Hands up to those who have over loaded on junk food like a pig in a trough at one time or another? For me it’s usually after a messy night out of downing cocktails and jamming to Hip hop after which I leave the club craving a much-needed refuel to replenish the energy lost on the dance floor! We feast on all its greasy goodness and indulge in the mix of all things bad for you but that feeling of satisfaction is only temporary and the more you eat the more you need until eventually you feel stuffed and have to have a lie down or throw up to make room to start all over again!
The metaphor Hip hop / Hip POP star Tine Tempah alludes to in tilting his late 2015 mixtape “Junk Food” seems to be that he’s presenting to us, the listener a mixture of differing ingredients including sizzling peppers, chilli’s and sauce served up by many chefs who use the ingredients in varied amounts to suit their personal tastes. Tinie’s ability to draft in so many ‘Chefs’ to cook up some junk keeps the menu fresh and does the job of satisfying our starving appetites; and starving we were.
Tinie’s achievements are undeniable, he’s the rapper who Prince Harry is most likely to play to his grandmother the queen to ease her into the UK rap scene if she should query it or he’s the rapper most likely to be invited to black tie events, he’s done what a lot of rappers were unable to do – he’s transcended the class barrier with his confidence, business sense and non-threatening demeanour to become accepted commercially something that his idol Dizzee Rascal also managed to do but he couldn’t quite breakthrough internationally like Tinie has. Since the days of ‘06’s underground smashes “Wifey” and “Tears” (where every girl in London should have been warned that if they became involved with Tinie they were sure to meet a fatal end judging by the two women in both videos) we have all questioned whether Tinie Tempah’s ascent to stardom which saw him work with dance and pop giants Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, Jess Glynne and Ellie Goulding meant his feet were firmly planted in the pop arena never to return to UK Hip Hop.
To return to Hip Hop roots, a person had to have hailed from that genre in the first instance to return successfully and this is where Tinie divides opinions – the underground heads are of the opinion that Tinie sold out and has ‘gone pop’; respected Grime generals such as collaborator Big Narstie stated Tinie was never hard-core to begin with, he’s never rapped about blasting someone with an AK or advocated extreme violence; his debut tracks were celebrating the virtues of finding a wife worthy woman and expressing his sorrow for a relationship that had come to an inevitable end. So should we be surprised then that an artist who was already leaning towards a commercial sound has chosen to make EDM bangers with some of the biggest names in the industry? Tinie Tempah’s shrewd business decisions have seen him win 4 Mobos, 2 Brits, a BET and an Ivor Novello award (most of his wins for the Drum and Bass tinged Labrinth produced “Pass Out”) along the way he’s also been embraced by international artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg and frequent collaborator Big Sean. After all his dizzying success it’s a welcome treat to hear the showman work with artists who influenced his sound which is not a sound he necessarily hailed from but it’s clearly paved the way for his brand of catchy Hip pop beats, It’s been overdue to hear Tinie cut loose like a sachet of ketchup that’s been cut open and gone rogue splattering everyone unexpectedly at full force.
Tinie Tempah’s magnetic star power and his ability to effortlessly play genre (Hip) hop scotch is evident in the pulling power of the features he secured for the mixtape. The features on ‘Junk Food’ reads like an Avengers Assembled calling card of the most talented UK Hip Hop (and a few Grime) artists. Before you even hit the play button you’re gassed from the features which includes heavy weights – Stormzy, JME, Giggs, Wretch 32, Big Narstie and Sneakbo aligned with next to blow rappers Cadet and J Hus (Who have both had a lot of love this year) There are also lesser known rappers on the rise MoStack aka The gangster with Banter (who is the only artist to get 2 features ) American raised rapper J Avalanche, M Dargg, Yungen, Youngs Teflon, Ms. Banks, Bonkaz and vocalist LIV. Tinie proves he makes an excellent team captain by selecting leaders, main players and rookies on the rise and ensures that everyone gets their time to shine which is often impossible on a project packed with features. ‘Junk Food’ opens with clanging cow bells and sounds like an industrial factory with metal falling around our ears, Tinie raps about being big in Canada and Africa and lets us know it’s more than beats providing the filling to those burger buns in our brown paper junk food bags it’s also his fashion line / record label ‘Disturbing London’ providing his success. “Been The Man” ft. JME, Stormzy and South London rapper Ms. Banks has a beat which feels like jaws is hunting for his next meal, it makes you feel as though there is an unseen threat nearby to be wary of. Stormzy provides the hook “Look Rude boy I’ve been the man, even when I was in the pram, way before your insta bang, furthermore before Instagram” JME delivers an energetic cameo and drops the double entendre lyric “The next step is to make my own creps / crepes not the ones that you eat but the ones on your feet” Ms Banks closes the track with a fierce flow.
