Dizzee, Dappy, Tinchy, Chipmunk: you’d think that the market for pint-sized purveyors of chart-friendly grime was well and truly saturated by now. But no: here comes another London rhymester who’s more likely to be allowed into the ball pool at a Wacky Warehouse than onto the Nemesis at Alton Towers.
Tinie Tempah‘s debut is an expensive-sounding, meticulously produced mixture of rap, grime, electro and soul. He’s clearly had a lot of help from every jobbing guest vocalist and producer on the block, and as a result it’s a slick piece of work. Unlike many rap albums, it’s not overlong – no 20-track indulgences or spoken word tributes to one’s maker here – and sustains its energy throughout.
A few dancefloor-oriented tracks (Miami 2 Ibiza, Wonderman) make up the best moments, with the harsh, kinetic electro-grime providing the perfect backdrop to Tinie’s fruity, Dizzee-esque squawking. But on the bulk of the album, there’s a deep division between the plucky South London rapper’s contributions and the lashings of over-produced dreck that his producers lavish upon him.
Essentially Tinie’s a cheeky lad who wants the world; and if he can’t have the world, then some cars and girls will certainly do. “I got a black BM / She got a white TT / She want to see what’s hiding / In my CK briefs,” he raps endearingly on Miami 2 Ibiza. Ready as he is to imagine himself in a world of LA clubs, horseshoe-shaped velvet sofas and buxom honeys wielding trays of Veuve Clicquot, never far from the surface is the little Herbert who’s just got a clip round the ear from his mum for taking the Lord’s name in vain.
There’s much fun to be had in this mix of braggadocio and bathos: “I got so many clothes I gotta store ’em at me auntie’s.” Taking his cue from Jay-Z, Tinie gives us endless similes, metaphors and quantitative comparisons, usually with a distinct UK twist: “I’m gonna clean up like a Dyson,” or “I got more fuckin’ hits than a disciplined child.”
Trouble is, this pleasingly diverting charm is interspersed on virtually every track with thick, sludgy layers of hideous strangled R’n’B drawling, usually Auto-Tuned within an inch of its life. Much like when the blonde one out of N-Dubz opens her trap and undermines any credibility that poor old Dappy could ever have hoped for. Guest vocalists turn into guest robots, as though Boyz 2 Men had been replaced by Daleks. Even Kelly Rowland, who pops up on Invincible and patently can sing properly, comes out sounding like Davros in a booty-hugging swimsuit. And Tinie himself doesn’t emerge unscathed, being subjected to some cringeworthy and wholly unnecessary audio drag on Obsession.
All but a handful of the tracks on Disc-Overy are quite ruined by this appalling Black Eyed Peas gloss. Essentially the glitzy, diamante LA treatment shortchanges a smart and gifted British artist, rendering Disc-Overy an album for low-riding gym-rat numpties, destined to be blared out of souped-up Golfs on suburban housing estates nationwide. What a shame, because underneath all this nonsense, there’s a talented little fella waiting to get out.