Tinchy Stryder’s status in the game is some what paradoxical: on one hand he is one of the most popular names around, has a huge fan base and is able to pack out raves such as the infamous Sidewinder, but on the other hand- despite his popularity and the respect from his industry peers, commercial success has alluded the young star from Bow. Under the wing of Grime’s Godfather Wiley, Stryder burst onto the underground scene aged just 16. His small stature, rapid delivery and intense flow coupled with some East London swagger made Tinchy a popular feature on pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM, subsequently in 2003, Stryder went on to pick up the Sidewinder Award for ‘Best Newcomer’.
His recent work with UK super producer DaVinche may just be the perfect formula to launch Stryder’s musical career onto the same path as fellow E3 star- Dizzee Rascal. His last single ‘Breakaway’ became an underground smash and his forthcoming release ‘Something About Your Smile’, looks certain to do well in the charts. Now who says BIG things don’t come in small packages? Britishhiphop.co.uk speaks to the star in the hood about his forthcoming album, Wiley and the UK Grime scene, read on.
What have been your main musical influences?
Tinchy Stryder: Probably rap music, when I was younger I listened to a lot of Jay Z and Busta Rhymes but rhyme wise, it’s Wiley innit, he has been a big influence on me in so many ways.
Who have you been listening to recently?
Tinchy Stryder: Lil Wayne, that’s who I’m listening to right now.
Who are you feeling in Grime?
Tinchy Stryder: In Grime, I don’t know man, there’s nothing really new, everything’s just open and everyone’s just doing their thing. If I’m feeling anybody it’s probably some unknown mc from round here like Maverick or Big Timers. As for established artists no one really stands out for me right now.
Why did you call your album ‘Star In The Hood’?
Tinchy Stryder: I think people think I called it ‘Star In The Hood’ because I just think I’m a ‘star’ in ‘the hood’ but it’s not as simple as that. It’s about everything that happens, like when you get into a madness, or you can’t go certain places, or when you do go certain places, then there’s the girls, just stuff that happens. Basically we are all stars but we just haven’t left the hood yet. We get treated like stars but we are still in the area, so that’s how the name came about. Music wise it’s a reflection: some days you are just cool and chilling and some days things happen.
What kind of topics are you touching on throughout the album?
Tinchy Stryder: I’ve got a track about slavery which was supposed to come out with 1Xtra but it never happened so I have used it for this album. I’ve got another track with Ny from True Tiger which is called ‘Hands Of Time’ and it’s about guns, knifes and how you can’t turn back the hands of time. Then there’s the day to day experiences, and the stuff that I see.
The single ‘Breakaway’ has been a huge hit for you, are you surprised?
Tinchy Stryder: Yeah, Breakaway wasn’t planned as a single or anything. I was just in the studio with DaVinche and he was like what kind of beat do you want and I was like what kind of beat do you have? So he played a few and I heard that and I was like yeah, I wrote the lyrics there- straight away and came back to the studio the next day and laced it down. There was no chorus to it at that time, so he started singing something and he came up with the chorus. It was meant to be a underground release but because it was getting a lot of love and released on ITunes and that, it came out like it was supposed to chart but it was only meant to create a buzz, so it did what it was meant to do.
Breakaway was about breaking away from the hood obviously; do you feel the pressures you talked about on the track?
Tinchy Stryder: Well I felt them, especially before, but everyone can relate to that feeling of getting away. Most people if they could would get away, do you know what I mean. It’s more like your girl, your parent, anyone can tell you that, you know- come away from all that. If you can move out and get into property or whatever then move out but every situation is different and it depends on what area you’re from as well, some areas are worse than others and some people may have more haters. In some areas you may have troubles but you might not have to move but in some areas you have no choice.
You worked with DaVinche on three tracks on the album and you seem to make a good musical team, why do you think you work so well together?
Tinchy Stryder: I don’t know, he wants the best out of all his tunes and I want the best out of mine. Some producers they won’t push you that extra step. With him you do the tune and it may be good but he’ll be like no, we can make it better or let’s try different things.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with?
Tinchy Stryder: I wouldn’t mind working with The Streets again because I like his (Mike Skinner’s) music. I would like to do a tune with Dizzee; he’s doing his thing right now. Amy Winehouse as well.
How would you define your musical style- would you say you are a Grime artist?
Tinchy Stryder: Yeah man, I wouldn’t wonna pigeon hole myself but obviously I am from the Grime scene- so I’m a Grime artist but it doesn’t mean I don’t do other types of music or talk about certain things.
Are you hoping to come out of that category, as there seems to be a bit of a stigma with Grime?
Tinchy Stryder: Nah I’m not hoping to come out of the category, I hope that I could take the category to somewhere else if I could but it’s easier said then done. When your crossing over, you could be calling yourself Grime as much as you want but when they – the media are talking about you, they can label you something else and then it’s out of your hands but I rep where I’m from.
What are your feelings on Wiley’s retirement?
Tinchy Stryder: I think it’s a good thing man; the way he’s retired is a good thing because he’s basically saying he is coming out of all the hype and he’s concentrating on the music, he should have done it ages ago, and it’s a good thing.
Do you think teenagers who listen and watch music videos of artists such as yourself are being sold an illusion about your lifestyles?
Tinchy Stryder: Yes and no, some people really do live like how they describe it in their music. People do exaggerate slightly; if everyone spoke about their real lives it wouldn’t be as exciting. I know what you’re saying because I have little cousins and that who watch things and think it’s real.
So does that make you fee like you have a certain degree of responsibility for what you put out there?
Tinchy Stryder: Yes recently I have been feeling like that a bit, now I do think about my lyrics but at the same time I’m gonna say what I need to say, if I see things happen, I’m gonna talk about it.
The single ‘Something About Your Smile’ is out August 6th.
The album Star In The Hood is out August 13th.