CHIPMUNK SPEAKS EXCLUSIVELY TO RAP IRELAND
“I go college at 9, go have a meeting or do some interviews then hit the studio, get home do some coursework then go bed about 2 or 3am” – CHIPMUNK
A voice pleads over a megaphone “Can you please get down from the top of the scene? It’s not fair on the rest! Get down from the top of the scene!” No, this isn’t Search & Rescue, this is the intro to Chipmunk’s latest track Beast, and something tells me it’s going to take a lot more than a few persuasive words to get Chipmunk down from where he is right now.
It’s a cold day in the office and I’m rubbing my hands furiously in order to make them warm. I’ve just been emailed Chipmunk’s new video “Beast” and when the beat begins to resonate from the speakers, I forget about the cold.
A slow motion like, top heavy beat trundles as Chipmunk breaks into his first two bars,
“I came from the underground,
then I took my style and spreaded it over ground”
and this video is most certainly over ground, shot in black and white, slickly produced and peppered with some breathtaking liquid ink effects, there is no doubting the designer shades clad Chipmunk has laser targeted this track directly at mainstream urban fans. Chipmunk informs me that “The video to this track was all about portraying Chipmunk the artist as a beast, not a devil or anything like that, but a Beast of an MC” and it certainly achieves this, Chipmunk looks like a wild beast ready to feast on some prey and judging by the reaction to this video on YouTube, it’s almost feeding time.
Beast is the urban music equivalent of medieval trumpeters heralding the arrival of an important person. Chipmunk has been making music from the age of 13 and he agrees that this track highlights an evolution of his music style. “I’m trying to be more creative with my sound at the moment, not trying to make manufactured hits, it’s about growing and developing as an artist, I don’t really care what people think if I’m being honest.”
But can this track be labelled as grime? It’s debateable, Chipmunk’s home-grown bars are straight off the street, but Louick Essien’s hook whines with a vocoder laden effect which would seem to have more in common with some contemporary T-Pain or Kanye West than with rough underground Grime artists such as Skepta or Big Narstie. Not that this is a bad thing, Chipmunk’s work has lit up the UK underground grime scene ever since he released his first two mixtapes at age 15. This signature track from the album “Beast” which drops early next year, is just another point in a natural progression curve from underground lord to mainstream prince, and that is something most definitely welcomed by this music fan.
Breaking the mould of inner city kid left with only music as a salvation, Chipmunk picked up five A’s and four B’s on his GCSE results but claims history was “the hardest exam you’ll ever sit in your life.” Capitalizing on his good results Chipmunk is currently studying sociology, drama and accounting at a college in London. His relentless work ethic allows him to balance his studies with his fast paced rise to the pinnacle of UK urban music. He recently let us know what his average day was like “I go college at 9, go have a meeting or do some interviews then hit the studio, get home do some coursework then go bet about 2 or 3am”.
At the age of 17 Chipmunk is the youngest ever winner of a MOBO award, picking up UK’s best newcomer in October this year. Chipmunk fully understands the weight of such and award and he considers it “the highlight of my music career thus far.” He was extremely but pleasantly surprised when the name was read out. “I thought Ironik should have won it cos’ he has already has the mainstream success.” Ironik is a good friend of Chipmunk and he thinks the award was well deserved “We grew up making music together in my bedroom man, Chipmunk is reppin big for the UK right now.” At the age of 15 Chipmunk was already working with Grime legend Wiley, “Chipmunk is gonna shake the whole scene up man, let them know what time it is, this boy is testament to what you can achieve with talent and a lot of hard work”.
As with many similar scenes around the world, the Grime scene has encountered some criticism, especially from government officials like former Home Secretary David Blunkett who in 2003 called rap lyrics “appalling” and former Culture Secretary Kim Howells previously stated that grime artists were helping to create a culture “where killing is almost a fashion accessory.” Chipmunk is an artist, who through his music has done a lot to dispel this derisive view. Chipmunk claims the positivity associated with his music comes from the fact that he is trying to be true to himself and the public “I’m a realist, my music reflects my life, guns aren’t a part of my life and this rings true in my music”
Whether it’s intentional or not, the positivity and energy of Chipmunks verses coupled with a refined and relentless delivery have brought this young London MC within scratching distance of the mainstream music success. No longer a cub, this adolescent alpha male is patiently waiting for his time to eat at the grown-ups’ table and something tells me it’s going to be a feast.