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DJBooth Album Review
Although hip-hop has truly become an international culture, there are cyphers happening right now everywhere from China to Iran, America still maintains a stranglehold on the rap export business. While there have been momentary glimmers of success for UK artists (Dizzee Rascal, Lady Sovereign, etc.) those glimmers quickly faded. Chalk it up to hip-hop zenophobia, a translation problem or coincidence, but we have yet to see a British rapper truly make an impact on America’s shores. Could Tinie Tempah be the first?
Whether or not Tinie’s U.S. invasion works or not the man’s not exactly hurting for success. His breakthrough album, Disc-Overy, was a smash in the U.K., spawning multiple hits, earning him a slew of awards and transforming London native Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu into superstar Tinie Tempah. Now looking to conquer the country that his country once ruled, Tinie has released a U.S. version of Disc-Overy which removes tracks from the original project from Kelly Rowland, Range and others and replaces them with heavy hitter contributions from Wiz Khalifa, Stargate and more.
The crew of American heavyweights recruited to help Tinie navigate the voyage across the Atlantic starts with Wiz Khalifa’s contributions for the ladies Till I’m Gone, a song that could have easily been the B-Side to Roll Up. While many won’t get Tinie’s references (we just don’t have monarchs around these parts) pop is a universal language, and with a trademark relaxed hook and verse from Wiz, Gone’s appeal is easy to hear. Also lending assistance is Bei Maejor, who lends a R&B hook to the stuttering Addicted and Ester Dean, who jumps on board for the acoustic, relationship on the rocks Love Suicide. Turns out no matter where you’re from keeping your female fans happy is a good idea.
But all the guest features in the world won’t truly establish Tinie, only he and he alone can do make his mark. When the headliner’s on his own a picture of a emcee who’s created a space for himself exactly in the middle of club rhymes and personal lyricism. On the one hand, the electronic drenched Pass Out is an inebriated ode to the good life, while on the other Wonderman follows the Drake blueprint and reveals the darker, emptier side of his fame. While Tinie’s obviously talented, I honestly can’t hear what all the excitement is over. Sure something will get lost in translation, but even on mega hit Written in the Stars I’m just not catching any lyricism that stands out. Then again, maybe that’s what makes Tinie so popular. He can rhyme well enough to not make the hip-hip crowd feel embarrassed to listen to him, and not so well it intimidates the pop and dance crowd.
Ultimately, I believe it’s American hip-hop’s fetishising of "realness" and authenticity, and Europe’s heavily house and electro leanings, that have prevented true east-to-west crossover artists, but the times are changing. Dance beats and hooks are pervading hip-hop, and in that sense Tinie might just be the artist of a new generation, perfectly poised to capture ears across the globe. Or maybe, like Monty Python and fish n’ chips he’ll remain a mega-star in his native land while maintaining a small but loyal fan base in the U.S. Either way, Tinie Tempah’s already made it and Disc-Overy’s already a success. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the world doesn’t need the American stamp of approval to be validated….although I’m sure Tinie would gladly take it.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Jun 02, 2011
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