The first time that I came across Tempa T was in 2006, via the Non-Stop Working DVD. It was a three-hour long film that followed East London’s Slew Dem Crew as they hit up pirate radio and shelled down stages on tour. The first rave you see the crew light up—alongside Skepta, Jammer, and Plastician—is journalist Chantelle Fiddy’s Straight Outta Bethnal in London, and in rolls an amped-up Tempa T: eager to touch mic, once he does, his easily chantable, reloadable bars and punk-rock-like stage presence shines through and instantly turns this aspiring writer/promoter into a fan. His delivery was angst-ridden, manic, and like nothing that grime had seen before. Tempz found his USP early on.

Fast forward three years, having made his mark on the game with heaters like “Swing”, “Battle Riddim”, “Bax Dem”, and this epic, classic freestyle with the late Esco, Tempz comes through with “Next Hype”. Produced by Darq E Freaker, someone known for his experimental take on the typical hoods-up/icy grime tropes, this siren-laced roller made NME types look at the rhyme-slinger as a potential future great. Lyrically, it was hardcore, but in a comical sense (“clear all of ya kids’ toys”) and its energy was just made for the festival stage. And then there’s the hilarious visuals; shot and directed by the legendary Tim & Barry, with Tim Westwood in the intro and Tempz running up in somebody’s house, it all just added to the song’s greatness. 

A decade on and “Next Hype” stands as a protest anthem, a club classic (I A&R’d this UK funky remix) and an absolute canon in black British music. Since its release, Tempz has had a fruitful career, working with the likes of Chase & Status and touring the globe. We caught up with the emcee to discuss the grime tune that started it all.

COMPLEX: How did “Next Hype” come about? How did you initially connect with Darq E Freaker for the track? Sonically, it was quite leftfield—it sounded nothing like the grime that was coming out at the time. 

Tempa T: It actually wasn’t Darq E Freaker who gave me the beat; it was JJ, P Money’s DJ at the time, who I knew from the ends. I contacted him for some instrumentals to write to and he gave me a CD with three instrumentals on it. The third beat was called “Rugged” which became the legendary “Next Hype”. I had no clue who the producer was; it was easy to create. I was in a difficult time of my life back then; homeless, sleeping in blocks, or on friends’ couches when I could. I actually wrote the bars with red ink at my boy’s house, on a piece of paper, then my boy Tiny dropped me to Morfius’ studio to vocal it.

The drill scene, I think it’s an evolution of what we once were.

From 2009 to now, how would you say that “Next Hype”—arguably your biggest track to date—has impacted your career, and did you ever think it would go on to be as big as it still is?

I had no inclination. I just knew I was homeless and the track I just wrote would change my life. “Next Hype” put me forward to an array of opportunities and it progressed me a lot in the grime world. It’s a grime classic for life! People tell me all the time that it did a lot for the scene. Individual supporters will always have their favourite track or tracks of Tempa T, but “Next Hype” seems to be known across the board as everyone’s favourite; it’s a hype track that’s known worldwide, which is a huge accomplishment from where I started as an MC just wanting the reload. It’s impacted my career greatly, year after year, since the release. Following the funky house remix, and the thousands after that; yeah, “Next Hype” helped cement my legacy in the game.

Whose idea was it to get Westwood to do a skit at the start of the video?

That had to be either [No Hats No Hoods label head] DJ Magic or Tim & Barry, I’m not actually sure. But yeah, the idea was hilarious, to say the least, so we just went for it. Tim Westwood has always been a true supporter of my style and the underground scene, so big him up every time.

Again, from 2009 to now, the grime scene has gone through countless changes. What are your honest thoughts on the scene today—is there anything that’s missing?

Grime has had its ups and downs, but I think it’s healthy right now. It’s always good for other genres or styles of grime to shine. Like, the drill scene, I think it’s an evolution of what we once were. The youth have found their way of expressing exactly how they feel in this present moment in time, which I think is needed. This is their way.

Who are you listening to right now?

There’s a few, you know: Novelist, Stormzy, Izzie Gibbs, Ten Dixon; you’ve got Loski, Headie One, DigDat, Unknown T; then there’s got Digga D, Fredo, CB, Myers, 67, Milli Major, and obviously the big guys in the game: Giggs, D Double E, Wiley, Footsie—and there’s loads more, too many to mention. But big up Esco Big Bars—Slew Dem!—every time.

Some people might read this and think we’re dwelling on past glories, but you’ve actually been super active lately and dropped your debut album. 

Yeah, man. The album’s called IT’S BAIT IT’S BAIT, and it’s out now on iTunes, Spotify and all the other good streaming platforms. Go and cop or stream that, and I’ve got some new music in the bag as well, so watch out for that.