Chipmunk – Transition

Posted May 3, 2011 in Music Reviews

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

For all the Guardianista pride in London grime/rap/R&B’s rise to mainstream dominance in the UK, and an increasing amount of attention from the already over-subscribed American market, the Genre Formerly Known As Urban Music is beginning to feel like it’s playing catch-up. It’s not begrudgery to say that Dizzee dropped the ball, musically speaking, with Tongue N’ Cheek – pudding-proof that the key to number ones is chav trance trash. That’s not to say Tn’C isn’t exemplary pop, it’s just that half the tracks would just as easily work as Ke$ha instrumentals.

Tinie Tempah’s rightly lauded Disc-Overy offered an attractive compromise, with UK Funky and aggressive dubstep chopped in the pot with du jour Swedish House Mafia anthemics. Refined for one personality, one artist, it’s a perfect cocktail – as a template for pretty much any pop artist coming out of London’s social margins, critical mass has already been exceeded.

Enter Chipmunk’s stab at the big time. As if the title wasn’t hint enough, on the only vaguely British-sounding number included, Foul, he declares: “I never once said ‘Fuck grime’/The clock kept ticking I just moved with the time./I’m smarter that’s why I do better/The sound changed, I never,” before dubbing sonic conservatives ‘little boys’. He’s full of shit though, because I’m fairly certain he wasn’t born sounding like a knock-off Lil Wayne.

Lil Wayne is an important consideration here – it should be noted that the current elite of American rap are still in indefatigable in their weirdness. There’s a small, but vital element of punk in the success of Weezy, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Kanye, Gucci Mane, even Drake. These people are strange. Histrionic production is consistently married with lyrical obtuseness, an adventurousness that keeps their music relevant outside of the mainstream as much as within it.

White Lies, which features Sean Combs’ henchwoman Kalenna chorus-hooking over that already over-familiar trance synth arpeggio, sees Chip Diddy Chip admitting his capitalist ambitions – dreams aren’t dollars. It’s a weird dynamic – the message of triumph over social adversity is of course a positive, important one; the cynicism of creating music for purely commercial benefit will jar a lot more with romantics. On the aspirational Then And Now he notes that “Dizzee Rascal’s on TV now/Shit this could be my way out” – Dizzee’s status as king of the hill is still something to be proud of, given the gradient he had to clamber up to get to the top. You get the feeling Chipmunk, moments of cleverness aside, has been helicoptered there by his label.

See also: Tinie Tempah – Disc-overy [EMI], N-Dubz – Love.Live.Life [Universal], Taio Cruz – Rokstarr [Universal]

Words: Daniel Gray


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