Radio Sandwell Music

The manager who helped Tinie Tempah's rise to stardom

2015-06-01 21:40:40

Dumi Oburota and Tinie TempahDumi Oburota (right) has been Tinie Tempah's manager since 2006

Music manager Dumi Oburota remembers with a smile just how short of money he and rapper Tinie Tempah often were before they hit the big time.

Tinie, today a multi award-winning singer, with two best-selling albums and two UK number one singles under his belt, was back in 2003 an unknown 14-year-old Londoner just beginning to try to make it as a performer.

Dumi, the son of a family friend, and then 20, was at the time starting out in music management.

He says that after first hearing Tinie rap he immediately tried to persuade the singer to sign with him.

Tinie, whose real name is Patrick Okogwu, agreed, and the two started out together on the road to stardom.

Yet with the rapper not getting a record deal until the end of 2009, it was a long six-year journey, often with little cash along the way.

Dumi OburotaDumi Oburota originally wanted to be a singer himself, but switched to management

Dumi, now 32, says: "Tinie has always been a great performer, but as his manager I needed to boost his profile, such as him being seen in all the best clubs, and meeting all the right people.

"So we'd go together to nightclubs, and only have £20 between us. We'd stand there together, not being able to afford to buy a drink, and hoping that no-one would ask us to buy them one, because we just couldn't afford it."

'Street credible'

Dumi, who like Tinie hails from south east London, was at the time also continuing a degree in sports science at the University of Greenwich.

A keen lover of urban music himself, he had tried to forge his own career as a rapper, but says he ultimately realised that his voice wasn't good enough. Instead, he decided that he would be better suited as a music manager.

Tinie TempahTinie Tempah is now a well-known name in the music industry

So while finishing his degree, to make sure he had a different career to fall back on if he needed to, he says he started to study all he could about music management, via the internet and by buying books.

After Tinie signed with him, Dumi invested his student loans in getting his friend studio time, and made extra money to invest in his act by buying old cars, doing them up, and then selling them on at a profit.

But in addition to helping Tinie record new songs, offering musical advice, and driving him to live performances, Dumi says he worked hard on making Tinie more confident, more streetwise.

"It was obvious that Tinie had massive talent, he looked good... he was great at rapping, but he was young and needed to live a little, so I took him under my wing for a few years," says Dumi.

Jessie JSinger Jessie J signed with Dumi Oburota last year

"He had all the ingredients to be a star, I just needed to polish him. I always knew he had commercial potential, I just had to make him street credible."

So working together, Dumi helped Tinie get his songs played by influential DJs, and create a strong image to stand behind the singer's songwriting and rapping skills.

Dumi adds: "It is the same in music as in any other industry. You have to do the public relations, you have to build a buzz. But you can only do this successfully if the person or product is honest."

In late 2009, and after six of years of hard work and little money, Tinie signed a lucrative record deal with Parlophone, once the home of the Beatles, and today part of global giant, Warner Music.

Hit singles and best-selling albums soon followed for Tinie, who is now 26.

Five-year plans

Today Dumi continues to manage Tinie as part of running a wider business called Disturbing London, of which his friend is a shareholder.

While Tinie and Dumi refer to themselves as cousins, they aren't actually related. Rather, their families are originally from the same village in Nigeria, where it is simply custom for the children of friends to be called cousins.

Dumi describes Disturbing London as an "entertainment and lifestyle company", and in addition to management it has a record label and fashion brand of the same name. Run as a lean ship, it currently only has seven employees.

Dumi OburotaDumi Oburota says he is doing the job that he loves

The east London-based business now manages seven acts in total, including singer Jessie J.

Well known for songs such as Price Tag and Bang Bang, Jessie J used to be signed to a much larger management company, but Dumi says that she switched to him after being impressed with how well he looked after Tinie.

Explaining his management approach, and how he earns the industry standard 20% cut of his artists' earnings, Dumi says he writes out a five-year plan for each of his acts.

"I work out what we need to be doing in each of the five years," he says.

"And at the start of each [calendar] year I will email each artist a list of bullet points, of what we need to do, such as singles, albums, tours, videos, relationships, perceptions," he says.

"And I do this from the position of being a fan of each act, I think, what would I want as a fan?"

Although Dumi has had no formal business training, he says he is good at learning as he goes along, and thanks his accountant and businessman father, and social worker mother, for giving him the confidence and drive to succeed.

But how does he cope with the rough and tumble of the record industry?

"I do everything with a smile, I do friendly business... I'm doing what I love," he says. "[But] if people think they can take advantage of my kindness and smile, then more fool them.

"You can't run a business like mine if you are an idiot. And I can be assertive if needed."


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