At the age of 23, British rapper Tinie Tempah has already sold a million records with his debut album Disc-Overy.
Now he's hoping to conquer the United States with a new breed of hip-hop music through the release this week of his drum and bass hit British single Pass Out and a performance on TV singing contest The X Factor.
Reuters spoke with Tinie Tempah about his career so far and British influences on the U.S. rap music scene.
Q: Your music is at the core of a new wave of hip-hop coming out of London. How were you influenced by the London scene?
A: In London, everything is interlinked, you can't avoid it, so it just became a natural thing to put drum and bass or garage in your music. I just wanted my album to appeal to everybody across the board. I didn't go out there to intentionally make it sound different 'cause I wanted to be edgy, I just wanted to make what I know and what I like.
Q: Why do you think people have responded to your music in the way that they have?
A: People, especially in England, were just happy that there was a black British young kid who was able to sign a record deal and transcend the stereotypes of a black British rapper -- urban in a hoodie, can't talk properly, looks like a ragamuffin. I think people were rooting for me to transcend that.
Q: Do you think the artists topping music charts are being influenced by the new wave of British hip-hop?
A: When 'Pass Out' came out and people started trying to do 'Pass Out'-esque type music -- and I'm not saying Jay-Z and Kanye had a listen to us -- but when I listen to Ni**as in Paris, it sounds like it's definitely been inspired or influenced by what's been going on in the U.K.
Q: Was there a time that you thought success wasn't going to happen?
A: The MOBOs (Music of Black Origin Awards, in U.K.) 2009, I was sitting at home while I was a fully active emcee but wasn't nominated for anything, and watching all my mates sitting there in suits, drinking champagne, going up for awards, I was like, 'is this even going to happen for us?' But then the next year was a really good year for us. You need to experience a little bit of bad, it makes you appreciate the good a lot more and it makes you realize how hard you actually have to work.
Q: Why did you release Written in the Stars as the first single in the U.S. after the success of Pass Out in the
A: America definitely embraced what the Brits have to offer in terms of this new wave of music, and how eclectic and experimental it is. But I just don't think at that time that they were ready for 'Pass Out.' Now that Jay-Z and Kanye have done 'Watch The Throne' and there's a little bit more edgier music like Skrillex and Diplo, I think people are going to be more ready for it. 'Written in the Stars' was my strongest card at the time...it took me everywhere in America. Now that they understand me a little more, I think we should give 'Pass Out' a go and see what happens.
Q: At the age of 23 with more than a million records sold, how do you keep yourself grounded?
A: The thing that keeps me going and that keeps me grounded is longevity, and never wanting it to end. You don't want to go to rehab or to stop thinking about the music and stop taking pride in it. We still have a long way to go, this is not ending any time soon.
Q: How have your parents responded to your success?
A: They're very happy. I'm from a traditionally African background, things like this don't usually happen, it's usually that you go to school, go to college, get your degree, be a doctor, lawyer, as long as you're earning 100 grand a year. Me deviating from the norm was a little bit daring, gutsy, and they were more worried than anything. Music is just a very volatile thing.