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Tinchy Stryder interview

Grace Jones, Aswad (Brinsley Forde, Drummie Zeb and Tony Gad), the i-Threes (featuring Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Erica Newell), VV Brown and Tinchy Stryder will be the featured singers with Sly & Robbie and The Compass Point All Stars on Tuesday 26th May at Shepherds Bush Empire as part of the previously announced Island 50th birthday celebrations. Each of these will perform a song or two (or even three) from Island’s illustrious back catalogue with one of the most famous Jamaican rhythm sections of all time.

The Island label has been responsible for the careers of some of the biggest stars in music including U2, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Traffic, Free, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Toots & The Maytals, John Martyn, Marianne Faithfull, Aswad, Tom Waits, King Sunny Ade, Third World, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer, the B52s, Sly & Robbie, Melissa Etheridge, The Slits, Steel Pulse, Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Pulp, Tricky, Talvin Singh, and latterly Amy Winehouse, PJ Harvey, DJ Shadow, Sugababes, Keane, The Fratellis, Scott Matthews, Paul Weller, The Feeling and Portishead. caught up with recent Island signing, chart topper Tinchy Stryder to discuss life after Number 1, address the rumours printed in the tabloid, how much the features contributed to his success, the forthcoming album and the importance of performing at Island’s 50th celebration. Number is the first single called Number 1 to reach number 1. What were you initial thought s when you heard it back? Did you think it would reach number 1?

Tinchy Stryder: I didn’t think [it would reach] number 1, but I knew I’d recorded a big track. The feeling of making a good song is good enough for me, but to go to number 1 is just something I didn’t expect, to tell you the truth. When we came out of that session we didn’t think number 1, we called it Number 1 because that’s what it was about. Now that you have topped the charts, what’s the best thing about being a pop star? Have you received any good perks yet?

Tinchy Stryder: When you’re in that world, there are a lot of things that happen in that world, the mainstream world like parties and that but I hardly go to them things. I just record my music that reaches out to them. I can’t really tell you because I am not really trying to live in that world right now. One perk you got was going to see Manchester United versus Tottenham. How was that?

Tinchy Stryder: That was the first I’ve been time I’ve been to Old Trafford and I’m a Manchester United fan. I had the best seats; I was in the platinum lounge. We were losing the match 2-0 at half time so I started thinking ‘Why did I choose this match to go to,’ but we ended up wining 5-2. It was madness. What changes have you had to make? Do you have to be careful of who you are seen with, what areas you go to and things of that nature?

Tinchy Stryder: The thing about not going of certain places is just natural from just how it is in London or wherever else, so before your famous or known you have to be weary of where you’re going. Now my face is a bit more [known] and on TV all the time it’s even worse, so you just have be careful, watch what you’re doing and know who you are around. Couple things about being seen with certain people, I don’t really see it that deep, but lately I‘ve been reading a few things about me in the paper, that’s not really true so you gotta be careful. What do you think of the way The Sun has been treating you? It seems like they are showing more love to N-Dubz.

Tinchy Stryder: You know what’s mad? We were on tour when all them things were going on so I didn’t really read it but we were hearing about it. One day that had this about me, but they didn’t mention anything about N-Dubz. I don’t know if someone from - I don’t know somehow got some next story about us having some argument, me and Dappy which isn’t true. Then next time... but it’s all cool. It’s the press, man. Going to clear up some of the stories they’ve reported; are you 5ft 1?

Tinchy Stryder: Nah bruv [laughs]. Nah, nah nah, I’m probably 5’5”/5’6”. You said you and Dappy were cool.

Tinchy Stryder: Yeah, we’re cool. Are you in a relationship with one of the girls from [girl group] The Saturdays?

Tinchy Stryder: With a girl from The Saturday’s?! This is a new one to my ears! I ain’t with no one from The Staurday’s or no one that you’ve read in the papers. That was in there, still.

Tinchy Stryder: Yeah, I’ve heard about a few. I like The Saturdays. I like their music and they look good. Don’t believe the hype! Can you understand why people think you only got those chart positions due to your features?

Tinchy Stryder: I can sort of see that but then at the same time, both of the features I had on the songs none of them had - like Taio Cruz; before the song by me and him, his highest chart position was number 5; we got to number 3 and he’s a big artist - very talented - so that shows I brought something to the table. N-Dubz; Dappy is like my brother. We worked on that track - wrote it together - but before Number 1, N-Dubz hadn’t had a top ten, so it’s not like I’m using people who were getting higher chart positions to get to where I’m getting.

That’s just one of those things that come with it. When you know what you can do, how to write and how much wok you put in, all of the doesn’t matter. I believe in working with people and making everything better. Money is the motive brother [laughs] Grime fans are usually very critical of people not making or pushing Grime music. Was it a tough decision to make the music you are now making?

Tinchy Stryder: It wasn’t a tough decision because I didn’t sit down and think about changing my music. I’ve been writing lyrics and going on pirate radio from the age of 13, so naturally you want to develop and try other things out as in how you are recording music. So it wasn’t a thing where I thought ‘Let me do this or do that‘ because I still record tracks I used to record before, [the singles] are just what comes out and the masses hear. Chipmunk recently signed to Sony Music Entertainment, many will see your success going down a different route and may want to follow. What do you see for the future of Grime?

Tinchy Stryder: Grime has been happening for a while, it hasn‘t been as long as everyone thinks as well. It has gone from when there was Jungle, and then there came UK Garage and then it turned to Grime - its always growing. But it was always a thing where the people who were at the top of Grime - like Wiley and that - people have to understand that Grime is where we are from so it’s always getting [represented]. People just expect [artists] to be stuck in one box and make certain tracks just for certain people, but [artists] are more talented than that, so if you can make tracks people can relate to it’s all free.

