In 2009, a battle torn and green-eyed Grime MC committed the so-called unforgiveable sin of ‘going pop.’ As discussed in his Not For The Radio interview, as a young teenager, Chipmunk had conquered the Grime scene. Dropping acclaimed mixtapes, legendary freestyles and monumental clashes. Signing a deal with Sony allowed him to reach a new audience – myself included. As a teenager myself around the releases of the ‘I Am Chipmunk’ album, I was enchanted by the singles. In hindsight, ‘Oopsy Daisy’, ‘Diamond Rings’ etc., are not great tracks – but at the time they worked, and helped open the doors to the more “authentic” and “gritty” alternative rap artists.
In time, he’d be one of many to ‘fall off’ and see the mainstream turn their back on him. At least, that’s what the perception is. Moving on from pop records to Hip Hop, Chip would drop the ‘munk’ and link up with T.I and Hustle Gang. Whilst the ‘London Boy’ mixtape disappointed personally, it served up some fantastic singles, especially the Skepta collaboration ‘My Gang’ and set a new landmark in UK artists crossing over into America – recently smashed by the aforementioned BBK bar-smith.
In late 2014, Chip would return. Winding back the years, the North London MC would have his back up, having to prove himself once more. Ten years on since he first dominated the underground, the dynamic and demographic had changed. Grime had moved from pirate radio stations and the streets of London into an international craze, played on radios around the world and he was partly responsible but widely uncredited.
To the fans of 2014, Chip was the failed pop star who had no right trying to comeback now it was popular. A lot of his releases then were substandard. ‘School of Grime’ was a disappointment, ‘I’m Fine’ was cool but nothing special and his ‘Fire In The Booth’ may have shook the foundations of the Grime scene and kicked off a string of beefs that still hasn’t ended; it was to the detriment of Chip. His bars weren’t up to the standard he’s proven to be capable of, and instead it was left to the MC’s mid-verse rant-interlude that evoked controversy.
Following on, Chip would embroil himself in a beef with a number of individuals, most notably Bugzy Malone and Tinie Tempah, with a shorter back-and-forth with Yungen coming later. During this time, Chip would re-establish himself as extremely dangerous when it came to diss tracks. Early in each he was counted out, but quickly proved the sharpness of his pen and coming out of each with a unanimous win. Each of the diss tracks towards any of his nemesis’ were absolute flames. From ‘Pepper Riddim’ to ‘Dickhead’, ‘Michelle Riddim’ and especially ’96 Bars of Revenge’, Chip’s catalogue of clash tracks in the past 2 years have been deadly.
In between the beefs, Chip has been producing his own music. There have been some hits, ‘Feeling Myself’ and ‘Bookey’ but generally the music across the two ‘Believe & Achieve’ EP’s didn’t match up to the diss tracks, or even when he featured on records. The ‘Rap Vs. Grime’ mixtape offered a glimmer of a return to former glory, several supreme songs with only a few disappointing based on their short length. ‘Hear Dis’ with Stormzy might be the best song out of the UK in a very, very long time.
The announcement of ‘Power Up‘ then came as not only underwhelming, but also somewhat unwanted. Having heard some of the singles released before I knew of the album, ‘Can’t Run Out Of Bars‘, ‘Where’s Ice Kid At?‘ and ‘Style Dat‘ – each were cool but not quite enough to really make me think ‘Power Up’ could match the quality of Chip’s diss tracks. Then I heard the title track, ‘New Day‘ and ‘Mad With It.’ My interest sky rocketed. The third ‘Fire In The Booth’ wasn’t up there with Kano and Wretch, but much better than his predecessor.
Following the singles and FITB, there was only one track that I hadn’t heard going into the album. Thankfully ‘My Ones‘ featuring Ms. D maintained the standard set. In ‘Power Up’, Chip had finally delivered what I wanted from him all along. A seamless project, packed with raw, aggressive bars. The passion and pride found in the diss tracks had transcended into the general music. Almost as though in ‘Power Up’, Chip threw deuces to the ‘proper’ way to make an EP and instead focused on creating good music.
It isn’t a traditional Grime album. Far from ‘Boy In Da Corner’, it features a variety of genres. From Hip Hop to Dancehall. Capturing the trends of todays music industry sonically, but bar-for-bar this album could only be made by Chip. Isn’t that what makes for a great piece of work? Tapping into what is currently popular but adding an artists unique personality into it?
With ‘Power Up’, we’re seeing some form of Deja vu. Except, in turning away from an MC revered for his clash credentials, and creating an album as an artist. Chip is realigning himself as one of the best in the business, cementing his legacy in the industry but once again, making a fan out of me.