Verge Meets: Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah has teamed up with LifeSkills, created with Barclays to offer a range of work experience opportunities for young people across sport and entertainment. Open to 18 to 24 year olds, the roles can be applied for at 

Not only is Tinie Tempah one of the UK’s biggest artists, he is the most charming and down to earth celebrity you could possibly wish to meet. He has worked extremely hard for his fame, since he began recording at a mere 14 years old, and his work ethic makes him the perfect candidate to represent Barclays Life Skills and inspire young people to sign up for their work experience opportunities.

I sat down with the South London mega star at his Disturbing London studio to find out how he became so successful, and why he is the perfect idol for young people trying to make it into creative industries.

Action Images / Paul Childs

Action Images / Paul Childs

What made you want to get involved with Barclays Life Skills?

I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to be offered to young people; it’s definitely something that would have been a good thing for me to see whilst I was growing up. It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to work somewhere really cool like the football sector, or in the creative industries like music.

What kept you motivated when you were trying to make it into the industry?

The desire to succeed, the desire to win and feel like “Yes, I’ve got to the other side” that’s just a big part of who I am and the way I was raised, I think. With music it’s like a dream, essentially, so you’re willing to work hard and do anything to make your dreams come true and that’s just what kept me going.

You started recording music at 14, isn’t that a scary thought?

It was very scary but fun, you have to remember that anything creative, most of the time, people do it because they enjoy it and I’ve just always loved it.

What was the first step that got you into the music industry?

I did an independent music video called ‘Wifey’ for Channel U and at the time that was the only outlet for music, apart from Pirate Radio, and that kind of got me out there and that was the first real big thing I think.

Is there anything on your CV from before you worked in music?

I did telesales when I was about 16, but I don’t have a CV anymore, my records are my CV.

Tinie Tempah studio 2

What would you say was your biggest challenge to break into the industry?

Just rejection and allowing rejection to get the better of you. There’s a lot of rejection, you have to remember music is predominately a scene of people, not only musicians, but radio DJs and radio producers. You have to convince all of these people that you’re worthy of being part of this scene and that’s not always the easiest thing.

After you get a few emails that haven’t been responded to, or people telling you that they don’t really think you’re good enough, or you get a few producers saying that they’d rather not work with you that can be enough to think “Oh shit”. But I just kept going.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by every musician I work with and that’s not some cliché answer. The reason why is, especially in the studio, they all have different recording styles and techniques. Some people say “I’ve got it” and they run in and then they run out and for the first time it’s literally perfect, and they ask “Do you like it?” and I’m like “Yeah!”

Then someone people are a bit more like “Oh I need to go into that other room for 3 hours” and when they come out it’s kind of sloppy, but at the end its really good. So everyone has a really different style but I’m inspired by everyone. I guess there’s been a few in particular, Dizzee has always inspired me, Chris Martin has always been a huge inspiration as well.

What point did you realise you’d achieved your dream?

It’s still kind of ongoing, literally, the other day I was at the GQ lunch and some guy that we know from Mercedes came up to me and he said “I just did a quiz called Pop Bitch and I realised you’ve had the most number ones this decade” and after I was like “what?” I didn’t even know. So that for me is a pretty big deal, I could actually say now dreams have kind of come true, that’s a pretty big deal.

Do you have three pieces of advice for young people that want to follow their passion?

Yep, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, that’s the first one.

Second one; the more people you know the better for you. Relationships are very key, sometimes you need to look at someone and say “come on, just do me this one favour” and right now you might be like “Okay” and then just get back on with your life, but if you know someone, and I text you again with a sad face, there’s a lot more chance that you can get that thing that you’re trying to get. Your black book and your relationships are very important.

Also, don’t be scared of rejection and failure, just know that everybody great must have been rejected at some point and it probably made them a better person or a stronger person.

Your mix tape is out today, so you like junk food?

Yeah I love junk food, I do like it, I enjoy a good burger from Shake Shack.

What’s next for you?

After this mix tape we’ve got two more videos coming out, there are already two new music videos out at the moment, one filmed in Amsterdam and one just round the corner from here. Then I’ve got the album coming out next year which I’m really excited about.

Junk Food is available to download now from iTunes.