“Autogas” Ft. Big Narstie and MoStack wouldn’t go amiss in a Sci-fi thriller like the X-Files with its chilling strings over a trap beat. The tracks take a bow moment belongs to Big Narstie who makes a memorable and charismatic cameo dropping bars such as “I’ve got balls of steel, I am the militant black guy BDL paratrooper salute the magpie, I’ll high five mans face if a n*gga don’t act right” Narstie switches it up between a double time flow and slows it right down when required and rides the beat flawlessly like a winning jockey at the grand national. Lead single “We Don’t Play No Games” which is the second single to feature MoStack and also features the sometimes Ragga rapper Sneakbo. The bass sounds like a hybrid of bongo drums played to conjure up some voodoo magic. MoStack has a more memorable appearance than his first and laces it with the killer line “I just met a real white girl and she crazy whining to house like her first name’s Amy” Definitely what I like to call a Stack Mo’ heat moment for the up and coming rapper. Sneakbo lends his skills to the low-key yet powerful proceedings with punchy bars full of swag and confidence.
“All you” Ft. ‘Disturbing London’ rapper G FrSH and Wretch 32 is the most mixtape sounding track with it’s simple drum pattern and is one of a few tracks where the rappers rhymes overrides the booming bass. The track sounds like a Kool Moe Dee freestyle from the 80’s and would be a track which would slot right in at a block party in Queens, New York back in the day. Wretch 32 wrecks his bars and flows over the beat like the expert that he is “No talking in my ears when I’m raving son ‘can you please listen to my mix tape?’ Just another light skin n*gga on a Drake ting” “Mileage” opens with a Hindu-esque preacher type voice speaking in tongues (think the opening high-pitched vocals on Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk in Love’ before the track kicks in) and quickly descends into an EDM lets all get smashed type of track where Tinie, J Avalanche and M Dargg are in full on flex mode and celebrating their lavish lifestyles.
“I Could Do This Every Night” Ft. Yungen, Bonkaz and singer LIV is the most compelling track on the mixtape in terms of composition, the instrumental gives off an enigmatic air, LIV’s vocals are ethereal and sound eerily similar to Ellie Goulding’s and the track screams commercial hit due to its sing along chorus that the stush gyal dem can relate to. In my opinion this is where Tinie is at his lyrical best as he looks back at his humble beginnings “Stupid superstition been getting chicks since wifey riddim” elsewhere Tinie states “Bitch I conquered Britain did what Dizzee did and Chippy didn’t” an obvious send for Chip (Will this beef ever burn out?) Yungen steps up with a solid if predictable verse rapping about Benz’, whipping a range and titties. Bonkaz comes with an interesting perspective and balances the track with some witty one liners complete with shout outs to Krept and Konan, Section Boyz and Stormzy. On the track “Might Flip” Tinie gathers his Generals – Cadet and Youngs Teflon. The track opens with the machine gun cry we all know and love of “Cadet Cadet” which I saw as a nice touch considering Cadet is the featured artist on the track. The beat seems to breathe like a nightmarish creature from the film ‘Insidious’ lurking in the shadows. Standout bar from Tinie – “Every time you spit a verse chica chica chica, I don’t know what the fuck you’re saying like Iggy” which is hilarious as Tinie was biggin’ up Iggy’s charms on a previous track which reveals he’d most likely ‘hit that’ but has no respect for her as an artist and would ultimately ditch that!
Which brings me to *Shudder* “Look at me” Ft. Giggs. Giggs’ voice alone could tempt all the spirits and demons out to play even though they should be in hibernation until Halloween 2016. Giggs’ menacing tone reminds me of the terror I felt when hearing the Candy man drawl “Helen Helen” through the mirror with his hook glistening in the moonlight. As if this is not enough to creep anyone out Giggs’ husky tone is supported by an ominous beat ready to swallow the listener into darkness. Giggs drops the GENIUS bar “N*gga talkin bout ghost, wait did a n*gga just Whoopi me” which is a direct parallel to Patrick Swayze’s character in ‘Ghost’ being called forth by Whoopi’s character and is basically Giggs warning – If you think he’s gone ghost chat his name and he shall appear to prove you wrong. The only downfall to this track is that Giggs draws you in to a hypnotic trance like state that when Tinie makes his appearance the spell is broken and he sounds misplaced on his own track.
The mixtape closes with “100 Friends” Ft. rapper / MC J Hus who had a huge underground smasher with “Dem Boy Paigon” this year. Both Tinie and J Hus take a moment to reflect on the 100’s of friends they had and how time has changed them to the point that they now prefer to be selective regarding who they let into their circle but despite this thousands of people claim to run with them when in reality they can both count their friends on one hand. Both deliver thoughtful lyrics and it makes for a powerful close. The autotune effect on J Hus’ voice is a slight distraction but the thankfully the message is not lost.
Tinie Tempah succeeded in serving up a festive feast of beats, bars and bass supported by an all-star cast.