BN1 chats with…Tinie Tempah

A couple of days after he high-fived royalty during his performance at the BAFTA’s and a few weeks ahead of his headline appearance at the Brighton Centre, BN1’s Gary Marlowe spoke to Britain’s biggest rapper, Tinie Tempah.

Since you last played Brighton in 2011 – rap music has exploded to the point where rap artists are now regularly headlining major festivals and topping the charts. Has that surprised you and why do you think it has become so popular?
I’ve always been confident that rap would have its time. In America, rap has achieved mainstream success and we’re now seeing the same thing repeated over here. So, no, it doesn’t surprise me. When it comes to music there are no rules any more. The traditional ways of what music people listen to, how they listen to it and how they buy it have all gone out the window. The fans now are really the ones in control. Just look at Lorde, an overnight global sensation with just one song. When it comes to music, I’m not really surprised by anything these days.

What memories do you have from your last Brighton show at the Dome and about Brighton in particular?
Fond memories. I love performing in Brighton and can’t wait to be back. Living in London, whenever the weather’s good and I want to go down to the beach, Brighton’s where I head to.

Outside of making music, I know you’re heavily into your fashion. You’ve already got your own street wear label and done some collaborations. How involved do you get in the design process?
As much as I can, really. It’s something I really enjoy. Most often i’m involved in the process, selecting designs, suggesting changes, that sort of thing.

Could we one day see a Tinie Tempah collection on the catwalk?
You know what, I’d love to do that. There’s a lot of similarity in putting together one of my shows: thinking about the lighting, the music, the look and feel of it all and of course the outfits. Even if it’s just a little capsule collection, it’s something I’d love to do.

And you love your trainers. What about following in Kanye’s footsteps and designing your own?
Well, I’ve already collaborated on a trainer with Nike. That was super fun to do and went really well, so hopefully they’ll be some more opportunities in the future.

‘Demonstration’, your new album, was released in November. You’ve described it as being “a more internationally ambitious album.” What did you mean by that?
Just in terms of how it sounds. I really wanted to be ambitious when it came to the sound of the music I was trying to make. As a rapper that’s come out of the UK I’ve been heavily influenced by loads of different things, so I wanted to try and make music that wasn’t genre-specific.

Tell us about the creative process. Does it start with the music or the lyrics?
It really depends. Sometimes I have something I really want to talk about ,so it will be the lyrics, other times I’ll be in the studio with someone and I’ll hear an amazing beat and that can inspire the whole song.

And how does it differ working with one producer to another?
Sometimes you’re working with a producer who knows you pretty well, so that’s the case with Labrinth and he has everything prepared. Other times, it’s a question of starting from scratch and creating the beats. Or I might already have a song idea and they’ll make a beat around that. It really varies. And that’s what keeps things fresh.

With so many individuals collaborating, how hard is to maintain a signature sound?
That’s a good question. Well, I’m very lucky that a lot of the people I work with know my sound. I think when people know they’re going into a session with me, they know what sound will work. And the more confident you get as an artist, the more you know what experiments will work and what won’t.

One of the biggest phenomena right now is that of the featured artist. On Demonstration you have no less than 10 featured artists. How do you go about choosing who to work with?
It’s really whether I like their music or not. I try to work predominantly with British artists and especially up-and-coming artists.

At BN1 we’re big fans of Ella Eyre, you worked with her on Demonstration. How did that come about?
I heard her on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ and I had a song that needed just that kind of vocal performance and just knew immediately it was Ella I wanted to sing it. It was as simple as that.

As well as Ella, you’ve worked with so many of Britain’s leading ladies; in fact there aren’t that many who you haven’t recorded with. One of those is a Brighton resident. What chance is there of a collaboration with Adele?
Anything is possible! Given the right song and the right moment, I’d love that to happen.

With so many featured artists performing on Demonstration, how will you feature their vocals during the live shows, will they be on tape or on video…or even join you onstage?
For me, it’s all about the live performance, so I don’t like the idea of someone being on video. So sometimes they’re on tape, sometimes they join me onstage and sometimes I just get the crowd to sing along.

This arena tour will not just be the first time you’ll be performing tracks off Demonstration, but also some of the hits you’ve had as a featured artist yourself. Will you be able to fit all of them into the show?
You know what, we’re going to make it as jam-packed as possible! So yes, from ‘Earthquake’ to ‘Drinking From The Bottle’ we’re gonna try and fit them all in.

Finally, live shows have definitely becoming bigger productions over the last few years – audiences now expect so much more than just some singing and a band playing. What can we expect to see at the Brighton Centre?
We’ve put together a really elaborate set design. That’s something I’ve never been able to do before. I wanted it to be the best it can be. All the visuals have been themed around the artwork for Demonstration. So that’s going to be really exciting. You’ll have to wait and see, but I can promise it will be elaborate…and it will be bigger and better than ever!

Tinie Tempah plays Brighton Centre on Monday, March 31st
His new album ‘Demonstration’ is out now
Follow him at @TinieTempah