of Eric Turner and frankly tedious involvement of Kelly Rowland once again underscore the hit-or-miss nature of the record.
At his best, Tinie combines interesting beats with his distinctively off-beat rapping to simultaneously hook listeners while also catching them unawares. The awkwardness of Tinie’s delivery highlights the strength of the backing music and allows the quirky lyrics to shine through by their own accord. While the approach is unorthodox, the standout tracks all rely on this contrast of mixed vocal techniques and the consistency of the beats. Though at times the lyrical accompaniment can be confusing, such as the contradictory statements established between Pass Out
and Let Go
(the former is distinctly pro-fame whereas the latter is a visceral account of a man just trying to “be a normal citizen”) the shrewd use of metaphorical analogies and a tendency towards astute and often humorous observations adds to the overall experience and infuses a certain romance within even the most mundane tracks. Refreshingly, the oh-so-tiring stereotypical hip-hop braggadocio is kept as a low-key affair; the mention of a “Roley wrist-watch” in Simply Unstoppable
and again in Obsession
being about the peak of Tinie’s documented exuberance.
This isn’t the only faint suggestion of maturity shown during Disc-Overy’s
run-time. When he’s not detailing the extents of his “very wild lifestyle” or experimenting with somewhat abstract rhyming patterns Tinie hints towards more solemn material. Obsession
introduces a tenser atmosphere and successfully manages to incorporate feelings of both self-doubt and antipathy within its lyrical progression without ever sounding particularly miserable itself. Elsewhere there are further mentions of insecurity and isolation in the aforementioned Let Go
. Noticeably, both tracks reference earlier emotional issues surrounding the relationship with a father-figure. These small modicums of emotional uncertainty effectively humanise the album to its conclusion, and offer an insight to the potential of Tinie Tempah when he’s not focussed on partying 24-7. It’s unsurprising to note that these two tracks are the most complete tracks; working best both musically and lyrically.
While the snappy lyrics may be rather too UK-centric for the average American palate, the big name guest spots arguably compensate for this and give the record a star-studded aura that Tinie alone would fail to produce. The fastidious nature of the American public’s musical taste can often mean it is a difficult task to break into the mainstream consensus but Tinie’s flamboyant personality lends itself favourably to an American audience. With hard-hitting singles and a marketing campaign to match there should be no reason why Tinie Tempah shouldn’t be a household name within the US market by the end of 2011, and all that remains to be seen is if he can generate the same amount of success as he did in the UK.
Overall 3.0 Good