Just before he turned 20 Tinie Tempah made a promise to himself that if he didn’t get a recording contract before he hit his double decade he was going to “sack the whole thing off” and become an accountant. Luckily for us he signed a deal just four weeks before his self-imposed deadline and the rest, as they say is history… yet with this rapper his story isn’t as predictable as you’d expect.
Born Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu in London to Nigerian parents, Tinie Tempah (his stage name) was ambitious from the get-go with his mother telling him and his sisters that they had to work four times as hard to prove themselves. This instilled a great sense of determination in Tempah who is far from being the complacent music star who expects projects to be dropped in his lap.
Tempah’s tenacity has seen him achieve more UK number one singles than iconic band Queen, become besties with Prince William, be an ambassador for London Collections Men, run a successful management company (Disturbing London) and rub shoulders of some the fashion industry’s greats. Rapper, businessmen, fashion icon – Tinie Tempah is the modern day triple threat.
As such it was a no brainer that the dapper rapper was asked by luxury fashion brand Coach to headline it’s recent #CoachBackstage concert in Dubai at a purpose built arena on Madinat’s Fort Island. Ahead of the concert, we sat down with the rapper to talk feminism, embarrassing celebrity moments and why Dubai is so inspiring…
Welcome to Dubai, this isn’t your first time here [He filmed music video Flash here]. What do you love about the emirate?
I like Dubai, it’s a nice melting pot with people from all over the world trying to do new innovative things. It’s nice when a place is so young and has achieved so much in a short space of time. It’s inspirational.
What do you find inspirational about it?
Considering we [him and his entourage] are all of Nigerian descent, it’s really inspirational to see a country, that 30 years ago was a desert, turn into this.
As Mr Dapper, what do you think of Dubai’s fashion scene?
I think the fashion scene here is emerging. Dubai’s made up of loads of different people from different places. It’s cool, it’s eclectic due to the different cultures and different types of people.
Where do you get your style inspiration from?
When I was younger, a lot of it came from people who I looked up to on the telly. The Kanye Wests of this world, the Pharrells, but now it’s all about travelling and the internet – I’m a constant sponge for everything. So, when I’m out in LA, New York or Sweden or Germany and I see what someone’s wearing, and I like it, I try to soak it up and do it in my own way.
Ever made a fashion faux pas?
I’ve been through stages where I’m like: ‘This is brand is hot and I’m just going to over do it and just buy loads of it.’ Then I’m like: ‘OK, I’m never go to wear this.’ So, eventually you kind of find your style. There is a method to the madness – you eventually know what works and what fits.
As well as fashion, Dubai is also renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit. As a successful businessman yourself what’s your advice to those planing to start their own business?
I think now is an easier time than ever to start your own business. I definitely feel this is the age of entrepreneurism and there’s so many success stories from so many different types of people who have come from nothing and that started their own businesses – they inspire other people. My advice is to do your research depending on what you want to do, research people who have done similar things; have a bit of confidence and just remember to network. Be social, be charismatic and work with people you would like to do business with.
So, if you didn’t get that record deal would you be an accountant now?
OK, so in hindsight probably not. I wouldn’t have quit, I probably would’ve tried to be a music manager instead. I would’ve kept it within the music industry.
You work with some big name people, ever get star struck?
I still get star struck. There are certain people who I ring when I want to talk about music – certain producers and artists – and I get nervous. I think: ‘Argh, I hope they are going to answer the phone.’ You know what I mean? I never thought I did but I was thinking about it the other day and I think it’s quite nice to still have that.
Any embarrassing celebrity stories?
When celebrities meet each other it’s always a little uncomfortable and awkward. I’ve probably head-butted someone or, you know, kissed some a bit too much…
You work with some powerful female artists, most recently Zara Larsson. What does modern day feminism mean to you?
I have mother, who I love very much and hold dear to my heart and I have two incredible sisters who have graduated from university and empowered themselves and have their own businesses. So, I definitely respect and support it. But, for me, personally, because I’m not a mother, I feel there are other issues in my mind that are more at the forefront. For example race and racism and inequality in general; the disparity between rich and poor. Those things are in my head a little bit more.
What does it feel like being part of #CoachBackstage?
It feels great to be part of Coach. For the past two years I’ve been going to Coach shows and since Stuart Vevers started it really seems like the brand has revamped and reinvented itself. It has a great heritage.
Any chance of a Tinie Tempah x Coach collaboration?
I love to collaborate so who knows there could be a Tinie Tempah collaboration with Coach. I mean I would be up for that.
Finally you’ve come a long way since that promise you made before you turned 20, what’s the greatest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Just to be thankful and never take anything for granted. Don’t get in a position where you think everything is plain sailing. Every year I work harder than I have before. It doesn’t get easier. I’m very grateful and I’m thankful to God, a higher power more than me. I don’t think it’s all about me. I just don’t rest on my laurels. I never think: ‘Cool it’s alright.’ Sometimes I hear about certain pop stars and they literally get their next single delivered to them while they are chilling on the beach. And I think that’s all well and good but I could never be that person. I just don’t think that sets you up for longevity. You need to work at it.
TINIE TEMPAH’S TOP THREE STYLE TIPS
- Try and have a consistent colour palette, don’t veer off too much.
- Always accessories and add in some things that you can talk about. So, you can say ‘I got this from here, I got this from this etc..’ At the end of the day everyone is wearing a top and jeans so you may as well add your own touch to it.
- Finally, it’s confidence. With confidence you could pull off anything, even a pair of Speedos.
The #CoachBackstage concert coincided with the opening of the new Coach store in The Dubai Mall – the store is the first Modern Luxury store in the UAE.