On its release in 2010, Tinie Tempah’s debut ‘Disc-Overy’ was a record with crossover appeal, fusing hip-hop and dance with the help of Labrinth and Swedish House Mafia amongst others, in addition to featuring pop singers like Kelly Rowland, Ellie Goulding and (who else?) Emeli Sandé. Through its mix of styles, this was a singular, futuristic musical vision.
By comparison, follow-up ‘Demonstration’ is an urban chameleon, switching styles from track to track. This is owing to the range of producers employed, including long-term collaborators Labrinth and iShi, as well as Diplo, Alex Da Kid, Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands, Chase & Status, Naughty Boy and even Zane Lowe on the final track. As such, the album switches from the sombre vocals of Labrinth on It’s OK, to the heavy drum and bass of Mosh Pit (featuring a guest rap from Dizzee Rascal); from the pop anthem Children Of The Sun, to the soul sample of Witch Doctor; from the trap sound of Shape featuring Big Sean, to the industrial sound of Lover Not A Fighter that’s almost a sequel to Earthquake. The result is an album that cleverly reflects a cross-section of current urban music trends, full of unpredictable twists and turns.
‘Demonstration’ does mellow out a little towards the end with the inclusion of female vocals from (who else?) Emeli Sandé on A Heart Can Save The World (produced by – who else? – Naughty Boy), Paloma Faith on ballad Lost Ones, and Laura Mvula on the anthemic Heroes. Each singer brings some welcome soul and softness to the hard-edged production throughout, though it's the piano-led Tears Run Dry with singer Sway Clarke II that really brings the emotion. The album ends with 5 Minutes, a full throttle, cinematic breakbeat track that shows DJ Zane Lowe in a very different light.
Amongst such a cornucopia of artists, Tinie Tempah is sadly the weak link, seemingly stuck with his clothes in his aunt’s house and relying on clichéd rhymes, repetitive rhythmic flows and that incessant “YEAAAAAAH” every five minutes. It’s almost as bad as “JASON DERUUULOOO”. Lyrically, he sticks to the familiar themes of sex (“tryin’ to get fellatio from girls as fresh as Daisy Lowe”; “I be one-night-standing like I’m tryna be romantic”), boasting and faux-poshness (“my mansion is so tidy”; “I go to Claridge’s to do high tea”) and misogyny (“I made you suffer like a suffragette”), mostly told through tongue-in-cheek puns (“never in denial ‘cause de Nile is a river”). When he does get political on A Heart Can Save The World ("Tell Mr Cameron and Oprah, the people unemployed and they dunno who to vote for") it's too little too late. In one blazing verse of Mosh Pit, Dizzee Rascal is able to outdo him. And in a week when Eminem, the self-titled “rap god”, has released a new album, Tinie’s quirky rap style just doesn’t quite cut it.
* Mosh Pit
* Tears Run Dry
* 5 Minutes
Listen: 'Demonstration' is available now.