Tinie Tempah, Hammersmith Apollo, London
From grime to prime-time superstar
Wednesday 02 March 2011
"This show is going to be more memorable than you can ever imagine... and that's a Tinie Tempah guarantee!" declares the 22-year-old rapper, four songs into his sell-out show at Hammersmith Apollo. It's big talk from an artist who, only a few years ago, was a grime-cee unknown to the crossover crowd who've now helped him in his personal quest to become a UK superstar. So tonight he's proud and cocky, inspired by the last few years of chart-topping singles, strategic alliances (Rihanna, Snoop, Usher, Willow Smith) and his recent double-Brit win, which he flaunts on stage with the help of a female fan who awkwardly waves them around as he breaks into "Invincible".
Performance-wise, he's like a junior Jay-Z – all posturing and head-bobbing – with the dynamism of a younger Kanye West before he got way too conceptual. He whimsically skips across the stage to the pounding background of "Simply Unstoppable", and later invites his good pal Ellie Goulding to join him for an excitable performance of "Wonderman", a thoughtful nod-a-long which explores his rise to fame. "I went from the kid in class, takes some radio DJs so they could bring me up, to the young rapper everybody's ringing up, got 'em looking for a sprinkle of that pixie dust!" he cries.
For close to an hour and a half, Tinie Tempah seems intent on setting a new standard for the black British MC, who sometimes struggle at two things; putting on great performances and delivering credible songs that can cross over in Popland. There's pyrotechnics, great visuals and fantastic arrangements of songs from his debut, Discovery, as well as other chart hits; and Tinie covers everything from grungy grime ("Obsession") to shameless dance anthems ("Miami 2 Ibiza"), which effortlessly stirs the crowd up into an arm-waving frenzy. He's clearly a perfectionist, too, wanting this show to have the air of those polished performances that his American contemporaries seem to do so well – and the way he segues his lyrics on Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" remix to "Frisky" is perfection.
But the show tends to waver between songs. There's a lot of gushing about how great the fans are and talking for the sake of talking, and if there was an award going for the best way to keep your fans attentive in a ploy to stretch out your show, he could probably add that to his Brit haul. He's also got a story for that too, clocking in at nearly five minutes. Then there's the swearing: it's too much and too American, and it's doubtful the parents who were happy to join their kids in the playful "Snap", were just as keen to "shout yeah motherfucker, yeah motherfucker, YEAH!" when he finally wraps up the show with "Pass Out". But if this impressively slick show from start to finish is anything to go by, his future displays could be near enough flawless – guaranteed.
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