With the resurgence of the British grime scene by artists like Skepta and Stormzy, past works from grime artists like Tinie Tempah have been ridiculed for being too pop-affiliated and therefore too soft to be considered true grime. Despite these recent sentiments towards the genre, Tinie Tempah’s 2011 debut album Disc-Overy dropped at number one on the U.K. charts. The bold debut displays a spectrum of sounds all heavily influenced by grime and U.K. garage music.
The album starts off with very heavy bass lines and an electric garage feel; his rhymes are somewhat inaudible, especially on “Intro”. Now you might be thinking, why would any rapper have inaudible rhymes throughout his songs? With the first two tracks on the album, Tinie is highlighting his signature fusion sound by not being too heavy-handed on the actual rap. These songs seem to borrow a little from every genre, which helps bridge the gap between grime music and mainstream pop and electric charts.
The album changes course with the decisively brazen grime song “Pass Out”. What takes this club hit to the next level is the production and vocals by musician Labrinth. The boastful high tempo is indicative to any and almost all rap songs on the market. The synthesized electric feel is what brings this track back to Britain.
The boastful demeanour carries over throughout the album, even on love songs “Till I’m Gone” and “So Addicted”. In “Till I’m Gone”, Tinie blends American R&B with his signature witty rhymes and flow.
His tongue-in-cheek rap style, which sometimes produces silly lines about sweet nothings, segues into hard-hitting truths on the piano-driven track “Illusion”. This shows Tinie’s versatility and ability to touch on the topics of fame, race, and violence while keeping it relatable. The album then crosses into full-on pop with “Written in the Stars”; the cliché message and singalong hook are similar to those in many hit pop songs.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tinie takes us on the electric route with “Miami 2 Ibiza”. This collaboration with Swedish House Mafia brings out his full wit and again highlights his adaptability.
From Ellie Goulding to Emeli Sandé, Tinie puts forth collaborations that take the album to the next level, but his works with Labrinth take the cake. “Frisky” mixes in enough electro house to be mainstream but not so much that it loses its authenticity.
The entire album feels like a balancing act between styles. It could so easily have felt choppy—almost every track is a different genre—but Tinie manages to hold it all together with a consistent flow and rhyming style, and heavy electric baselines. The collection as a whole does feel very 2011, since the mishmash of styles and its confused air reminds of my personal headspace at the time.
Personally, I think Tinie is at his best on the more grime-centric songs. I feel the album could do with one more song featuring Labrinth, and if there is one thing I can take away, it is that the two should definitely consider becoming a duo.