DAP­PER RAP­PER

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEATURE -

Tinie Tem­pah is telling an in­ter­est­ing tale. ‘So, I’ve got Prince Wil­liam, the fu­ture king of Eng­land, in a sweaty man-hug,’ he marvels. ‘I’ve got no Tshirt on, just come off stage and I’m drip­ping wet, and Kate is look­ing a bit wor­ried be­cause she knows her hug is com­ing next.’

The dou­ble-plat­inum-sell­ing rap­per pauses for a sip of his Green Ma­chine health drink, as the mem­bers of his Shored­itch club dis­creetly eaves­drop upon his show­biz story, this one set in 2010 at the Big Weekend in Ban­gor, Co. Down. These days, man­han­dling royalty is all in a day’s work for Tinie, hip- hop su­per­star, en­tre­pre­neur (his Dis­turb­ing Lon­don cloth­ing busi­ness is boom­ing), racon­teur and ex­pert net­worker. The man is so well-con­nected he could al­most come with free wi-fi.

As Tinie talks, some­thing he does with con­sum­mate ease and charm, the glit­tery names trip from his lips like so much star­dust. Chris Martin gives him song­writ­ing ad­vice (‘he told me that when you think you’re com­pletely fin­ished, write one more song and it will be your best’), Brad Pitt re­minds him of the im­por­tance of hu­mil­ity, Phar­rell Wil­liams of­fers his record pro­duc­ing ser­vices, He­len Mir­ren raps with him (‘she’s got a su­per­sexy voice’), he com­pares con­quest notes with Harry Styles, shares hair­style tips with Lewis Hamil­ton and Ri­hanna still gets him a lit­tle hot un­der the col­lar. ‘She is beau­ti­ful,’ he croons. ‘Tall, good skin, great eyes, smells lovely.’

So how did a stu­dious sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Nige­rian im­mi­grant from a Lon­don coun­cil es­tate get to be the guest with the gilt­edged in­vite? Patrick Chuk­wue­meka Okogwu, the name on his pass­port, is nei­ther tiny nor es­pe­cially tem­per­a­men­tal. Of aver­age height, mus­cu­lar build, Tinie has the re­spect­fully sin­cere but en­thu­si­as­tic de­meanour of a hip­ster vicar on youth-club de­tail.

His par­ents – ‘my real he­roes in life’ – came to South Lon­don from Ibusa in Nigeria in the late Eight­ies. Fa­ther Patrick was a bar­ber turned so­cial worker, mother Rose­mary is a hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer for the NHS. Young Patrick and his three younger sib­lings – Kelly, Kelvin and Mar­ian – grew up ‘street-wise but very aware of gangs’. He saw his first gun, wielded by an older boy, at an un­der­14s night­club. ‘The sound it made was very real and re­ally fright­en­ing. We all ran like hell.’

He was a bright young man with a plan, and a hard worker. A schemer not a dreamer. Yet his par­ents’ hopes for Patrick’s aca­demic fu­ture were dashed when he an­nounced his in­ten­tion to pur­sue a ca­reer in grime – an un­promis­ing mu­si­cal genre com­pris­ing ur­gent elec­tron­ics, frac­tured rhythms and ag­gres­sive vo­cal grand­stand­ing – un­der the nom-du-rap of Tinie Tem­pah. ‘That was a dif­fi­cult whole N-word is­sue is com­plex. It’s not a way to de­scribe con­ver­sa­tion,’ he re­calls with a shud­der. ‘My dad a black per­son, of course, but it de­pends on the con­text. went very quiet. But I was de­ter­mined to make it.’ I might use it around my friends but that wouldn’t be in

It paid off. In 2009, he se­cured a deal with Par­loa neg­a­tive way. It fits within the cul­ture. But it should phone Records and cel­e­brated ted by tak­ing never be used a as a term of abuse. Ul­ti­mately, high tea at Clar­idge’s. This her­alded black people peop have to de­cide how they the dawn of Tinie’s tongue-ine-in­want th that word to af­fect them. cheek strug­gle with the class ass H He says he’s ‘be­com­ing more sys­tem. Seem­ingly overnight, t, cel celebrity savvy’ these days. he went from high rise to o ‘L ‘Like when I met Brad Pitt high sta­tus: dress­ing like a a and An­gelina Jolie. They’re Sav­ile Row dandy, speak­both very beau­ti­ful people, ing like Stephen Fry (‘clearin ev­ery sense – the aes­thetly and in­tel­li­gently’) and ics are amaz­ing – but I wear­ing large spec­ta­cles al­ways look for hu­mil­ity in that he didn’t med­i­cally t these kinds of stars and they re­quire. The gen­tle­man rapre re­ally are hum­ble people. per, was born. Th They of­fer you hope that you

This af­ter­noon, Tinie, 25, has can reach r the heights of star­dom once again con­founded ex­pec­tapectaw­ithou with­out be­com­ing a real a-hole.’ tions. He turns up not in be­spoke oke fin­ery He’s no not quite so sure about Gary but a black tank top, torn trousers users and pre preBar­low Bar­low. ‘That tax t thing is a bit an­noy­ing,’ loved train­ers. His man­ner is more busi­ness than bubhe frowns. ‘I re­spect him as a song­writer but not as bly. It be­comes­tax­payer.’plain he wishes to ad­dress the burn­ing a topics con­cern­ing a young black man in Bri­tain to­day.

‘I think the whole UKIP thing is just sad,’ he states flatly. ‘It’s a load of old b*******. We’re way too in­tel­li­gent for that. It’s 2014, for God’s sake. Any­way, if you re­moved all the im­mi­grants from the work­force what would hap­pen? To­tal col­lapse.’

And racism. ‘I’ve al­ways felt racism comes from deep in­se­cu­rity,’ he says. ‘I once came back from a Catholic pil­grim­age with my mum and we were walk­ing through the car park to the coach. There were these drunk white guys out­side the pub, and they started singing, “It’s get­ting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.” I thought, that’s cool. Then they sang, “It’s get­ting black in here, so take off all your skin.” I wasn’t scared or of­fended. I felt sorry for them. It’s meat-headed, cow­ardly be­hav­iour.’

And Jeremy Clark­son? ‘I’ll have to sit down and watch the tape my­self be­fore judg­ing him,’ he says. The

And Harry Styles? What­ever do you talk to him about in the front row of a fash­ion show? ‘The mod­els, ob­vi­ously,’ he says. ‘Some­times you can talk about the clothes but that’s a bit of a poncy con­ver­sa­tion to be hav­ing. Who wants to dis­cuss fabrics when there are all these hot girls walk­ing past you? You talk about who is the fittest one.’

Is there a Mrs Tem­pah? Or are there merely many tem­po­rary Miss Tem­pahs? ‘I don’t want there to be too many more tem­po­rary Miss Tem­pahs,’ he says. ‘Ini­tially, it was amaz­ing – blonde ones, dark ones, tall girls, short girls – but the nov­elty wears off. And you’re deal­ing with people’s feel­ings af­ter all. It isn’t just phys­i­cal. It isn’t a sex­ual free-for-all any more…I’m grow­ing up.’

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