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Artist: Tinie Tempah
Label: Parlophone


YOUTH is English MC Tinie Tempah's third major-label full-length, and like his second, 2013's Demonstration, it was several years in the making. The album includes five previously released singles, including career highlight "Not Letting Go" (featuring Jess Glynne), which came out back in June of 2015 and hit number one on the U.K. pop charts. YOUTH is loaded with guest stars and pop hooks, but at the core of it all is the same Tinie Tempah who came up as part of the garage/grime scene and made his name through self-released mixtapes. While there are plenty of party songs here, Tempah's lyrics are often introspective, as he reflects on getting older and struggling to make it through, particularly on the opening title track. There are a few darker moments closer to material from his mixtapes, such as the sinister, hardcore "Something Special," which is filled with brutal, quick-witted put-downs and spooky, trap-inspired beats. But tracks like these are balanced out by bubbly pop tunes like the Tinashé-featuring "Text from Your Ex," which starts out with a sunny, Miami bass-inspired electro beat before a deeper U.K. garage bassline creeps in during the second verse. Other songs are somewhere in between, such as "Cameras," which has paranoid lyrics but a relaxed, simmering midtempo beat. "Find Me" features a haunting refrain and gentle acoustic guitar from folk-rock wunderkind Jake Bugg, underscoring Tempah's persistent lyrics. ~ Paul Simpson