I’ve been listening to Chip – or as he was previously known – Chipmunk, since I was about 11 years old. That’s 12 years. Anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I’m a huge supporter of his music. He’s always been in my consciousness of music. From when I first heard him eagerly demonstrating his skill on radio sets, releasing his first mixtapes ‘Whatever the Weather’, ‘League of My Own’ & ‘Guess Who’, and even making crossover songs that helped bring the attention of the masses to the scene he belongs to, he’s always not only been there, but been relevant.
Over a decade into his career, Chip is still pushing the envelope on what it means to stay relevant in a scene that’s not only often very fickle with how it treats it’s mainstays, but by further diversifying his sound to prove that you can’t pigeonhole him to a particular category.
In his latest album ‘TEN10’, Chip set out to make a body of work that refuses to stick to a particular style, sound or feel. It’s a ten track album that acknowledges the current agenda and trends in UK music, but refuses to bow to them. Dipping his toe into all of the various waters ranging from Afro-Swing, Dancehall, R&B, Grime and Hip-Hop, he proves that he’s still as versatile as he was at the start, if not more so.
Opening up the project with a demonstration of his penmanship, ‘Thoughts’ is a track that serves as an acknowledgement of his journey so far. “Not here to make friends or enemies, I’m here to leave a legacy, I got bounce back tendencies” – a perfect way of summing up the last few years of Chip’s career, and ability to battle against onslaughts of negativity and doubt he so often faces.
Fellow North London veterans Jme & Frisco were recruited for assistance on the track ‘Right Now’. A classic style Grime track in which the three MC’s each drop a solid 16-bar over a Sevaqk produced beat. This track felt almost nostalgic for me – a pairing between Chip and the Boy Better Know members.
The album opens up into R&B vibes with ‘CRB Check‘ & ‘I.F.W.U‘, with Not3s stepping up on the first of the two. A light and airy production, with lyrics that take on the subject of female groupies. ‘I.F.W.U‘ is a more slowed down, smooth approach.
‘Darth Vader‘ is perhaps one of the best demonstrations of Chip’s skill and ability with his flow. The beat is packed with crazy synths, providing a clangy, almost industrial feel, which somehow Chip manages to easily glide over and find pockets in to deliver hard-hitting lyrics addressing the current trend of violence in the UK. “These days if you’re not chatting ’bout crud, then the yout dem don’t wanna hear it” he says, “It’s for the yout dem that I’m fearing, a generation without caring. Too many parents burying kids, when kids should be burying parents”. It is not only a technically brilliant track, but a massively thought provoking one.
Dancehall legend Red Rat stands strong alongside Chip, as he delivers a guest verse on ‘My Girl’ – a banger that I’m already waiting for Summer 2019 to stand around a BBQ with a drink to enjoy it. Year after year Chip is able to reach into Dancehall and create something special; after first bringing his style in the genre to the fore with ‘Every Gyal’ featuring the Gully God himself, Mavado, in 2011.
My personal favourite track off of the album comes nearer it’s close – ‘Vampire Life‘. I can’t even hazard a guess as to how many times I’ve played this track on repeat. Another stellar example from Chip which proves his incredible versatility is how he flows so well over the moody, down-tempo beat.
The album closes off with ‘Good Morning Britain‘, which plays more like a statement than a track. An address even, as Chip once more touches on violence and pain that plagues his city. “London had more Ms [murders] in a month than New York, see anywhere I step, I say a prayer before I walk, the city’s always been nuts but it weren’t this mad before” as he discusses the tragic rise in loss of life, particularly amongst the working class youth in the inner city. The track demonstrates how, despite being so many years into his music career, he hasn’t lost track of his roots. He still has a very strong understanding of his city, where he’s come from and the people that are still there.
One of the reasons I have always been drawn to Chip’s music is because despite making Grime for most of his career, he has never once glorified violence, relied on lyrics that promote weapons or gangs. He has always completely bypassed that easy route. He’s always managed – despite the lack of violence of aggression which so many other artists rely on – to create a genuinely punchy sound. He’s always managed to remain a mainstay and a tour de force with perhaps a better finger on the pulse than anybody.
Over a decade into his career, after starting as a teenager battling on pirate radio sets, Chip is still here finding pockets to flow in that other artists struggle to compete with. A decade on, he’s still able to bounce genre-to-genre effortlessly, whilst still carrying his signature style. Over a decade on, Chip is still proving why he not only still is, but always has been, one of the best UK artists.
TEN10 – 10/10