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He hangs out with Jay-Z and has his own signature headphones. But how does Tinchy Stryder, second only to old mate Dizzie Rascal in the UK’s grime hall of fame, relax?
Like all great stars of rap, of course. He irons.
“It’s weird, I know. I actually like ironing. I’m trying to find something to wear today because the weather keeps changing its mind.”
He is pressing his favourite T-shirts as we speak. I assume it’s something by Star In The Hood, the clothing brand he named after his debut album?
“Ah, no, it’s actually not. If I said it was I’d be lying. I’m wearing my Star In The Hood snapback hat today. I don’t wear too much stuff in one day you know, but I got my hat on.”
More to the point, what’s a number-one selling pop star, recently confirmed as support for Cheryl Cole’s October tour, doing running an iron over his T-shirts?
Is it during the therapeutic act that lyrics brew?
“Nah, I’m watching transfer deadline day on Sky Sports on mute. It’s relaxing.
“Normally I have music playing loud everywhere in my house. Today is a calm day so far.”
Last night he was in the studio until late. He’s putting the finishing touches to his fourth album due later this year, probably December, though he won’t be rushed.
Full Tank, so-called because “I feel like it’s the fresh me, and I’m giving it the full,” will be preceded by single Help Me, out this Sunday.
The fourth track to be released from the record features Camille Purcell, who has written tracks for The Saturdays, and is a statement of intent.
“I’m just saying what I’m about to do, like just help me, it’s gonna rain down. This song, it means so much in so many different ways.
“In some ways that is a slight insight, because I recorded so much, it’s been over such a long period of time and I always feel I like albums that are a journey from start to end.”
He felt the pain of 2010’s Third Strike not delivering on expectations – especially after his first record on Island Universal, Catch 22, propelled him to the big league.
The voyage on Full Tank will be optimistic. Pixie Lott sang on the uplifting third single, Bright Light – a crossover more pop than hop.
Spaceship, its first single in June 2011, was him starting afresh – especially after he began to feel he had poisoned himself by naming the previous album Third Strike (“you know, like three strikes and you’re out”) and writing tracks such as Game Over.
“It really felt like I was cursing myself. But no one else could see it. From the outside you couldn’t see it. It was probably one of the darkest, hardest times in music. I had to go away to record and came back with a song, Spaceship, and that brought light again.”
Luckily, running parallel to the musical disappointment was the growing business empire. In 2010 he teamed up with pal and hero Jay-Z as joint CEO of Takeover Roc Nation.
“I wouldn’t say I see a lot of Jay Z. I guess it’s more of the Roc Nation team and they’re real cool.
“But when we do see them they naturally give good advice and you learn things from them. I like when I learn things off people that then try to teach you lessons. When someone is always trying to preach to you, it’s boring.
“But when you are just having a general conversation with someone and you are learning so much, and you can see where each other comes from, it’s a good relationship.”
He continues to idolise the American rapper who is married to Beyonce. The rumour is they’re golf buddies.
“Golf? I don’t know where that came from. I never played golf.”
Stryder (real-name Kwasi Danquah III) made his first assault on the music business by rapping at scratch garage nights when he was only 12 years old.
He was soon part of the grime collective Ruff Sqwad and rhyming on pirate radio and at shows with Wiley and Dizzee Rascal’s Roll Deep team.
He studied digital arts, moving image and animation at the University of East London, and, like Rascal, is a self-taught musician from Bow, East London.
“I didn’t have any musical training because the way we came up, it wasn’t nuffink of learning instruments or playing music. You didn’t have to read music – it was more you just wanted to pick up the microphone and say your lyrics.
“It wasn’t even trying to structure songs, it wasn’t having lyrics people can sing along to, it was more as a young kid trying to say things you wanted to, trying to sound cool – and it was fun.”
Now, at the age of 26, he understands the business.
Three top-ten solo albums and more than 20 million digital single sales prove as much.
He even co-wrote a track with Dionne Bromfield, Spinnin’ For 2012, to commemorate the Olympic torch relay.
“I got her track, put my verse on it, put my vocal on, and said yea’, I like this a bit more, we’ll use this. I went into the studio and wrote to the beat that was there – all I need is the beat and that’s me.”
Keeping things simple has worked for the Ghanaian, who immigrated to England with his family when he was eight and who has a sister and nephews in Brighton.
“Something I’ve learnt over time is it’s good to take an opinion to the studio, but music comes from you and it comes from the heart. “Someone might not understand it or like it, but you have to like it. If I don’t like something, I ain’t putting it out.”
His route to success was hardly conventional though. He was spotted by a two students, Jack Foster and Archie Lamb, and it was the latter’s father who splashed the cash.
LibDem MP Norman Lamb gave the pair £10,000 to get started.
Making it happen
“If I was to say I thought this was going to happen I’d be lying. When I was young and I used to watch TV I used to think, ‘How do people get on TV?’ I didn’t ever think that would happen.”
Football is still Stryder’s passion. He was on the books at Wimbledon FC as a junior and it was thanks to the sport he got his biggest ever audience – rapping before the Champions League final 2011 at Wembley.
“It was me, my mate Dave and Usain Bolt, who supports Man United as well. He was a cool guy, but it was like, ‘Woah, it’s Usain Bolt.’
“I went to the Olympics 200-metre final and I watched him race. When I was watching I was like, ‘Is he really this fast?’ And when he finishes it's like he ain't even ran a final, he was just chilled, he loves his showboat.”
Stryder tried the same at the Champions League final. “I wrote a lyric I had to change a few times – from what I remember I was being a bit biased and you could tell that I was a United fan!”
With all the business exploits, the charity work, the music, the On Cloud 9 headphones (following the lead of Beats By Dr Dre and SYNC by 50 Cent), it’s no surprise he’s not had a holiday for years.
“I’ve been away to places to perform and I guess people look at it as a holiday, but a holiday is no work, just chillin’. And I haven’t had one of them in a while.”
He still finds time for the ironing, mind.
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