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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

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Stop What You're Doing Right Now and Watch Falz's New Video 'This Is Nigeria'

The Nigerian rapper tackles his country's social ills in his very own answer to Childish Gambino's "This Is America."

Nigerian rapper, Falz has been known to use his sharp brand of humor to address social ills in his country. Today he's taken it a step further with the release of a new song and video entitled "This is Nigeria" and the outcome is an audacious, decidedly necessary critique of Nigerian society inspired by Childish Gambino's viral video "This is America."

Falz opens the song with a voice over of his father the lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, discussing the consequences of rampant corruption and exploitation, before adding his own cutting criticism: "This is Nigeria, look how I'm living now, look how I'm living now. Everybody be criminal," he rhymes as chaos ensues all around him.

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Photo courtesy of Nike

The Secret Behind Nike's New Naija Football Kits are Nigerians Themselves

The story behind the bold new uniforms the Super Eagles will be wearing at this year's World Cup.

Partner content from Nike

The new Nigeria football kits are not even out yet, but they're already causing pandemonium with Nigerian press reporting that there have been already 3 million worldwide orders. And it's easy to see why—the designs are daring with a bold nod to Nigerian culture that is very in vogue right now. In addition, UK Grime MCs with Nigerian roots, Skepta and Tinie Tempah have already been photographed in the new jerseys causing a surge of social media chatter about the new look.

But while rock star endorsements and an edgy new design will certainly bring attention, there's no doubt that the real bulk of the demand is due to what is ramping up to be a significant moment in the history of Nigerian football—the 2018 World Cup.



If you don't already know, Nigeria is entering this year's World Cup in Russia with some of the most exciting young players we've seen in years. With youthful talent like Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho—all 21—and veteran Olympic captain Jon Obi Mikel ready to take the field in Moscow all eyes are on Nigeria to advance out of Group D and challenge the world for a chance at the cup.

The plan here is to outdo the teams previous international achievement, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal in men's football which is commemorated on the home kit with a badge recolored in the colors of the '96 gold medal-winning "Dream Team."

The home kit also pays subtle homage to Nigeria's '94 shirt— the first Nigerian team to qualify for the tournament—with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso. But if the allusion to the pasty is subtle, the new supercharged patterns are anything but.

The look of the kit feels particularly in touch with what's going on in youth fashion both in Nigeria and the world and that's no accident. Much of the collection comes in bold print, both floral and Ankara-inspired chevrons, ideas that we've seen entering street wear collections and on the runway in recent years. That's because African and Nigerian style has become a big deal internationally of late. And not just in style, the country's huge cultural industries from Nollywood to Afrobeats have announced themselves on the world stage. This cultural ascendance is reflected in the design.


Courtesy of Nike

"With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation," notes Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. "We built this kit and collection based on the players' full identities." Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria's players, "We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture."

In fact OkayAfrica has covered the team's love for music before—even dedicating an edition of the African in Your Earbuds mixtape to John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi & Kelechi Iheanacho's favorite songs to get hyped up before a game. When we asked the charismatic trio, they gave us list that included many of the huge Nigerian artists that we love, like Tekno, Wizkid, Yemi Alade and Nigerian-American rapper Wale and also, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, Celine Dion.

Nigerian culture has gone global partly through its infectious energy but also because of its vibrant diaspora populations that bring it with them wherever they land. Lagos-born Alex Iwobi whose goal in the 73rd minute to qualified Nigeria for this summer's tournament spent most of his life in London but still reps Naija to the fullest.

"I grew up in England, but Nigeria is my homeland," he says. "When I scored that goal, the players were dancing, the fans were playing trumpets and bringing drums…there was just so much passion and energy. It is always an honor to wear the white and green. To compete this summer is not just our dream, it is also the dream of our fans. Together, we all represent Naija."

This similar energy can be felt in Nigerian communities from Brooklyn to Peckham and even in China. Naija culture is truly global and no doubt the fans will embody the Naija spirit wherever they will be watching the games this summer.

If you're wondering, Nike isn't simply hopping on the Nigeria bandwagon. The apparel company has been sponsoring the Nigerian football since 2015, supplying kits to all nine of the Nigeria Football Federation teams at every level, including the men's and women's senior teams, men's and women's under-20 teams, men's and women's under-17 teams, men's and women's Olympic teams, and the men's beach football team.

So while the kit is available for purchase worldwide June 1, just know that you'll be competing with millions to get your own official shirts for the World Cup. If you are in New York, find the kit for sale exclusively at Nike's 21 Mercer store.

And please join OkayAfrica and Nike on June 2nd for Naija Worldwide as we celebrate Team Nigeria's journey to Russia in style.

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Listen to Adekunle Gold's New Album 'About 30'

Adekunle Gold's highly-anticipated sophomore album is here.

Adekunle Gold's much-anticipated sophomore album, About 30, has arrived.

The 14-track album boasts features from Seun Kuti, Flavor and British-Nigerian soul singer Jacob Banks, who appears on a remix to the popular lead single "Ire." The album sees the artist flexing immense versatility and range as he delivers emotional ballads, folk-Inspired cuts sung in Yoruba, and a few highlife-tinged summer jams.

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