Wonderland.

IN CONVERSATION: TINCHY STRYDER

Tinchy Stryder is back with a new single and in accordance with his own tradition he’s in the right place at the right time with something different.

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After two number one singles, four albums and seven top 10 hits, Tinchy Stryder has proven that he will not be boxed in by expectations.

His new single ‘Misunderstood,’ the first in two years, is packed with the sort of stuff that all good grime and hip-hop is made of. He’s been through a period of transition recently but he’s now back in harness and is preparing to follow-up 2010’s Third Strike—in the same general fashion, like his previous efforts. And as a result, expectations are high for 360°.

We caught up with Tinchy, who—told us about his faith in God, working with Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, making ‘Misunderstood,’ and hanging out with Rihanna.

I thought it would be good to start with a few ice breaker questions…What’s one thing no one in this room knows about you?

I don’t know what you know or don’t know, I think you might have to ask me something that you want to know.

Are you religious?

Yeah, I’m a Christian. I believe in God — every time before I go to sleep and when I wake up I pray. Every time before I fly and when I land I pray. I really believe in God. One thing I learned growing up is you cannot say please without saying thank you. I’m not in church every week but I don’t think that proves whether or not someone is more religious than you.

If you could ask God a question, what would you ask?

Sometimes I always ask myself, “Why me? Why am I here?” As I’ve grown I’ve come to understand that everybody is special. I say that, but not everyone is chosen. I always wonder why this person was chosen to do this particular thing and why this other person wasn’t. I’m sure you know someone who can spit or write lyrics really, really well. For example, I know people who are sick at playing football but that doesn’t guarantee that they will make it to where they are trying to get to. Because I’m a believer I think having the opportunity to ask something like that would be difficult, you wouldn’t do it because you don’t want to be questioning God. I think God is a friend who you can speak to daily.

I think if I could ask God anything: I probably would want to know what he looks like.

He’d probably be like, “Look at me.” We’ve been brought up to believe a certain image of what he looks like and whatever religion you follow you must have some sort of picture in your mind. But, I guess, we’ve all got a voice in our heads of what he sounds like. I mean when you’re speaking to God, you’re not thinking of hearing some high-pitched guy talking back to you.

Well, I’m convinced God’s voice sounds something like Morgan Freeman’s.

[Laughs] We don’t know but I really hope he’s not some high-pitched guy shouting like, “Yo, yo!”

Let’s talk about your background for a second. Do you think that wanting to be a musician with such a strong academic backdrop like yours was a kind of rebellion for you?

I was alright in school but I would never say that I was a bad guy or anything. I was more the cheeky one. I could control my temper. I was always chilled and out of my friends I was the one who would give the answers that the teacher never wanted to hear. I would sometimes get detention but I would always do my work. Music for me and my family was a hobby, we enjoyed doing it. My older brother is a DJ and I remember when me, Dizzee [Rascal] and Ruff Squad would get together in my little room that I shared with my brother and record music. Now when I look back my mom didn’t have to allow that, she could’ve said, “You’re making too much noise. Go and read your books.” But she didn’t and she allowed us to do what we were doing and eventually it got to the stage when the music popped off. It became part of my life.

You’ve been making music now for nearly 15 years. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

I would tell him, “Focus and have patience.” At that young age, I was always in a rush, like, “I want them trainers. I want them now.” I never thought about what I was going to do to get the money to get those trainers. My parents didn’t have the money and where I’m from people did what they had to do street-wise to earn a living. It can be hard but I’ve come to understood that being patient is important. You just have to learn how to relax.

Can you tell how a song’s going to do while you’re making it? I don’t just mean commercially — are you surprised which tracks people gravitate towards, and which ones they don’t like?

Sometimes when you’re making a song you feel like there’s levels to that shit and when you’re done, you’re like, “Wow, something feels special about this.” When I made my first number one, which was ‘Number 1’ with Dappy, it took us half an hour. The scary thing is that it wasn’t called ‘Number 1’ because I thought it would go to number one. Obviously, if it had went to number two the joke would’ve been on me. The first time I performed it I felt like everyone knew all the words to it, but I could never have predicted that I was going to do a song and that it would sell more than 600,000 copies.

I know it’s probably a difficult question, but I’m going to ask it anyway because you’ve actually created a few of them: What makes a great song?

The elements of a great song has to have something that people can relate to, it has to grab people’s attention in the first minute. The concept has to be right, the filter has to be right, it has to feel like it’s pure and it’s coming from somewhere. We recorded ‘Number 1’ in 2008 and it came out in 2009, and even when I perform the song now it still fells fresh. I think good music is timeless. For example, Michael Jackson, you can hear one of his songs now and you’ll get the same feeling you had when you first heard it. I met someone who got a tattoo of one of my lyrics and she said to me, “This is my life.” I was just sat in my little room penning down my thoughts and what I was going through. I think in general good music is hard to define, it’s a worldwide language.

People keep talking about ‘Misunderstood’ as a return to your roots. Do you feel that way?

I always say, “Sounding like the old me, looking like a new me.” I think it’s the voice or something about my delivery that reminds people of the old me. I guess the space that I’m in right now reminds people of that hunger which is back with more knowledge.

On ‘Misunderstood’ there’s the line, “Uh, see I could’ve been a baller, hat-trick a game, football could’ve been my lane.” Do you ever have any regrets about not pursing your footballing career?

“Tick-tock baller, music change, far from the size of my name.” I have no regrets [laughs.]

You could still be the first professional football-rapper. Does the idea hold any appeal to you? 

I think you have to make it at a certain age. At my age some players are now getting ready to retire, like Renaldo. He’s 29 and he’s peaking, so when would I start to peak?

I think 2010 was a huge year for you, especially when Rihanna asked you to support her on tour. Are you still in touch with her? 

Me and RiRi are good. She’s a really cool person. I won’t lie and say we’re in touch constantly, but I saw her the other day at Drake’s show and we hugged. It’s all good.

What do you hope people take away from your upcoming album, 360°?

I hope people will listen to it and understand what I’ve been through. It’s a bit like a theme album where you get to know more about me — not many people get to make four albums.

 

Misunderstood’ is out now.

Words: Noel Phillips.

IN CONVERSATION: TINCHY STRYDER

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