- Words Liam Cattermole
Stormzy co-signed tendai sits down to speak the power of grime, building a cult fanbase and tapping into a youthful nostalgia.
Finding beauty in the mundane, through a slew of notorious EP releases, tendai is deftly establishing his own cinematic universe. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter sees himself as a director, navigating stories through both beautiful and unclassifiable soundscapes of far-reaching genres. Returning with his second project of the year, ‘three.two’, operates on its own terms, telling tales of distress over free-flowing production. As one of the first signings to 0207 Def Jam, a subsidiary of universal music, there was a lot of pressure on the multihyphenate, but in 2023, he’s proved doubters wrong time and again.
Growing up in Canning Town, East London, tendai’s built a network of admirers and collaborators across music. With only a single to his name, he hopped aboard Stormzy’s third album, ‘This Is What I Mean’, producing what became the artist’s most defining record to date while lending vocals too.
This year, tendai’s been focused on his own goal, releasing two solo EPs in quick succession. Finding his voice, while refusing to be boxed into a particular sound, the projects’ dovetail poetic lyricism and hypnotic instrumentals. Released in April, ‘three.one’ was unapologetically influenced by London, representing the city’s scene of today while referencing its natural vivacity.
Unwilling to rest on any laurels, last month, tendai broadened his repertoire through ‘three.two’, dropping another selection of songs that proves his worth as a musical polymath. With its low-end grooves and grainy melody, standout single “Champion Lover .” showcases a romantic tug-of-war, where the artist intricately relays the anxieties of a long-term relationship: “You say “On the other side, it looks so easy” / Well, sometimes you sound so greedy.” Across the three tracks, tendai explores depression, drug abuse and other tumultuous themes he’s experienced over the past 12 months.
As of now, tendai is keen to keep releasing consistently and lead listeners down new corridors. ‘three.three’ will have to wait, but he assures us that new music isn’t far away. We spoke with the rising star about the importance of vulnerability, making music with authenticity and more. Tap in below.
Congratulations on the new EP. You’ve mentioned previously that you look to the world of film as inspiration for your music. If ‘three.two’ was a movie, what would it be and why?