Chipmunk – review

Proud, London

The supposedly marginal, insular London grime scene keeps throwing up mainstream pop stars. In the wake of Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah, 20-year-old Tottenham rapper Chipmunk, with a No 2 album and No 1 single already to his name, looks poised to make the next major breakthrough.

In Chipmunk's case, however, he appears set to do so by shaving the rough edges and atonal deviations off the music that made him. It's a case of goodbye grime, hello slick, radio-friendly US R&B: staged deep in the bowels of the O2 to launch his second album, Transition, this club show had more in common with Usher or R Kelly than with Lethal Bizzle.

Swigging from a bottle of Hennessey as he took to the stage after 1am, the earnest MC tackled the accusations of a strategic sell-out head-on on his new track Foul: "I never once said fuck grime; the clock kept ticking, I just moved with the times."

Yet this valiant attempt to deflect criticism couldn't obscure the fact that the serrated rhythmic edges and mischievous street-sharp wit of early singles such as Oopsy Daisy and Chip Diddy Chip have been supplanted by processed urban beats and tired blather about haters and gold-diggers. Flying High finds the bespectacled youngster declaring himself an international bad-boy playa, a claim weakened by the fact that he resembles a junior member of JLS.

He was far better when joined by Skepta for the ragga-tinged Every Gyal, and bantering with fellow N17 rapper Wretch 32 on Armageddon. Yet as Chipmunk closed his short set with a solo version of his arena-friendly Chris Brown collaboration Champion, it was clear his sights are now set not on Archway but on America.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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