Tinchy Stryder Tinchy StryderThird Strike
The transformation of the Grime and post-Grime generation into viable pop stars still seems a little hard to believe on occasion. Even four years ago, to suggest that the charts would be flooded with British rappers by the end of the decade would have seemed kind of nutty. But here we are, and to see those who honed their craft on the pirate stations of London reaping rewards is still heartening, even if the music is patchy to say the least.It would be massively unfair, though, to say that this new cascade of black British pop is all about lowest common denominator too-many-Aftershocks high street nightclub autotune hell. Obviously some of it is, much of that featuring Taio Cruz in some way, and some of it appearing on this album. But for every sub-Calvin Harris Trance riff and indistinguishable chorus that’s buzz-bombed daytime radio, there’s been a track of real individuality – Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out”being the crowning glory, and Tinchy’s “In My System” not far off that level of brilliance.
“In My System” is truly a classic single, sounding like some kind of Pop-House tune from 1988 blown up into wide screen and high definition, Todd Terry riffs punching away with gurgly synths and relentless snare rushes accentuating massive hook after massive hook and lyrics with a playful sense of mystery. It’s a thing of pure celebration and would have made a joyous start to an album, but sadly here it plays second fiddle to the far more generic Big Rap opener “Take The World”, with its hectoring sonics and platitudinous sub-Jay Z motivational seminar lyrics.
Thereafter, though, the album hits a winning streak. “Famous” trips along on a restrained heavy rock riff embellished with rave bleeps, and even manages to make the wearying theme of “you hatin’ on me because I’m famous” lyrically engaging. “Tomorrow” shows that hints of Trance and an autotuned chorus are not the kiss of death, its buzzing bass notes and warped Dubstep coda full of inventive twists. Previous “street single” “Gangsta?” has more heavy rock, its backing as crisp as you like and Tinchy’s swaggering vocal tightly locked in.
But in the middle of it all comes the absolutely godawful “Second Chance”, featuring –yes– Taio Cruz, like someone has ladled a massive dollop of artificial sweetener over your roast dinner. It’s an real low point, and sadly taints the album around it. Also, the album thereafter does tend to descend into rehashes of the kind of ponderous 80s-influenced stadium pop formula that made “Umbrella” and “Burning Love” such huge international mega-hits. That’s not to say that “Stereo Sun”, “Let It Rain”, “Together”, “Til The End” or “My Last Try” are bad tunes in themselves –quite the opposite, absolutely any one of them could be a great radio single, and the simile of the “stereo sun” for the stagelights that symbolise his success shows what an intriguingly evocative lyricist he’s becoming. But en masse, the unfunky aspirationalism of it all blurs into one after a while.
Perhaps it’s just that there’s too much of a good thing –after all, the album is also seasoned with moments of outright genius like the bass-warping post-crunk posse cut “Game Over” with its roll-call of London microphone talent from Giggs’s hilariously sinister gangsta baritone through Professor Green’s razor-sharp wordplay to a slightly demented turn from Chipmunk: truly a new model for UK hip hop. And Tinchy’s voice and lyrics continue to develop, so that although he’s slightly opaque as a character, without the emotional cracks of a Dizzee or a Wiley, he’s consistently gripping even when reciting the same old litany of newly-famous rappers’ themes.
It just seems that in an effort to cover all the bases, and then cover them again, what could have been a truly brilliant album ends up over-reaching itself and falling flat a little too often, as did Tinie Tempah’s recent “Disc-Overy”. There’s plenty to love here, and maybe the overloading is just symptomatic of the download age, designed for fans to pick and chose from –but is it really too much to hope that some of the UK’s new generation talent might be able to make an album that reaches mainstream and hardcore fans without having to sprawl all over the place? That someone might finally make a worthy successor to “Boy In Da Corner”? Tinchy has got the talent to do it, but sadly –though it comes so, so close at many points– this isn’t that album. Joe Muggs