Entertainment & Arts

Tinchy Stryder: Talking Shop

Tinchy Stryder
Image caption Tinchy Stryder started out on pirate radio at the age of 16

With two number one singles, a business partnership with Jay-Z and a thriving clothing label, hip-hop MC Tinchy Stryder is a thoroughly modern pop star - musician, pin-up and chief executive rolled into one.

He started out on pirate radio with Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, and broke through after his manager's father, the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, remortgaged his house to launch the rapper's career.

Two chart-topping singles - Number 1 and Never Leave You - followed, and Stryder recently joined forces with US rap giant Jay-Z to launch a music company to break new talent.

Stryder, 24, talks about his friendships with Dizzee and Jay-Z, and explains why he is tackling the darker side of fame on his third album, Third Strike.

When you were starting out with Dizzee on pirate radio, did you have an inkling that your sound would do so well?

There was a feeling that it was something that people connected to. When you used to go to raves, it just had a little feeling to it. I always felt there was something special, but I didn't quite picture it how it would be now to be honest.

How well did you know the other MCs who are now big stars?

Obviously Dizzee, I grew up in the same area and was doing the same things as him, and Wiley. But away from that there wasn't really anyone who was around us like that.

It feels good that everyone's come from the same scene man. Everyone's doing their own thing in their own lane and is focused.

You've said your new album is darker...

It's got a darker feel to it, with the sound and what I'm saying. What I'm talking about is what I'm going through and what I was going through when I was making the album.

What were you going through?

There's a lot of pressure because the last album was so successful and I had the title of best-selling UK male and people are just sitting back with their arms crossed thinking, what's he going to do next? Can he follow this up? Some people hoping for the best, some people hoping for the worst.

With the limelight comes the darker side. When you get to a certain stage, a lot of people are thinking, why is he not helping this one or them? You hear a lot of things, man.

I've got a song talking about this being what you want, the fame, but at the same time there are places that I can't even go to eat no more.

Not even Nando's?

No, I'm cool with Nando's.

I wouldn't want it to sound like I'm just complaining on the album because I'm not, but it was what I was going through when I was writing.

I've got other things I'm talking about. I've got some lyrics about how we used to pay to get into raves, and now I get paid to go and stand in a rave. It's what I've been going through, it's the realness of it. There's good parts of the life and there are parts that aren't so good but it ain't built for everyone.

It seems like the breakthrough for you and other MCs came when grime fused with electro and pop - were you trying to soften it and make it more accessible?

Maybe to make it more accessible was something that was on your mind without even thinking about it. But I was never someone who listened to, say, the charts or nothing. I just knew what music was about - I didn't really listen to mainstream radio.

Why did Jay-Z say he wanted to work with you?

It's more like a whole relationship was built between not just Jay-Z but the whole Roc Nation family [and I]. We go over to LA to see them and go to their studios and just chill.

They say: "You remind us of when we were coming up." And obviously it was someone who I listened to when I was growing up, musically and as a businessman. It's one of those things that's naturally happened, nothing felt forced.

Are there plans to record together?

No, we haven't really spoken… obviously I'd love to do a track with Jay-Z but that wasn't the whole thing. It was a joint venture with the business side to bring the labels together and sign some new artists.

How important is it for you to break through in the US?

When the time is right that will happen. I think the UK still needs to be conquered for me personally.

Tinchy Stryder was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Ian Youngs.

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