Audio

Tinie Tempah Stakes His Claim as the UK’s King of Pop

On his third album 'Youth,' Tinie Tempah cements his spot at the top of the UK music scene.

Sophomore albums are considered difficult, especially after a successful debut, but even more difficult might be the third album.


A lot of creative energy is invested in matching and surpassing the first offering (Disc-Overy in this case) in scale and ambition as Tinie Tempah did to some degree on 2013’s Demonstration. He now returns with the 17-track Youth.

If you’re Kendrick Lamar, whose own third album dropped on the same Good Friday as Tempah’s, you will scale down the intensity of your sophomore effort. If you’re Tempah, you will scale up the chances of making even more hits and further refine the high-living rhetoric.

The madness that was “Pass Out” was a solo effort and his biggest hit yet. This leavens any accusations of insecurity that the assortment of guests on Youth will bring.

After the scene-setting that is the intro “Youth,” MNEK’s bell-toll of a voice comes close to relegating Tempah’s to guest-verses, while David Steward does a good Frank Ocean impression on “Camera.”

Tinashe continues on “Text From Your Ex” the form she showed last year’s “Super Love,” while Intercontinental Tinie tells of his DJ bringing his “decks on the jet.”

“Girls Like,” produced by Rogues, is a shameless Euro-dance hit calculated to chart well in precisely the countries you expect them to do so. It has gone platinum in the UK, Norway and Australia and is clocking 150 million views on Youtube alone. Zara Larsson’s belting is a good match and her being a Swede surely helps Tempah’s Euro-dance Indigenisation Program.

Wizkid does one of his most earnest singing as a guest on “Mamacita,” He also gets involved in the video’s theatrics more than he has on his many features. This may be a sign of good business both have done since signing to Tempah's Disturbing London management, as he’s said to have done.

The video, shot in the Dominican Republic, brings too much of Tempah and Wizkid’s high living to a shanty town. The many million views of free tourism promo-video just might wash away any bad taste this leaves.

Every rapper has by now had a go at trap and Tempah’s own offering of cluttered syllables has made for a stand out track. On “Something Special,” he has straddled the jangle and bounce of Rogue’s beat with a trap and brag-flow that has the bite of a battle rap.

Tempah is the metro-sexual rapper secure enough in his masculinity, to say “yeah, i got a lot of batty friends," also deepening the complexity around the word.

“Lightwork” and “Holy Moly” are in this same brag-swag vein. The only other thing of interest here is how much Shift K3Y’s bouncy beat sounds like what Mannie Fresh was making for the Hot Boyz in the late '90s/early '00s. Complete coincidence maybe, but don’t two points make a straight line?

Tempah’s star power is such that rather than magnify his actual achievements, they get lost among the starriness of many hits, sartorial interests and perceived distance (or detachment) from the grime scene whose resurgence is predicated, in no small way, on the rejection of establishment—values which Tempah has no problem embracing.

This explains why people are shocked to hear that Tempah’s seven number ones singles are more than any other UK artist has managed from 2010 to 2020. A staggering achievement no doubt, but people don’t know what to do with this.

Comparing his stats with those of rap and grime artist would seem like overkill. It must at times seem absurd to him to have to answer questions about petty rap beefs and jealousies while also instructing his interviewers on his significance in the chart history of UK music, as he did in his interview with Not For The Radio.

For the interview, lasting over two hours, Tempah wore pajamas and white sneakers, stroking a dog on his lap, for some time, in the townhouse he bought from the Alexander Mcqueen estate. In view was a piano which he admits he hasn’t learnt to play. He also spoke about a taxidermied giraffe in his kitchen. People don’t know what to do with all this.

Jay Z was for a long time a chief tastemaker. Hublot was not a thing until he said it was on “Otis,” and this was well after the Bentley and bling era. Kanye West took it to new levels by embedding himself in high fashion and brief obsession with that $100,000 Le Corbusier lamp. People didn’t know what to do with that.

Tempah, in the UK sphere, and on account of his certified hits and taste for high-living, is the amalgam of both Hov and West.

Tempah is the MC who will tell you that “I never do it off the top, still gotta write it down.” He’s the owner of a town house who insists that “I could have moved off the ends, but i’m in Hackney still” as he does on “Shadows” with Bipolar Sunshine. He’s the rapper who has told you about his gay friends as he did on “Something Special.” People really don’t know what to do with that.

The aggregate of good and often brilliant songs on Youth are what makes the whole seem to cohere. There isn’t an apparent unifying theme, and I doubt there is an underlying one.

The title, Youth, may suggest a bildungsroman. But on account of the display of affluence and many entitlements, this is closer to a Hampstead novel—in the best way possible.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London. You can reach him at sabo.kpade@gmail.com

Culture

You Need to Listen to Luvvie Ajayi's New Podcast 'Rants and Randomness'

Listen to the first episode "Real G's Move in Silence Like Wakanda" now.

Honestly, who better to host a podcast, than our favorite Nigerian social critic Luvvie Ajayi?

The blogger and media personality's new podcast Rants and Randomness, is already garnering pretty stellar reactions from listeners—It currently boasts a 5 star customer rating on iTunes. All of this is unsurprising given her knack for humor and sharp wit that we've enjoyed over the years through her popular blog Awesomely Luvvie.