I think as long as [Grime artists] keep doing what they are doing, because there are a lot of people making deep, dark Grime and still doing a lot of good music. I don’t think it’s dead, I just think people think why are [artists] who are leading it not making the hard Grime, but then there won’t be space for no one else to come through, so everything to move on. Who do you rate in the Grime scene at the moment?

Tinchy Stryder: Who am I rating right now? Hmm... [deep thought] There’s nothing new that’s exciting me. Everyone who I am rating has been doing their thing. I haven’t heard anyone new, but I know there’s a lot I just haven’t heard yet. There are a lot of good people coming up from Bow, have to big up my ends. Why do you think you succeeded in going from underground to mainstream where many others failed?

Tinchy Stryder: I think a lot of people are afraid to try things, think too deep and worry about what a lot of people think, but the people they are worrying about are the minority of people. Everyone has just got their mind set in one place. It’s like you asked about people thinking my chart success is because of my features, if you asked certain people that if they have a track planned they will say they can’t have a feature. Me, I just think of what is going to be the biggest move at the time for me and my career, then I‘ll worry about the rest later on, after I count my pee [money]. Form 696 is in the news right now. A form many claim is detrimental to the live events of genre’s associated with urban music. One event that you was recently meant to appear at was victim to this. Some claim it is racist, some claim it is protecting ravers; what are your thoughts?

Tinchy Stryder: There are reasons why they try and lock off raves because of things that happened in the past but I think there are ways where things can be organised where they can be run smoothly. There are deeper things going on in the world than concentrating on that. You toured with N-Dubz and performed at Radio 1 Big Weekender; was it hard adjusting from spraying bars to get a wheeled on sets to performing in front of all those people who aren’t familiar with Grime culture?

Tinchy Stryder: It’s actually mad. When you’re changing from [Grime performances] to [mainstream performances] at first it’s a little mad, but I’ve been doing it for a little while now from Star In The Hood album came out in 2006, then I went on tour with Kano and Jack Penate and they had big crowds as well, so I’ve been changing for a little while now. It’s great to know that these who would have never known the music we made originally, now they’re understanding and relating so that opens doors for more people. Hopefully more people get signed. Like you said, Chipmunk got signed the other day and the whole scene’s coming through, so everyone’s on the same level and making good music. It’s true. You got knocked off number 1 yesterday by Black Eyed Peas, but it looks like Dizzee Rascal is going to take it off them this week.

Tinchy Stryder: Yeah, hopefully he can get another number 1. I’m feeling that tune. You are doing the concert in aid of Island celebrating 50 years. How important is it for you to be on a line-up with so many legends in years gone past?

Tinchy Stryder: It’s one of those things where it’s a big achievement. It something where a lot of people don’t even get to meet these people, but to be performing on the same stage as them, especially with what they’ve done in their careers previously it’s an honour. When can we expect an album?

Tinchy Stryder: July. Definitely July?

Tinchy Stryder: Yeah. Any dates in July?

Tinchy Stryder: Do you know what? When people give dates and then it gets changed or you want to go and buy an album and it gets changed, it’s annoying. I’m just going to tell you July until I know 100%. So July, look out for it. I’m excited for everyone to hear it. How would you describe it from the songs you have recorded so far?

Tinchy Stryder: From the singles that everyone has been hearing, that’s the new Tinchy sound when it comes to the singles. I’ve heard a lot of people trying to make their singles like that now, but its all good ‘cos that’s what the music’s for - you can try different things. My album is all different. I’ve got older things I‘ve been doing mixed with the new sound, its crazy. I’ve got production from Rapid, Dirty Danger, Fraser T Smith, Frankmusic - I’ve just been working hard. Right now I’m at the stage of cutting down songs. Are there any other projects you got coming out? Stuff with Ruff Sqwad, a funky skank [dance]?

Tinchy Stryder: [laughs] Do what, a Funky skank? One of them skanking tunes? [laughs] Nah, nah, I leave that to the people who do that, I just enjoy listening and dancing to the tracks, but that‘s not me, man. When my albums out, I may put out a free download CD with freestyles, more grimier things. I just like recording music so whatever comes out, comes out. Your Twitter’s quite popular; fans are usually quite demanding and have a few words to say when artists don’t respond. Have you encountered that often?

Tinchy Stryder: Yeah, but like I was saying it’s hard to keep up because there are a lot of things going on in your life. It’s not like I’m sitting in front of a PC or Twittering on my phone the whole time. Its more like [a tool] to keep the fans updated with what’s going on. For me, if I was a fan of someone and I could see what they’re are getting up to that would be good enough for me. Once in a while you may get a reply - I try to get back to as many people as I can - but it is actually hard. You recently went to America, can you speak on what that was about?

Tinchy Stryder:
I can’t really speak on what that was about. I went out there and had a good meeting. I had a little sit down with Universal out there, just going through a few things. Just a couple days off from everything that was going on here. Any developments with Star In The Hood merchandise coming soon?

Tinchy Stryder: We’re trying to expand that now. We aren’t trying to do too many silly things. You know sometimes people do too much and then you flood the market. We’re just taking it step-by-step. A lot of the people who like Star In The Hood are younger people. Although the older people like the t-shirts and that. There’s hoody’s, jumpers and t-shirts right now so probably some hats, tracksuits and that - I’m looking into it.

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