Chipmunk: I Am Chipmunk
Chipmunk: I Am Chipmunk
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She's an unsigned artist who has just jacked in the day job for music.
Friday, 09, Oct 2009 04:46
Sony, out October 12th.
In a nutshell...
Dizzee Rascal MkII.
What's it all about?
First studio album, anyone? It's been delayed for nearly a year according to a few reports, but now Chipmunk has the professional facilities to get everything down, including Oopsy Daisy, which looks like it may be number one very soon indeed. Mixing grime, hip-hop and rap, the offering looks to be one of the top releases for anyone representing the genres in the UK.
Who's it by?
Now only 18 years old, Chipmunk - well, Jamaal Fyffe - already has a Mobo and Urban Music Award to his name for best newcomer and one hell of an online presence on MySpace and YouTube, starting his battle against the world at the tender age of 17.
Now he's helping out the likes of N-Dubz on their Uncle B album (with the favour returned on this release) and pairing up with Tinchy Stryder and DJ Ironik. To top it off? Best hip-hop act at the Mobos in 2009. And do you know who he beat? Kanye West, Eminem and Jay-Z. But is it because he was the only one present out of them all? Well...
As an example...
"See the fussing and fighting, let's not/Before I see red, let's stop/This here's really the end of/I'ma find Cupid and put him in a headlock." - Oopsy Daisy
Likelihood of a trip to the Grammys
Mobos again, to be honest. Doesn't look like it'll massively cross borders.
What the others say
"It's almost as if he is too well-mannered to be out-and-out cocky and would never stoop to claiming to be the best rapper in the world ever, because that would be vulgar, and in any case, you already know it, right?" - Fraser McAlpine, BBC Music
"His personality comes through without fail and it doesn't sound like anything else out around this time. We should also mention it's one of the catchiest things to bother radio lately." - Simon Taylor, AngryApe, on Diamond Rings.
So is it any good?
If there's one thing that's annoying in music for everyone but the artist, it's young people who are talented. We don't know why, either - it's obviously jealousy-based, though also understandable as part of the British psyche; after all, we love to build people up to knock them down.
Only one thing is a bit worse: those who fulfil the aforementioned criteria and know they're good. Too good. Despite the genre encouraging this behaviour more than others, Chipmunk doesn't succumb to it. He seems like a pretty good bloke. As a result, he's spared from more cliched comments.
Still, the album isn't massively amazing. Although it's the first real grime/hip-hop offering that has really caught the attention of the bigger journalist types, it may be that his hype has preceded him. Mind you, Mobos speak louder than words. There's good reason for the awards, too.
It's easier to lambaste certain parts of the album to start with. After all, grime is really a Marmite genre, even if you're a fan - songs either hit the mark or don't.
Man Dem is the most shocking in all honesty, despite the inclusion of the similarly-famous Tinchy Stryder. The whole point of rappers rhyming is that it's clever. Simply book-ending each line with "man dem!" is pretty damn annoying, not to mention the constant mentioning of N'Dubz. It's fodder for scally mobile phones on buses, though it thankfully lacks female vocals which, ironically, are usually sped up to the tempo where it makes the women also sound like chipmunks.
Chip Diddy Chip makes him sound about 14; it's a shame it came out before the more polished offerings because it seems like an intro tune for a token black guy in something like High School Musical, aside for the language. It almost undermines him, though he's still young. I suppose we can let him off, right?
Dear Family just sounds a bit like everything else in the world of rap where there's a low rider and bitches in the hood. Despite the lyrics, which are pretty heartfelt and still worth the listen, the stereotypical female backing vocals and piano/slow beat mix are half-cooked.
There are a few average songs as well, though we might as well address the good ones. Firstly, it's pretty obvious that Oopsy Daisy is going to be a number one. Chipmunk's basically ended a relationship with a girl because she's the problem and she knows it. At least there's a different take there.
What's more, it pays off. It's a bit too soppy in the ears of many but serves as a great track for the less-involved rap fans and is by far the most mainstream offering on the release. The dual lyrics are memorable of Keri Hilson's recent work, which is a nice compliment. No, really.
Diamond Rings is just happy. Again, it's helped by cracking female vocals. It's a bit of a skank-o-thon and certainly a song you'll've heard before on the radio here and there. The brass section is well used and again, Chipmunk's strength in his rapping ability provides great contrast to his feminine accomplice.
Look For Me isn't too bad either, partially because a strong chorus pushes it through as a more approachable song. Talay Riley's pretty good at providing back-up to Chipmunk too; the difference in their singing styles works well and you can imagine it being used on a BBC programme looking to be a bit more with it than the rest, like Match of the Day 2 or Blue Peter. That, again, is a genuine compliment. Somehow.
Overall, it's a bit of an average release. It's pretty obvious now that the Mobos are for his raw talent. Give him a couple of better songs, less kosher production rules and more freedom and he'll break through to more markets than he could possibly dream.