In her very first episode, titled Real G's Move in Silence Like Wakanda, Luvvie rants about Valentine's Day extraness—which is a very real thing, interviews Eunique Jones Gibson, the photographer behind campaigns like "Because of them We can" and "I AM Trayvon Martin," and shares her thoughts on Black Panther—and yes, she was just as blown away as the rest of us.

She gives a full 15 minute review on the podcast, but you can read part of her review via this snippet from her blog:

My heart is full by the fact that this film feels like life-affirming in the way that cannot be taken back and it's long overdue. And the success of Black Panther should mean that more of these stories will be written and produced and distributed on a grand scale. I say SHOULD, because, well. Shit happens and whiteness loves to do dumb shit like ignore logic, all in the name of racism. More of these stories of Blackness, in all its forms, need to be shared to the world and the possibilities are endless. If nothing else Black Panther should show that our stories are profitable, amazing and necessary. We need more of them all the time in all forms. They won't all look like Black Panther, which is good. They need to be different but they need to exist.

So shoutout to Ryan Coogler and the cast who KILLED IT. And allowed us to come together in joy. I'm officially claiming citizenship of Wakanda.

We feel you, girl. Wakanda forever.

Read the full review via her blog. For more, listen and subscribe to Rants and Randomness via iTunes.

Video: OkayAfrica's 'Black Panther' Celebration at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

OkayAfrica partnered with Brooklyn Academy of Music and D'ussé for an advanced screening, followed by an exclusive Q&A with Ryan Coogler and an epic afterparty.

Ahead of Black Panther's epic release last week, OkayAfrica and Okayplayer hosted an advanced screening and Q+A between director Ryan Coogler and CEO Abiola Oke, followed by our #OkayWakanda afterparty at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

It was a jam-packed event filled with beautiful black folks, coming together to celebrate the film of the year. The Wakandan pride was strong and what's even better is that we caught all the action on camera.

We got a chance to speak with our incredibly dressed attendees live from the red carpet and after party about what the film means to them and why they came out to support it.

Check out all the action from the event and after party in the video below.


Politics

We Did It: Three Years of #FeesMustFall Finally Bears Fruit

This year's South African budget shows that struggle can make things better.

Yesterday, South African Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, presented the long-awaited 2018 budget speech. While he was heavily criticised for increasing VAT and the fuel levy, which will heavily impact the poor, students celebrated the R57 billion that will finally be set aside to fund their studies in their entirety.

It was 2015 and I was at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, along with thousands of students from all over the country, waiting to be addressed by former President Jacob Zuma about our demands for a 0% increase in fees for the following year. We were capable students, worthy of being at universities but we were also black and lacking the money to access institutions which were fast becoming financially exclusive. While our core demand was eventually met, we knew it wasn't a complete victory—what about the fees for the following year and the year after that? I still remember how days after that epic march, my ears were still ringing with the phantom sounds of struggle songs and the whizzing of rubber bullets. I don't know if South Africa or the world will ever truly know how that fight scarred so many of us.

In the years that followed, we watched as the government (which claimed it had no money to allocate to tertiary education) squander state resources time and time again. We protested relentlessly; fiercely. We were shot at by police, our campuses looked like war-zones and we wondered whether we would attain the degrees upon which our families hopes rested so heavily.

After Jacob Zuma's resignation a few days ago, I wrote about how the ANC would embark on a journey of some serious ass-kissing in the run-up to the general elections in 2019. I warned Fees Must Fall activists that if ever there were a more opportune time to act, that it was most certainly now. R57 billion rand has been allocated for the funding of tertiary education for students whose household incomes are less than or equal to R350 000 per annum. This will assist not only the poor black working class but the black "missing middle" as well. The entire duration of their degrees will be funded with the added promise of supporting students in terms of food, transport and accommodation costs, all key to making this announcement a full victory and not just a partial one.

Now does this magically solve all our problems as black students? Does it do away with the rampant inequality prevalent on all our university campuses? No, it does not. But what it is, is a step in a very hopeful direction. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this R57 billion will actually serve its purpose and not be misappropriated like so many of our state funds in the past. However, our acting President Cyril Ramaphosa, is looking to make a big splash. He's looking to garner not only our support but our lasting support, so it would stand him in good stead if he ensures his government keeps their word. He has seen (or at least read about) the destruction, the chaos, the physical and psychological damage to our young members of society following numerous Fees Must Fall protests and clashes with the police.

I will never forget that day at the Union Buildings when the police started throwing stun grenades at us and unleashing a barrage of bullets. I will never forget how a young male student stumbled towards my friend and I, his face completely drenched in blood. I will never forget how my friend and I ran out of sheer, naked fear, blindly into the busy streets of the Pretoria CBD and eventually hid ourselves behind a nearby bus stop. I was not as active on the frontlines as so many other students were, not in the least, so I can only begin to imagine the kind of trauma they still have to wrestle with till this day.

The #NationalShutDown in Cape Town on Wednesday, October 21 2015. Photo by Imraan Christian

That is why this announcement, as much as it was a string of words on a piece of paper for a lot of people, meant so much more to the rest of us. It's a sigh of relief for many black students. It means a glimmer of hope for so many black families. It's a chance to dream and to do so without inhibition. This is all we've been fighting for and it feels so damn good to allow ourselves, even for just a moment, to bask in the light that seemed so elusive back then.

Our fallen comrade Solomon Mahlangu, the young man we sang about in our struggle songs, once said that his blood would nourish the tree that would bear the fruits of freedom. He told us to continue the fight. And so to all my comrades, amandla!

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