Live Review: Tinie Tempah

Dome, Brighton, Sunday 27th February

The problem with live hip-hop is an amplification of what can be the problem with hip-hop generally. With everyone being so endlessly preoccupied with constantly saying how great they are, you need extra-sharpened charisma detectors and bullshit visors to look at things with any kind of perspective.

But you need to look at things from that kind of reductive point of view to get a handle on what it is that makes [a]Tinie Tempah[/a] different. At regular intervals tonight, the rapper points out that he’s won some Brits. Two of them. Has he told us about the Brits? Would we like to see them? But see, it’s done not with snarling braggadocio, but genuine rictus-grin enthusiasm of a man who can’t believe what has happened to him.

And what has happened is kind of extraordinary. Powered by the ubiquitous-as-oxygen [b]‘Pass Out’[/b], he’s forged something approaching a new hip-hop paradigm, one that’s more Gameboy squawks than grime undercurrent, and one that works as effectively in the studios of The Xtra Factor as any south London dive bar. He’s the final stage of hip-hop’s pop-timisation, and his approach has spoken to a generation louder than any other British musician has in years.

This means that when the pint-sized superstar emerges clad in his boxfresh cream blazer to a crowd wild on alcopops and hormones, what we’re getting is an unashamed pop show, powered by choruses and charisma. True, the live band set-up doesn’t entirely always suit such bleep-friendly songs, and his languid delivery might yet reveal itself as a limitation.

But the energy in the room tonight means these things scarcely matter. At the click of a finger he summons the crowd “[i]low down on the floor[/i]” and he takes them equally as high with the soaring majesty of [b]‘Written In The Stars’[/b]. And [b]‘Let Go’[/b], a song about heartbreak and psychosis, just sounds impossibly uplifting. When [a]Katy B[/a] comes onstage it just adds to the feeling of a new generation taking control. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but the only reason that Brighton doesn’t do this until it passes out tonight is that it’s a Sunday and there’s a curfew.

Dan Martin