I’ve been listening to Chip (then Chipmunk) since I was in primary school. Now as a university student, I’ve seen him score his 4th top 10 album. I’ve come to expect that in every era of my life, Chip will have a ‘viral moment’. Be it his latest freestyle, a number 1 single such as ‘Oopsy Daisy’, or musical clashes that captivate the entire country.
But Chip means much more to the UK music scene than his ‘viral moments’. He acts as a bridge between a generation of pioneers and a new wave of innovative artists.
The rapper first gained traction from pirate radio stations, and platforms like Fuck Radio, where he took part in clashes and cyphers with the likes of Griminal and Ghetts. He garnered mainstream attention over 10 years ago when Wiley, a.k.a. ‘The Godfather of Grime’, took him and fellow artist Ice Kid to freestyle on Tim Westwood’s radio show, where he performed his now-famous freestyle. This, coupled with his underground hit ‘Who are You?’ made Chipmunk the soundtrack to schools across London in the late 00s.
While we were still sharing his underground songs via Bluetooth, Chip was progressing to new heights in his commercial success, with I Am Chipmunk peaking at number 2, a change in record label and a move to the US, followed by his album Transition peaking in the top 10 in the UK.
After some time away from the spotlight, Chip solidified his return in early 2015 with a fire in the booth freestyle, which resulted in musical clashes with multiple MCs, notably Tinie Tempah, Bugzy Malone, and Yungen.
Personally, I had ‘the flu’, so I couldn’t face the struggle of making it into school after a night spent waiting for Chip’s highly anticipated reply to Yungen. But seeing stories from teachers on the internet who had become invested (thanks to their students) and later witnessing a Channel 4 News clip discussing the clash, showed me just how far-reaching Chip’s music – and rap as a genre -can be.
So in 2016, it came as no surprise to me that Chip added another MOBO award to his collection, in this case for ‘Best Grime Artist’, after proving that he “can’t run out of bars”.
Since then Chip has continued to work with the pioneers of UK grime and rap that he came up with. This can be seen on Snakes and Ladders with Jme and Dizzee Rascal collaboration ‘Ignite’, showcasing the three’s lyrical talents, powerful flows, and clever wordplay. I loved the electrical sounds of the beat, especially when coupled with the bass. Though I had little hope of keeping up with all the lyrics, I still found myself nodding along vigorously to the beat and flow.
What we also hear is Chip’s ability to adapt to an ever-growing music scene. When I heard his second collaboration with Bugzy Malone, I felt an instant sense of happy nostalgia, hearing the familiar “fessions do, I do, I, I, I do” intro to T2’s Heartbroken, an old-skool UK garage song and breakup anthem. The Pair tackled the tune with a different subject, praising their significant others and sticking to the upbeat club-flow and hooks of today’s commercial rap songs.
D-Block Europe, one of the biggest UK rap acts of the past few years, feature both as duo and solo artists on the album. Chip is no stranger to working with the pair, and his 2020 collaboration album ‘Insomnia’ with DBE’s Young Adz and grime veteran Skepta is one of the most significant examples in showing how Chip effortlessly floats between and connects the older generation of trailblazing artists with rising stars.
Hearing ‘100k’ (featuring MoStack) leaves me picturing myself attempting to rap along at the top of my lungs in an O2 Empire post-lockdown! The pair’s bouncy flows, light-hearted flexing, and Mo’s somewhat accurate cockney accent successfully bring a surge of fresh energy and playfulness to the album. I felt the video captures this vibe perfectly, with the pair and their friends hyping each other up, some carefree dancing, and an ode to late rapper Pop Smoke’s signature dance.
Headie One collaboration ‘Done Know’ touches on more personal topics. Chip raps about the difficulties of being a successful figure in music and still living in his native Tottenham through some of his teen years. He also touches on his understanding of the issues the youth of today face. We hear how Chip’s career has come full circle as Headie ends his verse with a recap of his teen years “Growin’ up in Tottenham, tryna learn how to rhyme like Chippy”. The bar reminds me yet again that Chip is both an inspiration to a new generation of artists, and more than able to keep up with fresh talent on challenging tracks.
Produced by The FaNaTIX, ‘Top Shelf’ features Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage, who warns with her smooth, sultry vocals that she has to be loved correctly as she is “Top of the shelf”. I loved the addition of a female singer to the album. I felt it allowed Chip to reflect on his achievements and his hopes for his personal life in the future, while also showcasing Tiwa’s strong vocals and female perspective on how love should be.
Another international collaboration is seen on ‘Give Tanks’, where Chip joins forces once again with Jamaican artist Mavado. Both artists reflect on getting through the past hardships in their life and appreciating their achievements and how their lives have turned out.
Chip also pays tribute to his friend and fellow artist Black the Ripper who passed away during the early months of lockdown. The track ‘0420’ is a double entendre referencing Black the Ripper’s cannabis activism and the song’s release on the two week anniversary of his passing. Listening to Chip’s raw vocals play out over the melancholy beat gave me the sense that this was his way of eulogising his friend. The track certainly evokes a sense of devastation in listeners, many being fans of Black the Ripper that also felt his passing.
‘Hot 97’ takes its place as the outro, in which Chip reflects on his success at this point in his career, his environment growing up, and his confidence in his ability as an artist. The track reminded me of his outro on his album TEN10 – ‘Good Morning Britain’. This track touches on similar topics to his latest outro, and had the same reflective tone to it. I enjoy these reflective endings to his albums, which mostly leave me waiting for the intro to his next one!
Bonus track ‘Flowers’ sees Chip take shots at previous friend and collaborator, Stormzy, for his now-viral house visit and subliminal lyrics allegedly aimed at Chip.
The rapper’s ‘Daily Duppy’ also features as a bonus track, serving as a freestyle that shows off his pen game, flow, and wordplay, all at once. Freestyles are my favourites to hear from Chip because he’s one of the best in this field; spitting bars highlights his musical talent and lyrical capabilities.
Chip has already more than earned his position as a GOAT in the UK music scene. Snakes and Ladders just confirms that he still possesses his incredible lyrical talent, diversity in his songs, and a love for music after over a decade of his career.
“About a penny for my thoughts, I need M’s for these bars
‘Cause this game would be knackered without my two pence”CHIP – ‘DAILY DUPPY’
As Chip continues his second decade in music, this latest release solidifies his role as the bridge between generations of artists, a pioneer in his own right, and a long-lasting artist of rare quality.