Interview: Tinchy Stryder, Success without Stress

TinchyStryWithin a few minutes of meeting Tinchy Styder I was engrossed in discussing his age. “I started when I was about 13-years-old. I’m 27 now, but everyone says I don’t look it,” he says, laughing. Amidst the many MC’s that emerged from the British grime scene in the late-2000s, Tinchy Stryder was unquestionably at the forefront. Hailing from Bow, East London, he burst into the mainstream and created a place for himself with singles like “Number 1,” “Take Me Back,” “Never Leave You,” “Stryderman,” and “Bright Lights.” He is no stranger to brushing shoulders with grime’s finest. Dubbed by his former mentor Wiley as  “The Prince of Grime,” he himself agrees the term might be apt as it signifies that he learned from the very best.

He is curiously oblivious of his success. He gives you the impression that he is still coming to terms with the reality that his contribution has changed the face of British urban music. He describes it as “a dream” that he has still not “woken up from.” Though Tinchy feels he has a lot more dreams to fulfill, he believes he’s already done enough to be up there in the big league. After a two-year hiatus following 2010’s Third Strike, he returns with a new single that encapsulates the essence of his eternal hunger. He was relaxed, upbeat and engaging when we recently met with him to talk about his comeback, meeting Jay Z, and more.

SCORING TWO NUMBER ONE SINGLES AND SEVEN TOP 10 HITS: “It’s scary. It feels like I’m in a dream that I haven’t woken up from, but at the same time there are also nightmares. Because everyone knows who you are you can’t really do normal things — I remember having a meeting in central London, but I was coming from outside London, and because there was a lot of traffic, I said to my driver, “I don’t want to be late so I’m going to get the train instead.” I got on the train and this girl said to me: “What’s happened? You haven’t put out any music for like two years and now you’re on a train?” I was like, “Wow!” And that is the pressure that people get and where everyone will just judge. Sometimes when fame gets to people’s heads they just turn crazy and loose themselves and everyone who was going crazy with them will sooner or later disappear. Luckily, for me, I’ve still got the same friends and team who have been with me through the ups and downs. I think you really need that in this business.”

THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD SONG: “I could be from Ghana or Russia and really like a particular song, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. It’s hard to pick what will connect with people worldwide. I think music can be really strange, you could listen to songs which can easily take you back to important moments in your life.”

NEW SINGLE “MISUNDERSTOOD”: “It’s the first song from my album, 360, I enjoyed making it. It’s me doing it doing it all over again, letting people know that I’m back with the same passion. Shout out to Pinky & The Brain, who produced it.”

DEALING WITH SUCCESS: “Where I’m from it’s easier for someone to tell you, “I don’t like you,” instead of, “I rate you.” In our culture it’s not cool for people to be like, “Yeah, I love what you’re doing.” Instead, it’s, “What are you saying?” People deal with success in different ways, but I like to take it easy. I’m cool — no stress, man.”

ADVICE HE WOULD GIVE HIMSELF, IF HE COULD GO BACK IN TIME: “I would learn how to say no. It was one of the hardest things for me growing up — “Yo, can you do this for me?” I didn’t want to do certain things but because I’m that cool guy, I would do it, anyway. But then I realized that I was doing so much to please everyone else but not myself. I was told once: “If you don’t know how to love yourself you don’t know how to love.” It’s not about being selfish you just have to know that you come first.”

HOW HE CAME TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE TERM “PRINCE OF GRIME”: “Wiley is seen as the king of grime and I believe that he is. Everyone from me, Dizzee Rascal, Chip and Kano have had some sort of input from Wiley. I used to spend a lot of time around him and if I can remember I think it was him or someone who said, “He’s the Prince of Grime…” [Laughs] That was it.

MEETING JAY-Z AND WORKING WITH ROC NATION: “They heard how well I was doing here and when they came over they wanted to meet me but that didn’t happen. The next time he came I was on tour so I couldn’t meet him again. After that, I was like, “Yo, I need to see this guy. I just wanna meet him and shake his hand.” Then when I heard he was coming again I told my people to clear my diary. Eventually, I went and met him and he was really cool. We did a little business thing with him called Takeover Roc Nation, which later dissolved, but the friendship and respect still remains.”

“Misunderstood” is available to download here.