Though Catch 22
is Tinchy Stryder's first full-length major-label release, it is hardly his first forage into the world of popular music. For years before his major-label debut, Stryder had a name as an underground hip-hop master, even having a full-length independent release prior to any mainstream success. Regardless, Stryder's first full-length release is packed with the excitement of a budding musician entwined with the experience of a veteran hip-hop artist. What makes this album vibrant is its realism; Stryder seems humbled by his recent catapult to fame: On "I'm Landing," he raps, "I ain't seen my girl for days, I ain't seen my bed for days ... But I'm enjoying every little bit of it." This helps eliminate that nauseating I'm-the-hottest-stink-on-the-planet attitude that plagues and detracts from many aspiring hip-hop artists. The other pro to the album is its embrace of electro-pop sounds; rather than present a "classic" ball-hard rap album, Stryder manipulates his talents as a DJ and mixer into producing brilliant synth pop tunes and tracks. And with Fraser Smith
at the helm of this album, Stryder has done a terrific job with picking perfect singles: the dance club smash "Take Me Back" is a slice of David Guetta
-esque pop-rap, while "Number 1" is electric first, rap second, and is perfect just like that. In addition, Stryder's collaboration with Sugababe
Amelle Berabeh, "Never Leave You," wins the award for best-use-of-a-superstar-to-promote-a-newbie. The biggest problem with the album is the lack of follow-up material. Much of the rest of Stryder's album is a touch second-rate to what you've already fallen in love with on the radio; the strongest album cuts are "Halo" and "You're Not Alone," both of which are in the most similar vein to what's already charting; in other words, heavy on the synthesizers and dance hooks, as opposed to straight rapping. The problem is that many of the tracks simply become messy as rap and rhythm blend. That's not to say fans of Stryder's will be dissatisfied; quite contrarily, they will probably love Catch 22
as much as they love its singles; it has strong lyrics and solid hooks. However, those who didn't love his radio hits might not find much they do like on this release. Stryder's debut is perfect for complementing the mega singles, but not necessarily adding much to them, which in 2009, is something of a norm, so it's hard to knock him for that.