As a teenager, Patrick Okogwu, as he was known in his Catholic school in leafy Plumstead, South London, excelled with honors. The firstborn son of Nigerian immigrants, he was expected to study and go to university.
He liked to write.
“I actually remember celebrating National Poetry Day at school,” he wrote in the U.K.’s Sun newspaper. “I found it easy to write verses and rhymes, as I was basically writing a song. People used to say poems were different to songs but I don’t think they are.”
Not many more years passed before Patrick bucked plans for university, teamed with a cousin to form a label and, in, 2006, released a video for “Wifey.” It’s a cute, serenade-with-a-swagger from a London kid to his sweetheart—common musings, sure, but no less resonate, as evidenced by its over three million YouTube hits.
And we’ll never know if the people who liked Tinie’s official first single, “Pass Out,” consider it poetry, but the butt-shaking party anthem nonetheless entered the U.K. Singles charts at no.1, where it lived for two weeks. It won a Brit Award in 2011 for Best Single.
Is it poetry or just rap: Who cares? Tinie’s music amplifies the voices of young people in 21st century England. Boundaries vanish: He swerves between house, electro, rap, grime, or drum and bass. He switches themes too, going from reflective and socially probing, as on “Written in the Stars” (no. 1), to the purely joyful, like the club anthem (“Miami to Ibiza” (no. 4).) Stylistically, Tinie Tempah blends Saville Row, High Street and U.K. hip-hop.
Tinie makes a collage of styles and themes, capturing the creative chaos of London, especially in these times. His raw, electric urban view translated easily to New York and America, where Tinie Tempah spent a good chunk of 2011. He’s been meeting artists, collaborating, cultivating influences and writing for a release anticipated in 2012. It’ll be eclectic, no doubt.
“I embrace a lot of genres,” he told Ebony. “I’ll rap over electro music or reggae because of where I’m from. We embrace listening to new and cool things.”